Pitt Stuns Florida St. in Home Opener 63-61

One of the objectives of the 2019-20 Pitt Panthers Basketball Team is to continue to take more positive steps forward to returning to the glory years in which they were known as a Nationally Ranked threat. But before you can run, you must walk and under second year head coach Jeff Capel, the Panthers have certainly learned to walk again after their strong finish last season by winning 2 of their 3 games, including a win in the ACC Tournament.

After stunning ACC opponent Florida State 63-61 in their season opener, the Panthers are looking like they’re ready to run.

Pitt Guard #24 Ryan Murphy Showing great form Knocking Down 3 Pointers in the Panthers win over Florida State 63-61 at Peterson Events Center 11/06/19 (Photo Credit: Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

Xavier Johnson, Terrell Brown and Ryan Murphy scored 13 points apiece as the Panthers (1-0, 1-0 ACC) won despite shooting 31 percent (16 of 51) from the field by taking advantage of the foul-prone Seminoles (0-1, 0-1). Pitt outscored Florida State 22-13 at the free throw line and knocked down nine 3-pointers, three of them by Murphy, a junior college transfer who provided Pitt with a needed jolt following a sluggish start.

“The very first thing is I want to give a big time shout out to our crowd. I thought they were amazing, especially our student section.” Said Capel “I thought their energy, intensity, and passion really helped us push through. It was an ugly game, but I was really proud that we fought and found a way to win.”

Senior guard Trent Forrest, the only starter returning from a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season, led the Seminoles with 19 points. Devin Vassell added 14 but the Seminoles couldn’t survive 14 turnovers and 27 fouls. RaiQuan Gray, Malik Osborne and Balsa Koprivica all fouled out for Florida State.

The Seminoles led 40-31 on a layup by Osborne with 13:37 to play but the Panthers responded. Freshman Justin Champagnie hit a 3-pointer to get Pitt started and the Panthers found their footing thanks in part to Brown. A starter a season ago, he began the night on the bench as part of a revamped lineup. He made a layup while getting fouled with two minutes to go and made the ensuing free throw to push Pitt’s lead to 59-56.

Pitt big man #21 Terrell Brown Going in for the Dunk in the Panthers win over Florida State 63-61 at Peterson Events Center 11/06/19 (Photo Credit: Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

“I thought Terrell Brown was terrific.” Said Capel. “I thought it was one of the best games he’s played since I got here. He finished around the rim, he played with energy and passion, he was talking, you could hear him, and he played with confidence. I thought our guys did a good job at finding him. I thought some things he did defensively were good too. He blocked some shots and changed some shots down there. But I thought our bench was good. He, Justin Champagnie, and Ryan Murphy were really, good. You look at Justin Champagnie who is still not the instinctive athlete that he was earlier, but I thought he took a giant step in the second half. He’s a really talented player and I think you saw some of that in the second half.”

Florida State had a chance to tie it at the end of regulation, but Patrick Williams missed a jumper with two seconds to go. Anthony Polite grabbed the offensive rebound but couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.

2 seasons ago, Pitt didn’t get an ACC win. A season ago, Pitt didn’t get their first ACC win until January 9th, this season, they open the season with one. That’s proof of taking positive steps. But Capel knows they must continue to work to get even better. “We got an amazing contribution from our bench and I thought guys just fought.” Said Capel. “We figured out a way to win. I’m proud of our group – we have a very quick turnaround in a noon game on Saturday against a team that’s pretty good and almost won at Illinois last night. We have to enjoy this, but we have to be mature about it and be ready to move on to the next play tomorrow.”

Florida State: Hosts Western Carolina on Sunday.

Pitt: Begins non-conference play on Saturday at home against Nicholls State.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

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