PITTSBURGH — Pitt freshman wing Justin Champagnie was able to give the Panthers’ offense some much-needed balance against Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s zone defense on Thursday night. Just about all of Champagnie’s team-high 18 points came from working out of the middle of the zone.
Champagnie showed both jumpers and slashes to the hoop throughout the night and looked comfortable doing both.
“Being in the middle of the zone is just part of the way that I play,” Champagnie said. “(In high school I played a lot in the middle when facing a zone) so that’s why it was so comfortable for me.”
Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was impressed with Champagnie’s play against the Golden Lions.
“Justin (Champagnie) was obviously terrific,” Capel said. “We think he’s a talented kid, but we still want more from him, and we are going to be hard on him because we think he can do more.”
In Champagnie’s first six games as a Panther, he is averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds.
X MARKS THE SPOT
Pitt point guard Xavier Johnson dished out six assists and zero turnovers against the Golden Lions in the Panther’s fourth win of the season.
Against a zone, it can be easy to be kind of tentative or the opposite and maybe try to thread the needle on some passes, but Johnson looked in control of how he wanted to dissect the defense in Pitt’s 66-41 win.
“I was comfortable and just playing like it was open gym,” Johnson said. “I was just (making) the easy plays, and that’s what the coaching staff wants.”
After Pitt’s last game against Monmouth on Monday, Johnson said he had deleted his Twitter app in an attempt to try and block out the negative things that were being said about him and his play to start this season. Johnson said he is already feeling the benefits of doing so.
“(My) minds more clear,” Johnson said. “I can think more, and I’m not stressed out, so it’s going good.”
McGOWENS TOOK HIS FOOT OFF OF THE GAS
Trey McGowens came into the Panthers’ sixth game averaging 14.8 points per game. In Pitt’s 25 point win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, McGowens didn’t score a single point and only attempted three field-goals.
“I just don’t think he showed the same aggression tonight,” Capel said.
All three of McGowen’s field goal attempts were 3-pointers. Coming into the game, McGowens was averaging 10.4 field-goal attempts per game.
The even more alarming stat was McGowens not attempting a single free-throw as well. He averaged six free-throws per game on the season before this game.
Capel played eight guys more than 14 minutes against the Golden Lions. Freshman Gerald Drumgoole out with an injury for the second straight game, or it probably would have been a nine-man rotation.
There are still guys trying to figure out who they play well with and what kind of lineups work against different defenses.
“It’s something that we are still trying to figure out,” Capel said. “We would love it if we could have everyone consistent and knowing what we are going to get. But we aren’t there yet.”
CONFIDENCE NEVER HURTS
It’s well known that Pitt’s schedule is going to get brutal, really, from here on out. A 25-point victory against a team from the SWAC conference might not prepare the Panthers’ for the level of basketball that they are going to see over the next three months, but there are still some positives that the players can take from a game of this nature.
“I just think it was kind of a confidence booster, in a way,” Champagnie said of Pitt’s performance.
Pitt could also see a good bit of zone when conference play rolls around, so going against it for 40 minutes in a non-conference game could turn out beneficial down the road.
“We know we are going to see (a zone) again,” Johnson said. “We are (definitely) going to see it against (teams like) Syracuse. So it just gives us preparation for when we see it against them.”