Amid fiery opening win, potential third star emerges ☕


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Terrell Brown finishes a layup and draws the foul in the second half of Pitt's 63-61 win over Florida State at the Petersen Events Center. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The floor sparkled under the bright lights of opening night at the Pete.

The new-look jerseys dazzled.

And Pitt moved to 1-0 with a drama-laden 63-61 win over ACC foe Florida State Wednesday night.

Yeah, not a bad night for the program and this upstart squad.

"We got an amazing contribution from our bench and I thought guys just fought," head coach Jeff Capel was saying after the game. "We figured out a way to win. I'm really proud of our group."

We knew sophomore guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens would play crucial roles in taking this program to new heights in 2019-20. What we didn't know was this: Who's next best? Who's going to step up beyond those two?

Enter Terrell Brown:

All Brown did was tie for the team lead with 13 points and add three rebounds — two offensive — on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and a 5-for-6 effort from the stripe. There's no block on Brown's official score sheet, but he made life miserable for the Seminoles when they entered his realm, redirecting shots and forcing tough angles around the rim.

"I thought Terrell was terrific," Capel said. "I thought it was one of the best games he played since I got here. He finished around the rim, he played with energy and passion, he was talking, you could hear him, and he played with confidence."

That's good, coach, because this Pitt team's going to need it — all of it — this season. Johnson and McGowens will get their buckets and they'll make an impact night in and night out. But if Brown can command the paint like that and anchor the offense down low, the dynamic changes completely.

Plus, there's a presence about him when he's playing like this. Something more. Tonight, it materialized like so:

Florida State comes out of the half on fire, Devin Vassell scoring 11 points in five minutes to give the Seminoles a seven-point lead. The crowd, hyped throughout, fell silent. Vassell was taking over, and Pitt had zero answers.

Re-enter Mr. Brown.

"After the first half [and] two or three minutes of the second, we knew we had to get back in it," Brown said. "We looked at each other and said we got to buckle up. We can't let this slip. This is our game."

Start adding an intangible fire like that — plus the skills to execute — and there's your third piece behind Johnson and McGowens. As a junior, Brown's more proven and experienced, but within that also lives the reason to give pause to this thought.

Pitt fans have seen him ball-out before ... in stretches. For Brown, now, the process goes like this: Good work, big man. Soak this one in and enjoy it.

Now do it again.

"Hopefully Terrell having success in this game against this type of opponent helps him with his confidence for him to believe," Capel said. "It's about becoming consistent, about having consistent habits in everything you do every day."

And beating a Seminoles team that's months removed from the Sweet 16, at home, in opening-night conference play?

That probably inspires just a little confidence at large for this squad, too.

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