Report card: McGowens passes RMU with flying colors


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Staff writer Michael Elisenmogun gave Xavier Johnson a C- grade for his performance against Robert Morris University.

By Michael Elesinmogun, Staff Writer

After suffering a shocking home upset to Nicholls State on Saturday, Pitt men’s basketball bounced back with a much-needed victory at Robert Morris on Tuesday night — its first true road win since Feb. 8, 2017. The Panthers looked like an improved team across the board, led by a breakthrough performance from sophomore guard Trey McGowens.

Team Grade: B

The Panthers didn’t earn an A for this performance because of their bleak first half. They looked destined to suffer a second-straight upset early on, allowing an 18-0 RMU run and coughing up eight turnovers in the first half.

After halftime, however, Pitt looked the best it has all season, committing only three turnovers in the second half. The team can’t go on scoring droughts like it did in the first half against better opponents, but the second half is something the Panthers can take pride in and build on moving forward.

Trey McGowens

Grade: A+

McGowens played, by far, his best game of the young season after scoring just 20 points combined in Pitt’s first two games. He broke out in a major way against RMU, scoring 25 points on 61% shooting from the field and 80% from the line.

McGowens played like a man possessed, driving to the rim with a consistency and aggression that wasn’t present in Pitt’s first two games. He also produced on the defensive side of the ball with four steals and eight rebounds. For the Panthers to be competitive this season, McGowens has to produce at this level consistently — something he struggled with last year.

Terrell Brown

Grade: A

Brown found himself in the starting lineup for the first time Tuesday night and did not disappoint. He paced the Panthers nine rebounds and five blocks while also adding eight points.

The sample size is small, but Brown is currently playing like one of the best rim protectors in college basketball. His five blocks on Tuesday tied his career high, which he set in the previous game against Nicholls State. Brown also added two steals to round out another complete game from the junior center who has been Pitt’s most consistent player so far.

Au’Diese Toney

Grade: A

Toney has improved each game since a terrible start to the season against Florida State, and his performance on Tuesday marked his best yet. His shooting looked much improved against the Colonels, as he shot an efficient 3-6 from the field and 4-4 from the line for a team second-best 11 points.

No one on Pitt’s team is a better perimeter defender than Toney, and he flashed his versatility against the Colonels by switching onto multiple positions and altering shots. If his consistency on offense can catch up to his defense, the Panthers will be far better off for it.

Justin Champagnie

Grade: B+

Champagnie has certified himself as the sixth man for the Panthers this year. He turned in another solid performance against RMU with 10 points and five rebounds. He’s established himself as an energetic contributor off the bench with sound ability on both ends of the floor. Champagnie especially shined when defending Colonels senior Josh Williams, holding him to only 12 points on the night.

Ryan Murphy

Grade: B-

Murphy cooled down a bit against RMU, at least by his lofty standards. In his first start of the season, he continued to shoot the ball relatively well from the field, going 4-10 overall and 2-6 from distance.

Murphy is no longer a hidden sniper anymore, and after the Florida State game, teams have made a concerted effort to make sure he doesn’t get the ball in catch-and-shoot situations. This has forced him to put the ball on the ground and create his own points. If Murphy works on his ability to drive into the paint, it’ll be increasingly tough to stop him.

Xavier Johnson 

Grade: C-

Johnson again struggled from the field, shooting a woeful 1-9 to finish with seven points. That didn’t stop him from making plays like he had in previous contests, as he dished out a team-high seven assists and made all four of his free throws.

Although the assist numbers were impressive, Johnson has to get it going from the field against better opponents for the Panthers to be serious players in the ACC this season. He’s now shooting 30% so far this season — a number that must improve significantly if the Panthers truly want to meet their goal of making the NCAA tournament.