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Trey McGowens powers Pitt past Notre Dame

The freshman gave the team a spark late in the first half

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt snapped a 13-game losing streak against Notre Dame in its regular-season finale at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday, and Trey McGowens proved to be the driving force behind the Panthers’ 56-53 edging of the Irish.

The freshman guard contributed 16 points, three rebounds and two assists to the winning effort. He was also the team’s most reliable shooter, as he went 6-for-10 from the field, including a 2-for-4 showing from distance.

“It was just good to finally just lose myself for the team and really just pick myself up and really carry it over to the second half to where we could get a win,” McGowens said.

McGowens and the Panthers seemed to be off to another slow start, as they fell behind 20-10 in the first half. However, McGowens then came up with an assist on an Au’Diese Toney layup, a block and a three-pointer. But what really turned the momentum in Pitt’s favor was McGowens’ dunk through contact in transition with just over a minute left that brought the crowd to its feet. After that, he knocked down a free throw and another three-pointer to cut the Irish lead to 26-25 ahead of halftime.

After the first half, McGowens led the team with nine points, and he carried that momentum into the second half, scoring seven more. It was the first time he had scored in double figures since Feb. 16, when he had 10 against Virginia Tech. Pitt head coach Jeff Capel discussed McGowens' performance during his postgame press conference.

“I think the big thing was that he made shots," Capel said. "Sometimes it’s as simple as that. I thought he was able to get something easy early. I thought the dunk really ignited him, it really ignited us. You could see the confidence to pull up for that three. Even the ones that he missed, I thought they were good shots. I thought he didn’t try and force things ... it was great to see him do that.”

McGowens was joined in willing the team to a win by Jared Wilson-Frame, who knocked down four three-pointers and ranked second on the team with 12 points, and Xavier Johnson, who kept Pitt alive late with several key buckets and finished with 10 points on the day. Johnson also led Pitt with six assists and two steals.

With the win, Pitt improved to 13-18 overall and 3-15 in conference. The Panthers also avoided a last-place finish in the ACC, as that distinction went to the Irish. Each of Pitt’s three ACC wins was the result of a big McGowens performance, as he also led the team past Louisville and Florida State this season.