PITTSBURGH — Starting their season against an ACC opponent for the first time, Pitt struggled out of the gate, hung close down the stretch and triumphed in the final moments from the free-throw line to preserve a 63-61 victory over Florida State at Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night.
With Pitt leading by three late, the teams traded free-throw opportunities. Trey McGowens hit just one of his two with 7.5 seconds to play, giving Florida State one last look at tying the game, but Patrick Williams missed and Anthony Polite’s put-back attempt wasn’t able to beat the final whistle.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 7, 2019
The Panthers struggled through a first half that saw them shoot just 24% from the field, and of that shooting, almost all of it was done by junior college transfer guard Ryan Murphy. Besides Murphy, the other Panthers went 4 of 22 from the floor in the opening period.
Murphy finished with 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting, 3 of 6 from 3-point range. His 13 tied him for the team lead with point guard Xavier Johnson, who was just 3 of 11 from the floor, but hit 5 of 8 free throws, and Terrell Brown, who was a game-changer in the second half.
Brown only attempted one shot in the first period, but was 4 for 4 from the floor in the second half as Pitt’s offense settled in and was able to find passing lanes to the big man.
While the Panthers struggled on the offensive side of the floor, they played solid defense, holding the Seminoles to 39.6% from the floor on the game and 31% in the critical first half, where Pitt covered up its tough offensive night with a strong defensive performance.
Pitt did it with only token full-court pressure, employing a man-to-man help, half-court scheme that challenged the Seminoles to make outside shots. But with the game on the line, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel also mixed in a zone, with an eye toward limiting sophomore wing Devin Vassell, who was a trouble spot for the Panthers all night.
Vassell was a hyper-efficient 6 of 7 from the floor and had 14 points, second on Florida State to junior guard Trent Forrest, who had 19 on a high-volume 8 of 15.
Pitt will return to a more normal early season schedule when the Panthers host Nicholls State on Saturday at noon.