PITTSBURGH — Pitt won their fifth game in a row on Tuesday night against Rutgers 71-60, in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Like several of the Panthers’ wins this season, it wasn’t pretty at times. But they made timely baskets just as their head coach Jeff Capel had credited them with recently on their winning streak.
Capel’s bunch held a 35-27 lead into the half after shooting 45% from the field and scoring 16 points off of 11 Scarlet Knights turnovers (25 for the game). But Rutgers caught the Panthers flat-footed to start the second half and opened the half on a 12-2 run to give them a 39-37 lead with just under 15 minutes to play.
Trey McGowens answered the run with six points and an assist to backcourt mate Xavier Johnson for a transition slam. The Panthers went on a 13-0 run of their own and snatched back all of Rutgers’ momentum.
On a night where Panthers freshman Justin Champagnie was held scoreless and under double-digits for the first time in Pitt’s last six games, the Panthers got substantial contributions from their other three starting guards. Johnson scored a game-high 20 points, McGowens added 16, and Ryan Murphy 15.
Au’Diese Toney also was in double-digits with 10 points and three assists. In was Toney’s first time in double-figures since Pitt’s win at Robert Morris.
Johnson hit a corner 3-pointer and then broke down a Rutgers defender and hit a 15-footer at the top of the key to give Pitt a 62-49 lead (largest of the game) with under five minutes left in the game. The Panthers proved once again that they are capable of coming out on top with some real game pressure on themselves.
Rutgers led for only 6:47 of play. The Scarlet Knights were led by Myles Johnson, who scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
Pitt will look to start ACC play 2-0, as they travel to Louisville to play the No. 1 ranked team in the country on Friday at 9 p.m. The Cardinals beat the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines 58-43 on Tuesday night.