Prediction: Pitt basketball to overpower BC

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Prediction: Pitt basketball to overpower BC

Sophomore guard Trey McGowens averages 2.9 turnovers per game.

Sophomore guard Trey McGowens averages 2.9 turnovers per game.

Joy Cao | Staff Photographer

Sophomore guard Trey McGowens averages 2.9 turnovers per game.

Joy Cao | Staff Photographer

Joy Cao | Staff Photographer

Sophomore guard Trey McGowens averages 2.9 turnovers per game.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Senior Staff Writer

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With Pitt men’s basketball coming off a dominant victory to complete a season sweep of North Carolina on Saturday, Boston College should represent an ideal opponent for the Panthers to fuel a winning streak — the key word being “should.” 

If this season has taught us anything, though, it’s that the Panthers do not operate as they should. Pitt opened the season with a growingly impressive victory against an elite (now ranked No. 5 in the nation) Florida State team, but followed it up with a shocking loss to Nicholls State at home. 

After finishing the rest of its non-conference play strongly, including a mid-season tournament championship and a win over now-ranked Rutgers, Pitt opened the new year with an awful home loss to Wake Forest.

A few days after the Wake Forest game, the team surprisingly ended a 22-game ACC road losing streak in its first matchup with UNC. Instead of capitalizing on the momentum, the Panthers fell to a mediocre Miami squad in a poor shooting performance.

Boston College (9-9 overall, 3-4 ACC) brings yet another opportunity for Pitt (12-6 overall, 3-4 ACC) to take advantage of. The Eagles have struggled offensively the whole year and have not made up for it sufficiently on the other end. Their best win comes against an incredibly underwhelming Virginia team, and they have lost to lower-tier ACC teams like Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

Injuries have certainly not proven kind to the Eagles. Four of their top eight scorers were sidelined for their matchup on Sunday, an 18-point loss to the Demon Deacons.

6-foot-11 senior Nik Popovic’s back injury has proved most costly for the Eagles, taking him out for nearly the last two months. Pitt, a team that lacks in size, should be thankful it won’t have to deal with the tough matchup Popovic would bring.

Two standout stars have led the Eagles thus far — senior guard Derryck Thornton and junior forward Steffon Mitchell.

Thornton has proven to be lethal offensively. His tight handle and ability to make decisions in the air have helped him lead the Eagles in scoring and passing, averaging 12.8 points and 3.4 assists per game this season.

Despite Thornton’s threat offensively, it is Mitchell’s defensive presence that Pitt needs to worry about. He has become an early favorite for the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award, averaging 2.47 steals (first in the ACC), 8.5 rebounds (fifth) and 1.18 blocks (10th) per game. 

For Pitt to earn a victory Wednesday night, it will need the backcourt duo of sophomore guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens to play under control. Averaging 3.7 and 2.9 turnovers per game, respectively, they cannot allow a ballhawk like Mitchell to bully them into turnovers.

PREDICTION:

Despite Pitt’s inconsistency this season, the Panthers will defeat the Eagles for their second straight victory. The last time these two teams met, in the 2019 ACC Tournament first round, McGowens and Johnson combined scored 49 points to carry their team to victory. They will step up again.

The key, however, will be Pitt junior Terrell Brown. With Brown, an elite shot blocker, protecting the rim against a team lacking a consistent big man, Boston College will be forced to chuck up shots from deep. The Eagles, shooting an ugly 28.6% from behind the arc this year, will not handle this shooting load well.

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