CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New season. New Pitt.
Or perhaps is just an improved Pitt, one that consistently makes free throws, out-rebounds the opposition and doesn’t squander large leads.
In the opening round the ACC men’s basketball tournament at the Spectrum Center on Tuesday, the Panthers got ahead of the 11th-seeded Boston College Eagles by a wide margin. Instead of tapping the brakes, No. 14 Pitt tried to push the gas pedal through the floor and advanced in the tournament with an 80-70 victory.
Following its regular season win on Saturday against Notre Dame, Tuesday’s victory marked the first time Pitt has notched back-to-back wins over ACC opponents since February 2017. It’s also Pitt’s first postseason win since that season.
Leading the charge for Panthers (14-18; 4-15 ACC) was Trey McGowens, who finished with 26 points, four rebounds and two steals. Xavier Johnson chipped in 23 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Pitt’s offense sputtered at the opening tip, looking lethargic and disjointed to start. Before Johnson’s layup at the 16:04 mark, the Panthers had committed four turnovers and missed a pair of shots. But Pitt’s next basket, a layup by Sidy N’Dir, ignited an 11-3 run which gave the Panthers their first lead of the night with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half.
The Panthers closed out the first half with a 20-5 run to take a commanding 14-point lead into intermission. Pitt seemed crisp on offense in the closing moments of the first half and its defense was stout. Boston College did not connect on a field goal in the final nine minutes of the first half.
Pitt was able to mostly neutralize Ky Bowman in the first half, as he finished with just six points on five shots. Bowman, the fourth leading scorer in the ACC with 19.2 points-per-game, finished with 4 points on 10 shots.
In the second half, Pitt started out with a 21-9 run, growing their lead to its largest of the game, 27 points. The second half was really where McGowens turned it on, scoring 17 of his 26 points there. It was the highest scoring total for the freshman from Piedmont, South Carolina since he dropped 30 points on Florida State in an upset victory on Jan. 14.
By piling up free throw shots and taking advantage of a few late Pitt turnovers, Boston College was able to cut the deficit to 10 points with 90 seconds to play, but Pitt held the Eagles off.
The Panthers didn’t make many three-pointers, knocking down just five, but didn’t allow many of the Eagles’ outside shots to go down either. Boston College shot 24 percent from behind the arc, connecting on 6-of-25 shots.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) March 13, 2019
Up next for Jeff Capel’s Panthers is a meeting Jim Boeheim’s No. 6 Syracuse Orange. That game, Pitt’s third contest against Syracuse this season, is scheduled to tip-off at 9 p.m. The winner will face third-seeded Duke on Thursday in the quarterfinals.