CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pitt coach Jeff Capel gave his freshman backcourt simple instructions Tuesday night: Attack the hole.
The strategy worked as Trey McGowens scored 26 points, Xavier Johnson added 23 and the Panthers defeated Boston College, 80-70, in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Pitt faces Syracuse on Wednesday in the second round.
The explosive freshmen combined to shoot 14 of 28 from the field and make 19 of 26 free throws as 14th-seeded Pitt won its second straight game since snapping a 13-game losing streak.
“We’ve been at our best when we’ve been able to get downhill and attack,” Capel said. “… I thought they were terrific. They dictated the pace, the tempo. They gave us confidence, and I thought that led to other guys stepping up and making big plays.”
Jared Wilson-Frame chipped in with 16 points and nine rebounds for Pitt (14-18).
With the freshman getting to the basket, Pitt was able to score on layups and outscore Boston College, 48-16, in the paint.
“They took over the game, just by attacking the rim,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said. “The first time we played them, we did a great job of keeping them in front and them protecting the basket with our secondary defender. Today, we did an awful job of both.”
Nik Popovic had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Boston College (14-17), which shot 35.6 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 27 in the second half before cutting it to nine with 58 seconds left.
The Panthers closed the first half on a 23-5 run to take a commanding 36-21 lead at the break. Boston College failed to make a field goal in the final 9:17 before intermission and shot 25 percent.
Johnson provided the boost with huge plays on both ends of the court for Pitt.
He repeatedly got to the hole, scoring 14 points, and had two steals that led to two layups. The Panthers picked up where they left off in the second half as McGowens scored nine of the team’s first 17 points.
“That’s the key every game is attack,” Johnson said. “The last time we played them, they littered the paint, and I shot 3 for 19 from the field. Today I shot 7 for 14, and that was the difference.”
In the other two ACC first-round games Tuesday:
• John Mooney had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Notre Dame snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 78-71 win over Georgia Tech.
Dane Goodwin added 15 points for the Irish, who nearly squandered a 20-point halftime lead. The Irish (14-18) moved on to face seventh-seeded Louisville on Wednesday night.
Moses Wright led Georgia Tech (14-18) with 25 points, and James Banks III had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
• DJ Vasiljevic scored 21 points, Anthony Lawrence added 20 points and 10 rebounds and Miami defeated Wake Forest, 79-71.
Chris Lykes added 13 points for Miami, which avenged a 76-75 loss at Wake Forest two weeks ago.
Miami (14-17) advances to face No. 16 Virginia Tech, the tournament’s fifth seed, on Wednesday.
Brandon Childress and Jaylen Hoard each had 16 points for Wake Forest (11-20), which lost four straight games to end the season.