A lot has changed from the last time Pitt played Binghamton in basketball. The 2009 Panthers were coming off a season-opening scare to tournament-bound Wofford when Binghamton came to the Pete. Pitt led by 20 at the half and coasted to a 71-46 win.
Moving to 2019, Pitt led by 20 again at the half behind 11 points from Trey McGowens and 8 from Xavier Johnson. The Bearcats cut the lead into the teens a few times in the first part of the second half before Ryan Murphy buried them by scoring all 11 of his points in quick succession. Pitt emptied its bench the rest of the way with nine panthers scoring and fourteen total getting minutes. The Panther defense forced a season-high 27 turnovers, which is even more impressive considering Binghamton is not a very careless team. They rank in the top 20% of Division 1 in taking care of the basketball (12.2 to/g, 60th in country).
The scouting report on Binghamton this season is just a picture of guard Sam Sessoms. The sophomore has been the lone bright spot for the Bearcats this season and that continued this game. He scored a game-high 23, or nearly half of his team’s total.
For the first time all season, Pitt showed a killer instinct against an inferior opponent. Six minutes into the second half, Binghamton cut the lead to 49-35. The Panthers responded with a 16-0 run. It’s very easy for young teams like Pitt to get stuck playing down to their competition. We even saw that as recently as Monday night against Northern Illinois. Hopefully this game is a step in the right direction.
Trey McGowens - Although X is again leading the team in scoring and assists, Trey sets the tone on the offensive and defensive end. With Pitt trailing 5-0 at the first media time-out, it was Trey who kickstarted the offense with ten early points. He also continues to be a pest defensively (sometimes to his own teammate’s as described beautifully by Stephen in this article) registering two more steals and blocks.
Xavier Johnson - Recently, X has been letting the game come to him more, which has contributed to him shooting 51% from the field in December (compared to 37% in November). He filled up the stat sheet tonight with 9 points 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Three of his assists went to Champagnie, including a nice alley-oop in transition.
Justin Champagnie - He continued to break out of his brief shooting slump at the beginning of the month to record his second career double double (14 points, 10 rebounds). I love his aggressiveness and here’s hoping he continues to improve throughout his Pitt career. It’s clear that he doesn’t have much of an outside shot right now, but less talented players than him have developed that skill and I’m confident he can too. I’m alright with him hoisting a couple open threes a game, even if they seem like guaranteed misses right now. That’s how you get better.
Ryan Murphy - Here’s what you should come to expect from Murphy. Every game, he’ll make a few hustle/intelligent plays and take a few ill-advised shots. I would love for him to take a few more twos each game because I think it would help his long distance shooting. He and the coaches need to figure out how he went from a 40% three point shooter at Charlotte to 28% now. We can’t blame the ACC because they’ve only played two of those. To be an asset in the ACC he has to get that percentage back up. The role of 3 point shooter who can get hot and steal a game is his to take.
Eric Hamilton - Hamilton scored eight points on 4-7 shooting in a brief 12 minutes of action. He’s currently shooting 58% from the field for the season. If he can keep that number close to that when he starts going up against the more talented bigs in conference, then that’s all you can hope for from him.
Au’Diese Toney - This was one of Toney’s best games of the season as he was effective at both ends of the floor, scoring ten points on 4-5 shooting while pulling down six rebounds and swiping four steals.
Terrell Brown - He had a team-high three blocks in 11 minutes of action.
Abdoul Karim Coulibaly - He scored 9 points.
The remaining players did not play enough to warrant a grade. Samson George had a bucket.
Pitt has one more non-conference game against Canisius on December 30 before they shift their attention fully to the new year and the rest of the ACC schedule.
Hail to Pitt