3 thoughts on Pitt basketball: Panthers show drive for more success
The chants started at the end of Pitt’s victory against Florida State on Monday night at Petersen Events Center.
Who could blame the students in the Oakland Zoo, many of whom (mainly the younger ones) never had seen a Pitt victory against an ACC opponent in person?
The chant was recognizable: “We want Duke. We want Duke.”
The Panthers must visit Syracuse on Saturday, and the Orange beat No. 1 Duke in overtime Monday night. But the Blue Devils, Capel’s former team, arrive at the Pete next Tuesday when an eager sellout crowd will be waiting,
Center Terrell Brown heard the chant.
“I loved that,” said Brown, who blocked four more shots, giving him 42 in 17 games (17 in four conference games).
“Nobody thought we were going to get a win, and we have two (in the ACC) now. We have more to get.”
The victory broke Pitt’s 13-game losing streak against ranked teams, dating to 2017.
Here are three observations from the game:
1. On the line
If Pitt (12-5, 2-2) can shoot foul shots like it did Monday, maybe the Panthers can maintain that .500 ACC record for the rest of the season.
Pitt is shooting 72.5 percent from the free-throw line after hitting its first 15 against the Seminoles and 38 of 46 overall.
Trey McGowens made 18 of 19 and Xavier Johnson all 10. Johnson has 90 for the season, third-most all-time by a Pitt freshman, and McGowens has 89.
How’d that happen?
It’s coach Jeff Capel’s game plan to drive to the hoop and draw fouls. It has a better success rate for Pitt than outside shooting. Plus, those guys just love going to the basket and challenging bigger, taller opponents.
2. Capel saw this coming
Maybe not the 12-5 record — he’s not one to look past the next game — but he saw freshmen Johnson, McGowens and Au’Diesse Toney have what it takes to survive in the ACC. They play the game with fearlessness and an attitude that all but shouts at an opponent, “You may be bigger and stronger, but we don’t care.”
“That’s who they are,” Capel said. “We got to know them during the recruiting process. All three are naturally competitive. You don’t find that a lot.
“Which means they have a toughness about them, and they aren’t afraid. Not one time this year have they been afraid, and I don’t think our team has been afraid. I’ve seen it all year.”
3. Don’t forget Jared Wilson-Frame
Pitt’s only senior had been slumping before the Florida State game, and then he played only 10 minutes and didn’t attempt a shot. Quite a reversal for a player who had attempted 148 in 16 games, second-most on the team.
But Pitt will need Wilson-Frame’s long-range shooting Saturday to loosen Syracuse’s famous 2-3 zone. With the return of backup point guard Sidy N’Dir from a leg injury, Capel has a nine-man rotation now, and he’ll need everyone as the ACC season progresses.
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 .