The Pitt men’s basketball team snapped a 13-game losing streak by finishing the regular season on a high note in a 56-53 win against Notre Dame. Next up for the Panthers will be the ACC Tournament.
As I wrote shortly before the game, despite all of the losses, Pitt (13-18) was a small favorite in this game. And while Notre Dame (13-18) raced out to a double digit lead, they ultimately couldn’t hold it.
For the Panthers, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, it was another slow start on offense. Pitt scored only two points in the first four minutes and only eight in the first ten. Notre Dame didn’t light the world on fire, either, but still held a 12-point lead at the seven-minute mark in the first half. That, it turns out, would be the high point for the Irish. Pitt would go on a 10-0 run and a Trey McGowens three-pointer right before halftime would cut the Irish lead to 26-25.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair, but Pitt would start to pull away. The Panthers would actually build up a 10-point lead of their own and while the Irish would mount a comeback, Pitt was able to knock down just enough free throws to win by three.
We can talk about how great it is as a fan to have the win today and it was. For those of you that have kept watching despite loss after loss, it had to be rewarding to see a victory. But I’m so much more happy for the players. It’s great to send Jared Wilson-Frame off with a win. And it’s a great confidence booster for the younger guys that will be back.
Try as he did, the shots just weren’t falling for Wilson-Frame on senior day. I expected he would take a heavy dose of the shots and that’s exactly what happened. Wilson-Frame’s 17 attempts were the most of anyone on any team and, unfortunately, he only made four of them, finishing with 12 points. The real story of the day was Trey McGowens, who came off the bench today to score 16 points on 6-10 shooting. That was the most points he scored since a 30-point outburst against Florida State back in January and it was nice to see him finish strong.
McGowens has no doubt had a tough time of things lately but he still managed to average about 11 points a game in ACC play. That, in case you’re wondering, is right around his season average as well, counting the non-conference games. That ACC number is padded a bit by two really big games against Louisville and NC State where he scored a combined 63 points. And McGowens has no doubt struggled towards the end of this year. But games like today are a reminder that he can be a factor and while he has work to do, it’s easy to forget that he’s only a true freshman.
And that Pitt doesn’t finish dead last in the ACC is something, too, I suppose. Their 13-18 record (and 3-15 ACC record) ties them with Notre Dame but the Panthers are technically ahead of them due to the head-to-head win.
The season, of course, isn’t over yet. Pitt will play in the ACC Tournament and with nine teams earning at least one bye, the Panthers won’t even have to be a giant killer to get out of the first round. Regardless of the opponent, it should be against a beatable team. Pitt may not be favored against a team like Boston College, for example, but it would certainly be a winnable game. The Panthers won’t win the ACC Tournament but earning a win or two would be a nice way to close out the year.