Two days after almost knocking off NC State on the road, the Pittsburgh Panthers have pulled to .500 in ACC play after knocking off Florida State at the Petersen Events Center. After breaking the Pittsburgh freshman scoring record with 33 points in a victory over Louisville last week, Trey McGowens turned in another incredible game as Pitt won 75-62. McGowens dropped 30 points on 5/12 from the floor while hitting 18/19 from the line. The 6’3 guard also added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals in what was by far his most complete game as a Panther. Although he had a string of turnovers in the beginning of the second half, Xavier Johnson finished strong to put the Seminoles away in the final five minutes. In all, he finished with 18 points, hitting all 10 of his free throws.
Although the Panthers got out rebounded and couldn’t make shots from the field in the first half, they went to the locker room with a 36-34 lead. This was thanks to Johnson and McGowens, who went straight at the defense and converted at the line. Not only did this allow Pitt to take the lead, but it also hurt Florida State down the stretch as they were in foul trouble all night. The biggest factor of the game in my opinion was shooting behind the arc. Pittsburgh finished at just under 30%, while the Seminoles finished at 9% with one of their two makes coming in garbage time when Pitt was up double digits with under a minute to go.
The most impressive aspect of the game was their turnaround in deficiencies from Saturdays loss. Against NC State the Panthers were outrebounded, committed 17 turnovers, and played poor perimeter defense. Pitt corrected all three of these flaws against Florida State, as they hung with FSU in the paint, committed less turnovers, and played shut down defense on the outside.
In what was originally thought of as another lost season in Pittsburgh, Jeff Capel has turned the program around. Pitt fans have legitimate hope for a tournament bid for the first time since 2016. As recent as 3 months ago, there was worry, at least on my part, that Pittsburgh may take a decade to return to the program it once was. Less than 20 games into Capel’s tenure, it’s clear that the program was never a broken program, but simply had a broken coach. Pittsburgh is still a longshot to make the tournament, but it is clear that Capel is a fantastic leader of men and is the right man for the job. As the FSU game exemplifies, Pitt lacks depth as only six players scored, and also lacks frontcourt talent as Pitt forwards combined for 10 points. If Capel can land a 2019 big man with offensive ability, Pitt may just be back to where it was in as much time as it took Kevin Stallings to go winless in conference play.