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As impressive as the Pitt Panthers basketball season has been thus far, the only think that had eluded them was a win vs. a nationally-ranked opponent. The came close against Iowa, and North Carolina State, but their mission was accomplished as they upset #11 Florida State (75- 62).

Panthers Celebrate Victory over Florida State (Photo Credit : Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

“Really, really proud of our team, we beat a heck of a basketball team.” Said Pitt head coach Jeff Capel. “I thought we were aggressive. Florida State is an aggressive team and we executed a game plan. I thought we did a better job rebounding. We also fed off the energy of the crowd. The Oakland Zoo was great. We’ve established a great connection with them.”

Panthers Guard Trey McGowens (#2) Looking to go to work against Florida State (Photo Credit: Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

Once again, it was freshman G Trey McGowens leading the way with 30 points, his 2nd 30-point effort in 3 games. He didn’t just create shots, he took the Seminoles to the basket consistently. He also had 7 rebounds, 5 setals,4 assists and hit 2 three pointers, one while falling on his back to the delight of the Pitt crowd and their ‘Oakland Zoo.’

“McGowens was amazing again.” Said Capel on his young guard.

Pitt Basketball -Xavier Johnson (#1) lookiing to penetrate the lane against Florida State (Photo Credit: Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

And also, once again fellow freshman G Xavier Johnson was his sidekick as he shook off 7 turnovers and scored 18 points, most coming in the critical moments in the second half. As was mentioned in the upset over Louisville, Johnson is proving to be an effective floor general, but as a freshman he’s continuing to get better on the job.

Panthers get together making plans during their win over Florida State (Photo Credit : Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

Overall, it was truly a team effort of a supporting cast that knew their roles: G Tony Au’Dise scored 9 points and led with 8 rebounds, C Terrell Brown had another stellar game with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, several on 7-4 Florida St. C Christ Koumadje. C Malik Ellison also came off the bench and scored 4 points and had a key 3-pointer and senior G Jared Wilson- Frame had 2 key rebounds off the bench.

“We feel like we’re going to fight every game.” Said Capel “Not one time this year have they been afraid, and I don’t think my team has been afraid.”

Pitt Head Coach Jeff Capel keeping his players focused (Photo Credit: Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

Trent Forrest scored 19 points for the Seminoles (13-4, 1-3), who lost for the third time in four games. And unlike their setback against No. 1 Duke last Saturday – when the Blue Devils won it at the buzzer – this was no last-second stunner.

Pitt never trailed over the final 11:46, relying heavily on its freshman backcourt to continue its surprising start under first-year coach Jeff Capel. A season after going winless in the ACC, the Panthers have turned the page quickly.

The Panthers gave away size at nearly every position. Yet rather than try to shoot over the Seminoles, Pitt decided to try and run through them. The Panthers drove to the basket all night, particularly McGowens. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound freshman repeatedly flung himself into the lane, with mixed results. He missed a breakaway dunk early on but tried to go right back to the

rack by attempting to rise over 6-foot-10, 250-pound Mfiondu Kabengele. That dunk missed too but McGowens drew the foul and appeared to send a message that Pitt would not be intimidated.

It translated into steady trips to the free-throw line and a 36-34 halftime lead, remarkable considering the Panthers missed their first eight shots and were outrebounded 19-12 in the opening 20 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second half. Two days after Capel chastised his team for a lack of composure late in a loss to North Carolina State, the Panthers responded by fending off the Seminoles each time it appeared they were in trouble.

Florida State Head Coach Leonard Hamilton (Photo Credit : Vince Butts-UMT Sports )

“Jeff has come in and brought that swagger back.” Said Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton.

The Panthers are now 12-5 and 2-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) they will face a hot Syracuse team (12-5, 3-1) that also pulled off a huge upset over Duke Tuesday night. They will face the Orange at the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon, then Pitt returns home next Tuesday night as they face the Blue Devils in a nationally-televised matchup.

Panthers Mascot -Celebrates (Photo Credit: Vince Butts-UMT Sports)

“I loved the energy that’s in the building.” Said Capel. “That’s the way I remember this program and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here. I remember what it has been, and I know therefore what it can become again.”

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.comFollow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter


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