PITTSBURGH — Coming into Wednesday’s game against Louisville at Petersen Events Center, it had been a long time since Pitt won an ACC basketball game.
The Panthers last victory overall was a 61-59 win over Georgia Tech in the 2017 ACC Tournament — a streak of 19 consecutive losses.
To find Pitt’s last regular-season ACC victory, one had to go back even further, to an 80-66 win over Florida State on Feb. 18, 2017, a streak of 22 straight defeats.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 10, 2019
Wednesday, all of that was put to bed, with knocking off Louisville, 89-86 in overtime to improve to 1-1 in ACC play in 2018-19 and 11-4 overall.
Pitt’s win was built on the young shoulders of freshman guard Trey McGowens, who set a program record with 33 points, the most ever for a Pitt freshman, breaking Clyde Vaughan’s mark of 29, set back on Dec. 20, 1980 against James Madison.
But it didn’t come easy, even with McGowens’ record-setting performance and the Panthers holding a 13-point lead with just over five minutes to play.
But with the game tied with 38 seconds left in the extra period, McGowens grabbed a long rebound and took the ball coast to coast to put the Panthers into the driver’s seat.
Xavier Johnson made a free throw and Malik Ellison grabbed a defensive rebound to secure the win.
The Cardinals had rallied on a 17-4 run that culminated with a Dwayne Sutton layup with three seconds left on the shot clock to tie the game at 79-79 and force overtime. Pitt couldn’t get a shot off on its final possession of regulation.
McGowens sparked Pitt early on. With the Panthers trailing, 6-4 less than five minutes into the game, McGowens hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key. The next trip down, he hit another. Then, he drove the baseline for a reverse layup. Then he made another. McGowens went on a personal 10-2 run to put Pitt in control.
Then, some adversity hit. Point guard Xavier Johnson was called for his third foul, forcing McGowens to slide over to point guard, something he hadn’t done much thus far this season. Pitt also went to a zone defense because of the foul trouble, another look they hadn’t shown much.
It didn’t seem to bother the young guard one bit, as he closed the first half with 20 points on his way to his record-setting performance, and the Pitt defense held Louisville to 31 percent shooting in the first half.
When Johnson returned in the second half, he was just as electric, and he finished with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting. Johnson also had 10 assists for his second career double-double.
When Louisville made some defensive adjustments to prevent Johnson and McGowens from driving into the paint, Terrell Brown stepped up as a post option. He had 11 points, all in the second half. Brown also had five rebounds and five blocks, before fouling out with two minutes to play.
Guard Christen Cunningham led the Cardinals offensively with an extremely efficient 9 of 11 shooting for 23 points. Sutton finished with 12 points and 11 boards for the double-double
Next up for the Panthers is a trip to NC State on Saturday. That game will tip off at noon.