CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel gave his freshmen backcourt simple instructions Tuesday night: Attack the hole.
The strategy worked as Trey McGowens scored 26 points, Xavier Johnson added 23 and Pittsburgh defeated Boston College 80-70 in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
The explosive freshmen combined to shoot 14 of 28 from the field and make 19 of 26 free throws as the 14th-seeded Panthers won their second straight game since snapping a 13-game losing streak.
The victory propels the Panthers into tonight’s second round matchup against former Big East rival Syracuse, the tournament’s sixth seed. Game time is 9:30 p.m.
“We’ve been at our best when we’ve been able to get downhill and attack...I thought they were terrific,:” said Capel. “They dictated the pace, the tempo. They gave us confidence, and I thought that led to other guys stepping up and making big plays.”
Jared Wilson-Frame chipped in with 16 points and nine rebounds for Pittsburgh (14-18).
With the freshman getting to the basket, Pittsburgh was able to score on layups and outscore Boston College 48-16 in the paint.
Nik Popovic had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead Boston College (14-17), which shot 35.6 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 27 in the second half before cutting it to nine with 58 seconds left.
The Panthers closed the first half on a 23-5 run to take a commanding 36-21 lead at the break. Boston College failed to make a field goal in the final 9:17 before intermission and shot 25 percent.
Pitt likely won’t be able to get to the hole as much against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, but McGowens said attacking is still important.
“We have to attack them and make them close the gaps and get some kick-outs.”
The Panthers lost to by nine points in both previous matchups this season against Syracuse.