Pitt headed down to South Carolina to face Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday night, and the result was a disappointing 82-69 loss for the Panthers. However, Pitt guard Xavier Johnson returned to form after posting back-to-back single-digit point totals. In fact, he scored a career-high 30 points, tying the second-highest point total ever recorded by a freshman in program history.
Johnson tied the point total of Trey McGowens, who poured in 30 points in Pitt’s upset of Florida State on Jan. 14. McGowens also owns the Pitt freshman record, as he put on a 33-point performance against Louisville on Jan. 9.
In addition to setting a personal benchmark, Johnson played efficiently, as he made 10 of his 14 shots from the field, including each of his three attempts from beyond the arc. All told, it was the best shooting performance of his collegiate career, as he converted on 71 percent of his field goals against the Tigers.
Johnson’s impressive shooting continued at the charity stripe, where he made seven of his eight free-throws. He also finished the night with four rebounds and an assist and was the lone luminary in an otherwise dismal game that saw Pitt fall behind 51-23 at the half.
With that said, Johnson’s effort was in vain, as the team was missing its top rebounder and a key defender in Au’Diese Toney and no one was able to fill the void left behind. Meanwhile, Jared Wilson-Frame was the only other Panther to score in double digits, and McGowens only mustered five points on a 2-for-9 shooting performance in his return to his home state.
So as entertaining as Johnson’s individual effort was, it seems Pitt’s success is dependent on its freshman trio getting on the same page all at once. They may get an opportunity to do just that on Saturday, as Pitt head coach Jeff Capel hasn’t ruled Toney out for the home matchup with Syracuse.