Trey McGowens powers Pitt to upset win over No. 11 Florida State
Jeff Capel knows he is in the early stages of a long ACC season that will test his players’ toughness.
Pitt’s coach is aware the game sometimes won’t unfold as it did Monday night at Petersen Events Center.
But Capel’s big bear hug on freshman guard Trey McGowens, who scored 30 points to lead Pitt’s 75-62 upset of No. 11 Florida State, was symbolic of a couple of truths:
• Pitt’s players understand what it takes to win games in this conference.
• McGowens is pretty good.
The result was Pitt’s first victory against a ranked team since the Panthers defeated No. 17 Florida State, 80-66, on Feb. 18, 2017. More importantly, it gave Pitt a 2-1 record in a tough stretch of three games in six days and improved its record to 12-5, 2-2 in the ACC.
McGowens was dominant in many areas that didn’t result in the ball going through the net. He had seven rebounds and five steals, handed out four assists and committed only three turnovers in 38 minutes.
It’s hard to believe McGowens still would be in high school if Capel hadn’t recruited him so aggressively, and he won’t turn 19 until two months after the basketball season.
“There’s no telling what he’s going to do (when he gets the ball),” teammate Au’Diese Toney said.
The theme of the night was Pitt’s aggressive drives to the basket by McGowens, Toney (nine points and eight rebounds) and Xavier Johnson (18 points). Even with 7-foot-4 center Chris Koumadje, the tallest athlete to suit up for Florida State in any sport, patrolling the area around the basket.
Overall, those three freshmen shot only 12 of 34 from the field, but they went to the foul line for 33 shots, making 29.
Asked to describe his attacking style of play, McGowens, who is 13 inches shorter than Koumadje, said, “I’m fearless, I guess.
“No matter how big, I’m just going to compete, and we’re just going to have to make a great play. That’s what coach says, ‘Make them make a better play.’ That’s really what we’ve tried to do.”
On the other end of the floor, Pitt’s defense executed Capel’s game plan nearly to perfection, he said.
Capel said he identified a few Florida State players who weren’t great long-range shooters, which allowed him to “shrink the court.”
“We tried to clog the lanes and didn’t guard a couple of guys outside the 3-point line,” Capel said. “I think that slowed them down.”
Florida State (13-4, 1-3) missed 20 of 22 3-point tries (9.1 percent).
“We were able to execute a game plan pretty much perfectly, especially in the second half,” Capel said.
Despite the final score, the game was close until late in the second half, with 12 ties and 11 lead changes.
Pitt, however, led for more than 25 minutes, taking the lead for good on a McGowens’ 3-pointer with 11 minutes, 22 seconds left. A 26-15 run in the final 10:24 ensured Pitt’s second consecutive ACC home victory, the first time the Panthers have done that in three years.
“The people of Pittsburgh should be happy that Jeff (Capel) has come in and brought that swagger back,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Florida State was coming off an emotional 80-78 loss to No. 1 Duke on Saturday, but Hamilton didn’t want to hear any excuses.
“As a coach, you don’t want to accept that,” he said. “That’s part of what you have to prepare for in the ACC. Pitt lost a game (Saturday), too, and they bounced back and we didn’t. I thought Pitt was so much more ready than we were.”
Capel said he is grateful for the compliment from a veteran ACC coach whom he respects. But he also know his job is only beginning.
“There are teams we will play against that are more talented than us,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they are better teams.
“If you’re a team that’s together and you execute and you fight and you have a little bit of intelligence, then you can have a chance. We are continuing to grow in those areas.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .