SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Pitt received a few positive offensive performances in its loss Wednesday night to Notre Dame, despite a disappointing defensive effort.
Point guard Xavier Johnson scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half, starting the game off with an impressive pep in his step while freshman wing Justin Champagnie saved his firepower for the latter half of the game.
Champagnie scored 16 of 20 points in the final 20 minutes, despite the Panthers’ effort falling short of a victory. The 6-foot-6 Champagnie also grabbed 11 rebounds as he recorded the fifth double-double of his young career.
“Coach came into the locker room (at the half) and said we weren’t playing with energy; I wasn’t playing with energy,” Champagnie said. “So, I just tried to come out and just be an energy kind of player, and just live with the results.”
Notre Dame’s Justin Champagnie is named John Mooney.
But there is one significant difference between the two players right now. That would be that Mooney is a senior.
Mooney, at 6-foot-9 245-pounds, can do it all at this point in his college basketball career. He can shoot the 3, finish around the hoop, and might be the best rebounder in the country. Over the past two seasons, the Irish big man has recorded a double-double 38 times.
Coming into the matchup with Pitt, Mooney had been averaging 16.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, two assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s the only Division 1 player since the 2008-09 season to put up those numbers. The last player to do that was Blake Griffin, who just so happened to be coached by Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.
Against the Panthers, Mooney had 17 points and ten rebounds. And even though Pitt’s Champagnie boasted higher numbers, the team’s loss caused him to feel like he could have done more – especially on the defensive end against Mooney.
“I think he’s a good player, but I should have been better on him today,” Champagnie said about Mooney. “He’s big. He’s strong. I’m not really used to that. I’m used to guarding like the 4-man who can just pop out and dribble and shoot.”
Champagnie said that he knew he was going to be tasked with guarding Mooney for much of the game.
“I just looked at Mooney’s game,” Champagnie added. “I feel like he’s an older experienced player that picks apart the game the right way. He’s smart on the court, (and) he doesn’t do anything outside of his range. He knows his role.”
Like many newcomers, Champagnie has run into a few walls over his first 23 games of his Pitt career. But averaging 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds isn’t too shabby for the Brooklyn, NY native. He’s notched four games of over 21 points and has shot over 41 percent from the field on the season.
Even with the ups and downs, Champagnie doesn’t try to take things to the extreme. He knows that he has a lot more basketball to play.
“The past games, I don’t really reflect on,” Champagnie added. “Every game brings a new task for what the team needs me to do.”