Pitt headed into its Sunday matchup with NC State in dire need of contributions from new sources, and it got a significant boost from Terrell Brown, who recorded the first double-double of his collegiate career. In a game that went down as a 65-62 loss for Pitt, the senior center pitched in 11 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and one steal. But more importantly, he stepped up in a time of need for the team and showed that the Panthers still had some fight left in them after a difficult week.
That trying week saw Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney depart the team and enter the transfer portal less than 24 hours apart from each other, depriving the team of two of its top three scorers, who averaged 28.6 points per game collectively. As a result, there was doubt that the Panthers could compete against the Wolfpack and others in the ACC until they replenished their ranks. But Brown and the Panthers proved that notion to be mistaken, as the team hung tough in Raleigh, threatening to overtake the Wolfpack late in the game.
Brown, a holdover from the Kevin Stallings era who has stuck with the program since 2017, put on his best performance of the season, as it was the first time he posted a double-figure point total since February 2020 and the first time he posted a double-figure rebound total since March 2019. The season-high figures were posted over the course of 33 minutes — another season high for Brown — that the Pitt senior played as a result of fellow center Abdoul Karim Coulibaly racking up four fouls in a matter of just seven minutes.
“I’m really proud of Terrell," Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said in a media session on Monday. "This generation of young people, a lot of times they don’t stick things out when adversity hits. They’ve been taught its OK to want to leave. I’m not judging, but it’s different. What Terrell and that group that came into Pitt as freshmen went through was horrific. It was really bad, the stories that I heard. I feel for everyone of those guys that had to experience that.”
“But I’m proud of Terrell for sticking it out. There’s something about Pitt that made him stick it out, and I think he’s gotten better because of that experience. He’s tougher, and he’s grown up a lot. He’s one of the guys in our program that’s really tried to believe and buy into how we’re trying to change this. I’m proud of how much he’s grown as a man.”
The growth of the 6’10”, 235-pound center as a player was particularly evident on the court on Sunday, as his performance stood in stark contrast to his season leading up to the matchup with NC State. In those 17 games, Brown averaged 2.1 points and 1.9 boards in 9.3 minutes per game. Those low figures were due in part to the fact that Brown played single-digit minutes in nine of those games and was awarded 20 minutes or more of playing time in a game just twice in that same span.
With that said, Brown’s double-double appeared to be a byproduct of a game plan that sought points in the paint over wild long-range shooting, as the team hoisted up just 11 three-point shots in the game — Pitt’s fewest in a game this season. The Panthers also snapped a two-game streak of getting dominated in the paint, limiting the Wolfpack to 24 points in the paint and matching that total with 24 of their own. And Brown accounted for one-third of Pitt’s points in the paint, as he scored eight.
That game plan may remain in place for Pitt moving forward, as Ithiel Horton is on a three-game cold streak and Johnson and Toney — who took 131 of the team’s 357 three-point shots before their departures — are no longer with the team. As a result, Pitt could lean heavily on Brown as a complement to Champagnie in the paint. Capel could also utilize Coulibaly in a similar manner, but given Brown’s status as a senior and the hot hand in the Pitt frontcourt, he may have the stronger case for minutes at the moment.
Of course, any increased role for Brown could be short-lived, as it was announced on Monday that he would be honored on Senior Night, which will be on Tuesday, when Pitt hosts Wake Forest at the Petersen Events Center.
Brown is able to return next season, as the NCAA extended an extra year of eligibility to winter sport athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But while there has been talk of a return for Nike Sibande, the only other senior on Pitt's roster, there has been no word on Brown. In addition, participation in Senior Night festivities signaled the ends of the Pitt careers of Kene Chukwuka and Samson George in 2020, and given the silence from Pitt on Brown's future, it seems his time in Pittsburgh may well be coming to an end.