PITTSBURGH — Jim Boeheim and his Syracuse basketball team have now defeated Pitt in seven straight contests. The most recent Syracuse win was more of a stomping.
Syracuse dominated from the midway point of the first half until the end of the game. The Orange were led by redshirt junior guard Elijah Hughes, who scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Hughes’ 18.8 scoring average is an ACC conference-best up to this point in the season.
Hughes showed all night how effortless his offensive game was, by beating people with his deceptive quickness and his ability to make tough shots look easy. Pitt had no answer defensively for the Orange’s star, and they also had no one who could match his scoring on the other end.
The closest thing to Hughes’ performance that Pitt got was from another 6-foot-6 wing from New York, freshman Justin Champagnie.
Champagnie, who’s Pitt’s leading scorer (12.3 points), did more of the dirty work this time out. On offense, he failed to make any of his three 3-point attempts and only made four field goals, but he made his impact elsewhere. Champagnie was all over the boards, grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds. The other 12 players that stepped on the court for Pitt only combined for 15 total rebounds.
“He rebounded the ball well tonight,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “Those numbers look great, but there’s more he can do, just like there’s more everyone can do.”
Champagnie doesn’t quite have the whole offensive package that Hughes puts out on the court, but he’s striving to get better each day, and that becomes clear when he talked after the game about learning from a seasoned ACC player such as Hughes.
“(Hughes) showcased a lot of his skills. … I’m a freshman, so every time we play a team, I try to look at their best player and see what they do (well), that I’m struggling with,” Champagnie said. “I just try to pick apart certain things that they do and try to incorporate it into my game.”
With Pitt’s struggles over the past month or so, Champagnie has been a guy that you can still look at and see that there’s a ton of promise, not only with his unique talents but with how he seems to continue to get better at the little things. His confidence doesn’t seem to waver as much as others in his position.
Boeheim has noticed how well Champagnie has blossomed in his first season playing at this level.
“(Pitt’s) freshman is as good as any freshman in the league,” Boeheim said regarding Champagnie.
With his 13 points and 17 rebounds against the Cuse, Champagnie notched his sixth double-double of the season. But he’s still not really worried about his individual numbers when the losses keep stacking.
He’s focused on playing a vital role in bringing Pitt basketball back to the prominence it once had.
“I just feel like a couple of years ago, this school hadn’t won a lot of games and last year they won three, and this year (we’ve) won six,” Champagnie said. “I’m just trying to build on that. And hopefully, by the time I’m a senior, we can just turn this program around completely, and become a force in the league and around the whole NCAA.”