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Trey McGowens shines as Pitt fends off NIU upset bid

The Pitt guard scored 18 points, including a clutch three late in the game

NCAA Basketball: Monmouth-NJ at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt hosted Northern Illinois at the Petersen Events Center on Monday night, and despite a performance that Jeff Capel described as largely lethargic, the team pulled ahead in the waning moments of the competition to secure a 59-50 win. A key cog in that winning effort was Pitt guard Trey McGowens, who led the Panthers in scoring and made a late three-pointer that put the game out of reach.

McGowens — who ranks second on the team in scoring, with 11.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season — contributed 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field against the Huskies. He was also the only Pitt player who had any luck from beyond the arc, as he went 4-for-8 on his three-point shots. The rest of the team went a collective 0-for-9.

The native of Pendleton, South Carolina, scored nine points in each half, with his most notable first-half score being an emphatic dunk over Northern Illinois guard Eugene German at the 14:06 mark. German was the story of the night early in the game, as he lit the Panthers up from distance and scored 13 points in the first half. However, he went cold in the final 20 minutes, which is when McGowens and the Panthers took control of the game.

McGowens recorded three triples and three assists in the second half, including a bomb from the logo with 57 seconds left in the game that gave Pitt a 57-50 lead. That shot brought the players on the Panthers bench to their feet and put to rest any hope Northern Illinois had of mounting a late comeback. A few seconds later, a Ryan Murphy-to-Justin Champagnie alley-oop capped off a 15-0 run for Pitt and put the finishing touches on a 59-50 victory.

”I thought McGowens was terrific,” Capel said after the game. “Especially the last five minutes, making shots but also facilitating and making plays offensively for other people. ... He’s a good player, and we need him to be a good player. We need him to be confident in himself all the time and not get down on himself, and to know that we have confidence in him to do things and play the right way.”

Monday night served as the latest illustration of McGowens’ importance to the Panthers, as the team has thrived when he has thrived and struggled when he has struggled. Specifically, the team has gone 5-0 in games this season where McGowens has scored 15 or more points and 3-3 in games where his point total has dipped below that mark. Last season, Pitt went 7-2 when McGowens put up 15-plus points and 7-17 when he did not.

With the win over Northern Illinois, Pitt improves to 8-3 on the season. The team’s penultimate non-conference matchup is scheduled for Friday, when Pitt will take on Binghamton at the Petersen Events Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.