PITTSBURGH – It wasn’t pretty, but Pitt will take it.
The Panthers (1-0, 1-0) hosted ACC opponent Florida State in their regular season opener – a game that featured sloppy play and woeful shooting at times, but Pitt again used its ability to get to the free-throw line to edge the Seminoles 63-61.
The Panthers were 22 of 31 from the line and their penchant for attacking and drawing fouls led to three Florida State players fouling out.
“It was an ugly game, but I was really proud that we fought and we found a way to win,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said following the team’s victory.
The two teams took a 25-all tie into halftime, but the Seminoles came out of the half swinging. Florida State sophomore guard Devin Vassell – who hadn’t scored in the first half – posted 11 of Florida State’s 13 points in the first 51/2 minutes of the second half.
Terrell Brown wasn’t about to let the Panthers go down without a fight.
After Vassell made a layup to give the Seminoles a 38-29 lead with 14:33 remaining, Brown quickly threw up a dunk. The junior center scored four more points in the next 3 minutes to keep the Panthers in the game.
“I just told myself I have to make a play,” Brown said after the game.
The Panthers clawed their way back and began making some shots, including five 3-pointers in the second half, as the lead went back and forth between the two teams. They also made seven of their final nine free throws.
Brown finished the night with 13 points, tied with Ryan Murphy and Xavier Johnson for team lead in points. The center also made a layup with two minutes remaining that gave the Panthers a 58-56 lead.
They wouldn’t trail again.
His coach was impressed with more than just Brown’s scoring ability.
“I thought Terrell was terrific,” Capel said. “I thought it was one of the best games that he’s played since I’ve been here.
"He finished around the rim, he played with energy, he had the passion, he was talking, you could hear him. He played with confidence and I thought our guys did a good job of finding him.
“I thought some things he did defensively were really good, too. Blocked some shots, he changed some shots down there.”
The Panthers edged the Seminoles 37-35 on the boards. Rebounding has been a point of emphasis for the team and Capel was pleased with what he saw on Wednesday night.
“I thought that was the key of the game,” Capel said. “There was a defensive rebound we got, I think Trey (McGowens) got it, right around four minutes that was a big time rebound.
“He went up, out of his area, determined to get it.”
Pitt will enjoy this win, but the Panthers are wary of enjoying it too much.
“Being a returner, we saw how it went last year. So the returning guys, we told each other during the game ‘don’t get too high on this game. It’s great that we won it, but we still got the whole preseason, and we got them again (in ACC play),” Brown said.
“It’s great to celebrate now tonight, but after tonight, tomorrow we got practice at one. It means nothing.”