Pitt traveled to the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night to take on an injury-ravaged North Carolina team, but despite the Tar Heels’ 8-6 record and depleted lineup, Pitt fell behind by as many as 14 points in the first half. The team looked to be on the ropes, but Pitt wing Justin Champagnie, a freshman starter in his first trip to the historic venue, came alive in the second half and provided the Panthers with a spark that saw them through to a 73-65 win.
After scoring six points in the first 20 minutes and going 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, Champagnie caught fire after the halftime break and went off for 16 points to bring his total on the night to a career-high 22 points. In the second half, he went 4-for-5 from distance despite entering the game as a 22.4 percent three-point shooter, and with his shots falling, his teammates gained confidence.
All of this began to unfold around the 14:02 mark in the second half, when Champagnie drained the first of four consecutive three-point shots without a miss. That included a game-tying shot and two go-ahead triples, the last of which furnished Pitt with a 54-53 lead with just over 10 minutes left to play. The Panthers would not concede the lead to the Tar Heels again after Champagnie’s outburst.
Trey McGowens was Champagnie’s most notable accomplice as Pitt stormed back to steal the game away from North Carolina. He erupted for 17 second-half points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting on three-point attempts, and that brought his total to a game-high 24 points. The native of Pendleton, South Carolina, also gained confidence as the game wore on, coming up with some thunderous dunks.
The contributions of Champagnie and McGowens have been vital to the Panthers this season and last, as Pitt has gone 4-0 in games that Champagnie has made multiple three-pointers. The team is also 6-0 in games that McGowens has scored 20 or more points. So when the two players feed off of each others’ performances as they did on Wednesday, Pitt becomes a difficult team to contend with.