An 8-0 run by freshman forward Justin Champagnie in the games opening minute had the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-3, 1-1) thinking blowout going into ACC play this weekend. The Canisius Golden Griffins (5-7, 0-1) had other ideas on Saturday afternoon, however.
On getting into a rhythm early in the game, Champagnie said, “It feels good, my confidence just shoots up when that happens.”
Despite getting whatever they wanted on the offensive end, Pitt closed the half trying to make splashy plays rather than the ones that allowed them to build a 13-point lead by the 12:12 mark in the first half. Couple that with a lackadaisical effort on the defensive boards and the Panthers found themselves up by just six by halftime, 42-36.
For the half, Canisius hauled in 12 offensive rebounds which led to 12 points. Junior forward Jalanni White led the Golden Griffins at the break with nine points and five rebounds - all offensive. On the other side, Champagnie had 13 points at the half on 5-6 from the field, 3-4 on three-pointers.
The second half started about as poorly as possible for Pitt. They committed a loose ball foul and an offensive foul on their first two possessions, while Canisius converted on their first two possessions, bringing them within a possession of the Panthers, 40-42.
Pitt rebuilt their lead in spurts: A 5-0 run started by sophomore guard Trey McGowens, an 8-2 run highlighted by a triple from Champagnie and junior guard Ryan Murphy. It started to look like the Panthers were going to pull away from their opponent up 10 with 9:54 remaining. However, three consecutive connections from long distance less than two minutes later by the Golden Griffins brought them once again within a possession, 64-67.
But despite the late scare, Pitt was able to pull away down the stretch thanks to the driving ability of sophomore guard Xavier Johnson and McGowens and arrived at a 87-79 victory.
For the game, Champagnie led all scorers with 21 points on 7-9 from the field, including 5-6 on triples. Along with Champagnie, four other Panthers reached double-figures: Johnson and Murphy (16 each), McGowens (14), and sophomore forward Au’Diese Toney (13).
Head coach Jeff Capel on his teams offensive performance, “I have felt like for the past few games we’ve gotten better offensively.”
Pitt will open the ACC portion of their schedule at home against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-5, 0-2) this Saturday.
Toney on how the team feels going into conference play compared to last year, “We feel like we have more momentum, more fired up than last year.”