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Pitt finalizes men's basketball schedule with addition of Northern Illinois matchup

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis (PA) at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Six days after the start of the 2020-21 men’s basketball season, Pitt finalized its schedule with the addition of a fifth non-conference game on Tuesday afternoon. That game will be played on Saturday against a familiar opponent in MAC program Northern Illinois.

So far this season, Pitt has played St. Francis and Drexel, and it has upcoming matchups with Northwestern and Gardner-Webb that will round out its non-conference slate. This season, the team is only permitted to schedule five games against non-ACC opponents, so the addition of Northern Illinois will be the last alteration to the team’s schedule.

Pitt and Northern Illinois have faced off just once before, but that game came last season on Dec. 16 at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers struggled against the Huskies, trailing 30-29 at halftime. But they pulled out a 59-50 victory thanks in large part to Trey McGowens, who led the team with 18 points, 12 of which came on four three-point shots. McGowens was the only Pitt player to make a three all day, as the team went 4-for-17 from distance.

McGowens has since transferred to Nebraska, so Pitt will be without him in the rematch. However, the team will likely rely heavily on the contributions of Xavier Johnson, Justin Champagnie and Au’Diese Toney, all of whom have put on promising showings early in the season. The game will serve as a test for a Pitt team that lost to St. Francis 80-70 in its opener but then rebounded to defeat Drexel 83-74.

Another loss would be a troubling sign for the team, pointing to some worrisome underlying issues and a bumpy road ahead in ACC play, while a win would suggest the shocking loss to St. Francis was just a byproduct of rust. The game is set to tip off from the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.