BLACKSBURG, Va. — Jeff Capel’s young Pitt squad has hit a wall in ACC play, and it has come at an unfortunate time. Following their most disappointing loss of the conference season at home against Clemson on Wednesday, the Panthers couldn’t bounce back on the road against Virginia Tech, as they fell, 67-57.
The cause was once again a poor start to the game by the Panthers. Sophomore Trey McGowens opened the game with a three from the top of the key and made his second attempt midway through the first half, but Pitt made just seven first-half baskets, three from beyond the arc, while shooting 26.9% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
The Panthers also missed six free throws, and at times looked unenthused on the defensive end but after trailing by as many as 14, closed to single digits at the break, 32-23.
Pitt sophomore point guard Xavier Johnson recorded zero points and zero assists in the first half. Freshman Gerald Drumgoole Jr. started the second half in place of Johnson.
For Virginia Tech, they had come into Saturday’s game, losing five consecutive games. Cassell Coliseum was sold out, and even had Pitt shown a better effort; this wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
That sold-out crowd made their impact known just two minutes into the second half. Virginia Tech was running a promotion that if Pitt missed two-consecutive free throws in the second half that each fan would get free bacon from a local restaurant.
Pitt’s Justin Champagnie got fouled at the 18:06 mark and stepped to the line. He missed his first attempt, and the crowd went nuts. He missed the second, and the place erupted. The Hokies took that momentum and went on a 6-0 run to grab a 19-point lead (largest of the game). The game seemed out of the Panthers’ reach at this point.
Pitt didn’t get any positive individual performances on the offensive end. For much of the game, they looked a step slow and even hesitant, as they missed several open layups. Au’Diese Toney and Champagnie led the Panthers with 12 points each, as Johnson scored 11 (in the second half), and freshman Karim Coulibaly added 10 in the absence of Eric Hamilton.
The Hokies went cold for a long stretch in the latter half of the second half, and Pitt cut the Hokies lead to six points with 2:50 left in the game. Then Hokies forward PJ Horne drilled two straight corner 3s, and the comeback fell short.
Horne scored a game-high 16 points, and freshman Jalen Cone dropped in four 3-pointers and added 12 points.
Up next, Pitt (15-11, ACC 6-9) will travel to Tallahassee on Tuesday, Feb. 18, to get another chance to knock off No. 8 ranked Florida State.