The Pitt men’s basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak with an impressive 70-57 win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night. The game was Senior Night for the Panthers as it was their final regular season home contest of the year.
The Panthers (10-10) got yet another big game from star Justin Champagnie with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but they were actually led in scoring by transfer Nike Sibande. Sibande made seven of his 13 field goal attempts for a total of 23 points while chipping in with nine rebounds. No other Pitt player got into double figures.
The game was a glimpse of what Pitt hoped to get from Sibande all year. It was only the second time he reached double figures in scoring this year and was easily a season-high. Sibande had put up some bigger games with Miami-Ohio prior to transferring to Pitt but his 12-point effort against Florida State earlier in the season had been his personal best since joining the Panthers.
One notable thing was that Champagnie started the game on the bench. That appeared to be due to receiving two technical fouls in the NC State game (and according to Craig Meyer of the PG, head coach Jeff Capel does not usually start players in the following game if they receive a technical). Still, Champagnie saw plenty of time, getting 31 minutes in the victory. Guard Daivien Williamson led Wake Forest (6-14) with 17 points.
The game was tight in the first half and back and forth with Pitt taking a 30-29 lead into the break. But the Panthers opened things up as the second half went on and Wake Forest’s cold shooting (36% from the field) finally caught up with them.
The win isn’t likely to drum up much interest in the team, unfortunately. Wake Forest isn’t a good team and beyond that, the Panthers really dropped off the radar after losing eight of nine games coming into tonight. Still, you’d always rather win than lose and the Panthers gave themselves a shot at finishing the season over .500 with the final scheduled regular season game of the year at Clemson on Saturday.
If the Panthers do manage to win on Saturday, they will finish the regular season over .500. That will be of little consolation to many but it’s also something they haven’t achieved since Jamie Dixon last coached the team in 2015-16.