Pitt wing Justin Champagnie has improved incrementally in each of his team’s three games this season, and as a result, he put on his best showing yet against Northern Illinois on Saturday, as he posted a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double in Pitt’s 89-59 win.
Champagnie’s performance followed a solid 19-point, seven-rebound game in Pitt’s 83-74 win over Drexel as well as a respectable but flawed showing in Pitt’s 80-70 loss to St. Francis. In that game, Champagnie had 12 points and seven rebounds but went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, turned the ball over twice and found himself in foul trouble.
On Saturday, those issues were fully resolved, as the Brooklyn native went 4-for-6 on three-point shots and played a clean game from beginning to end, with zero turnovers and zero fouls in a span of 27 minutes on the court. He also contributed defensively by coming up with two steals and posted three assists, which was the second-highest total of his career.
The double-double was Champagnie’s first of the season and the seventh of his career, and it saw him put up game-high figures in both points and rebounds. The point total was tied for the third highest of Champagnie’s career, and the rebound total was tied for fifth best. And even though the performance came against a struggling MAC team, it served as a reminder of the heights Champagnie can reach and how greatly he can benefit the team.
However, while Champagnie was a clear luminary in Pitt’s win, he had plenty of help from the usual suspects, as Au’Diese Toney and Xavier Johnson put on eerily similar 15-point performances. In the game, both players went 4-for-8 from the field, including 2-for-3 from close range and 2-for-5 from behind the three-point line. The two guards also had three rebounds apiece, but the key difference between them was Johnson limited himself to zero turnovers, while Toney had four.
And perhaps the most promising sign to come from the game was not Champagnie’s performance, but that of Delaware transfer Ithiel Horton. After being held to five points in each of his last two outings, Horton found his stroke and went off for five three-pointers to give him a total of 15 points on the night as well. He also came up with four assists, which trailed only Johnson and Toney’s totals.
All things considered, Pitt looks like it has knocked all the rust off after its concerning loss to St. Francis, and this more focused team seems as if it could pose a serious threat to Northwestern in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night. And should Champagnie happen to have another big night, that can only benefit Pitt, as the Panthers are 9-1 in games that he has scored 15 or more points in.