While it may be hard to believe that there were any positive developments in the 72-49 beatdown Pitt was dealt by longtime rival Syracuse at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night, there was one. Pitt freshman Justin Champagnie set a new career high in the ACC matchup with 17 rebounds, and he tacked on 13 points to notch the sixth double-double of his collegiate career.
Unfortunately for Champagnie, he received little support, as he was the only player in blue and gold to score in double figures. The freshman also accounted for 53 percent of Pitt’s rebounds on the night, as the team had a total of 32. However, that would not be enough to outduel Syracuse, as the visitors came up with 41 boards in the one-sided game.
By the end of the night, Champagnie led Pitt in points, rebounds and steals and was tied for the team lead in blocks. He also limited his turnovers, giving up the ball just once. In fact, the only player in Pitt’s backcourt (at least among those who played 15 minutes or more) to take better care of the ball was Au’Diese Toney, who had zero turnovers in 25 minutes.
After the game, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was in no mood to dole out praise, even in the uniquely positive case of Champagnie. However, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim took notice of the Brooklyn native, calling him “as good as any freshman in the league” in his postgame press conference.
Of course, even though Champagnie made progress from the last time Pitt and Syracuse met, that did not translate to a better result for the team, and that has rightly been the focus since Pitt fell. The loss was Pitt’s fifth in a row in the context of this season and its seventh in a row in the context of its rivalry with Syracuse.
Champagnie and the Panthers fell to 15-14 with Wednesday’s loss, and they will need to win one of their two remaining games to avoid closing out the regular season with a losing record for a fourth straight year. Their next chance will come against NC State on Saturday, and perhaps a better opportunity will present itself against Georgia Tech next Wednesday. However, both games are on the road, and the Panthers haven’t logged wins in Raleigh or Atlanta since 2014.