Pitt faced Florida State at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night in a rare season-opening ACC matchup, and while the new-look team was still led by the talented backcourt duo of Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, Ryan Murphy emerged as Pitt’s missing link.
In a game that began in haphazard fashion and eventually evolved into a thrilling 63-61 victory for Pitt, it was Murphy who helped the Panthers turn the corner and find their rhythm by providing reliable three-point shooting and solid complementary play. With his contribution of two three-pointers late in the first half, the team took a 19-18 lead and would enter halftime tied 25-25 with Florida State.
In the second half, the Panthers finally seemed to get their feet under them, as they boosted their offensive output from 25 points to 38 points in the final frame. Once again, Murphy was a key contributor, as he recognized opportunities to set up Pitt center Terrell Brown in the paint, and he did so on two occasions. In fact, one of Murphy’s best plays of the game saw him drive down the lane, draw two defenders, then dish the ball to Brown for an open layup that he converted.
Murphy would finish with 13 points, three assists and four rebounds in his Pitt debut. He also made three of his six three-point attempts and had a hand in the Pitt bench outscoring the team's starters 34-29. To break that down further, nine of Murphy's points came on threes and four came from the foul line, where he was a flawless 4-for-4 on the night. In addition, all three of his assists led to points in the paint, as his first dime set up Eric Hamilton in the first half and his other two went to Brown.
Wednesday's results suggest Murphy has not only made a full recovery from the foot injury that sidelined him for 20 games last season, but he is also unfazed by the jump from JUCO to the ACC. That's a major development for Pitt that answers some key questions about a player Jeff Capel will expect much from this season, and given Murphy's ability to provide outside scoring and create opportunities in the post, his contributions could be vital to Pitt reaching new heights in the coming months.