PITTSBURGH – Pitt wasn’t pretty, but found its stride in the second half enough to prevail over Monmouth in a 63-50 win at the Petersen Events Center Monday night. The Panthers weathered another slow start thanks to a solid second-half performance from sophomore guard Xavier Johnson to improve to 3-2 on the season and eclipse .500 for the first time since Nov. 6.
Just three days removed from its abysmal second half against West Virginia, Pitt began the game against Monmouth – a team coming off a 55-point loss to Kansas on Friday – visibly lethargic and out of sorts. After beginning the game 1-for-9 from the floor, the Panthers shot at a 19.2 percent shooting clip in the first half with misses on 21 of their first 26 shots attempts to go along with 12 turnovers – half of which came from Johnson (3) and Trey McGowens (3). The Hawks were equally inefficient, though, with 12 turnovers of their own as Pitt entered halftime with a 21-19 lead.
The Panthers seemingly recollected themselves at halftime, beginning the second frame by connecting on four of their first six shot attempts with Johnson scoring nine of the team’s first 11 points. Johnson finished the game with 15 points and nine assists, McGowens led all scorers with 16 points, and Justin Champagnie put forth a double-double in his first-career start with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
As a team, Pitt shot 63.6 percent in the second half (14-22) and 39.6 percent (19-48) for the game. The Panthers out-rebounded Monmouth, 36-26, and went 21 of 26 from the free-throw line.
Freshman forward Gerald Drumgoole Jr. did not play Monday night after suffering an ankle injury in practice over the weekend.
As part of the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers tip-off, the Panthers will return to the Petersen Events Center to face Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 21.