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Pitt defeats first ranked opponent since 2019

Pitt's win over No. 16 Virginia Tech was its first since 2019 and just its second since Jeff Capel became the team's coach

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt notched an 83-72 victory over No. 16 Virginia Tech at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night, and the win saw the Panthers end an unfortunate streak. It was the first time in two years that the team was able to defeat a ranked opponent, with the last win over an AP Top 25 team coming on Jan. 14, 2019, against Florida State.

The win over Florida State, which was ranked No. 11 in the country at the time, came at the Petersen Events Center on a cold winter night when Trey McGowens scored 30 points against the Seminoles. Pitt’s win over Virginia Tech would come under similar circumstances, right down to the location, the weather and the 30-point performance. But this time around, it was Xavier Johnson who reached the 30-point threshold, with a career-high 32 points.

Virginia Tech was the first ranked opponent Pitt faced in the 2020-21 season, but it will not be the last, as Pitt will face No. 14 Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday. The team narrowly missed the acquisition of a second win over a ranked team on Jan. 19, when Pitt beat Duke 79-73. Duke had been ranked No. 19 in the country that morning but fell out of the rankings several hours before tipoff.

Pitt went the duration of the 2019-20 season without a win over a ranked team, although it had four opportunities. Those came against Duke, Florida State and Louisville, with Pitt facing a ranked Louisville team twice. The year before that, Pitt dealt with a brutal slate in Jeff Capel’s first season in town, with eight ranked opponents to contend with.

Of the eight tilts with Top 25 teams in the 2018-19 season, Pitt dropped seven, including a close 69-68 loss to No. 14 Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge decided by a last-second miss by Sidy N’Dir. A few others would be fairly close as well, but all told, Pitt’s only wins against ranked opponents in the Capel era came against No. 11 Florida State two years ago and No. 16 Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

That leaves Pitt’s record against ranked teams in the Capel era at 2-11, which is not ideal. However, Pitt will have at least one chance to improve that record, as the team will travel to Charlottesville to face No. 14 Virginia on Saturday. After that, Pitt is also expected to face No. 20 Florida State, but that game was postponed and has yet to be rescheduled.