PITTSBURGH - For the second time in his collegiate career, Pittsburgh shooting guard Trey McGowens came off the bench in Pitt’s game against Northern Illinois.
A sophomore, McGowens had started 42 of 43 games since arriving at Pitt and each of the first 10 games this season, but found himself seated on Monday as Pitt tipped off against the Huskies.
That didn’t last long. McGowens entered the game 2:22 in and went on to play 36 minutes, score a team-high 18 points and make a key 3-pointer down the stretch as Pitt came from behind to avoid an upset with a 59-50 win over Northern Illinois.
McGowens called sitting on the bench an opportunity to “get my mind right,” coming off a four-point performance against Louisville on Dec. 6.
“Coach told me to be ready, so I guess it was seeing how things were happening when I was off the court,” McGowens said.
With his 3-point shooting, McGowens turned out to be one of the keys to Pitt’s victory. He made 4 of 8 from long range, none bigger than when he launched one from edge of the Pitt logo at center court with just under a minute to play.
When the shot swished through the rim to give Pitt a seven-point lead, McGowens let out a little smile.
“I was going through a slump,” he said. “It felt good to get out of that. I think it was just that we had a run at the end at that shot was the shot that sealed it.”
After trailing for more than 25 minutes, Pitt (8-3) finished the game on a 15-0 run over the final 6:11. The Huskies missed their final 11 field goal attempts.
Northern Illinois (6-5) built a lead thanks to the play of senior guard Eugene German, who scored 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting and was 4 of 12 from behind — and at times way behind — the 3-point arc. Northern Illinois shot 40% from 3-point range.
That slowed down in the second half, thanks to a change in Pitt’s defense to a matchup zone with a focus on German.
“I thought us changing to zone took some of his driving away,” head coach Jeff Capel said. “I thought it broke their rhythm a little bit and maybe more importantly, it gave us confidence again.”
Northern Illinois: German considered leaving Northern Illinois for the NBA Draft after his junior year. When he’s been presented with top competition as a senior with the Huskies, he’s taken advantage. German scored 24 points and had six assists in a Northern Illinois loss to Iowa State earlier this season, and he came through with another strong performance against the Panthers.
“If you’re a competitor … you double-circle those games with an opportunity to play against the best of the best or Power Five conferences,” coach Mark Montgomery said.
Pitt: Under Capel, Pitt has had trouble at times taking care of business on their home court. In Capel’s first season, the Panthers lost to Niagara. This year, the Panthers lost to Nicholls State in their second game of the season before struggling with Northern Illinois on Monday. Capel credited his team’s growth and greater maturity level for the divergent outcome.
“Early in the year, this a game we probably don’t win,” he said. “It might have been Nicholls. It’s a game last year, we probably don’t win. I’m proud that we found something within us to figure out a way to win.”
Northern Illinois: Finishes a season-long four-game road win with a trip to Chicago State. The Huskies are 2-4 on the road this season, compared with 4-1 at home.
Pitt: Continues its four-game homestand by hosting Binghamton on Friday. Pitt has never lost to a member of the America East Conference.