EVANSTON, Ill. — With less than 20 seconds on the clock facing a one point deficit, Pitt needed someone to step up and make a play.
After two missed free throws by Northwestern, Justin Champagnie delivered the play of the game, powerfully dunking it home to give the Panthers a 71-70 lead, their first of the game.
— Pitt Athletics (@Pitt_ATHLETICS) December 10, 2020
After a defensive stand to end the game, Champagnie and the Panthers had officially completed the comeback and had won their third game of the season. Champagnie finished with 20 points and 20 rebounds, the first 20-20 game for a Pitt player since DeJuan Blair (at UConn, Feb. 16, 2009). He led the young Panthers roster to a massive comeback victory, one which Pitt fans have not been used to seeing.
In the first half, the Panthers shot an abysmal 20.5% from the field and 14.3% from 3-point land. They also missed 5 of 9 free throws they attempted, including an airball off the hands of Xavier Johnson.
Johnson’s struggles started early on and were some of the worst of his Pitt career. Going into the locker room, he was 1 for 9 from the field and 2 for 5 from the free throw line. Missing two wide-open layups after losing his defender on the drive into the lane both times, he was visibly rattled.
Leading by 11 at the half, the Wildcats appeared to have an easy road to the victory.
The only person in their way?
A new Xavier Johnson.
Johnson came out and hit three 3-pointers in the first ten minutes of the second half, erasing his first half struggles from his mind. He finished with 21 points to go along with seven rebounds, an overall strong performance.
Another key showing for the Panthers came from William Jeffress. The 17-year-old Erie native played well beyond his years, grabbing four big rebounds and scoring seven.
After a strong 15-point performance against NIU on Dec. 5, guard Ithiel Horton struggled mightily on offense against the Wildcats. Horton finished with zero points on 0-for-5 shooting, failing to make an impact for Pitt.
As for Northwestern, the Wildcats shot 37.5% from the field tonight with a very balanced scoring attack. Junior big man Ryan Young led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Boo Buie also played well despite shooting only 2 from 9 from the field. The Albany, New York native finished with 14 points and six assists.
In last year’s 72-59 victory in the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship game, Pitt held Northwestern to 36.5% from the field and 31.8% from 3-point land. The Panthers also held Northwestern to 29 rebounds, seven rebounds below their season average at the time. In this year’s matchup, Pitt once again won the board battle inside 54-34, in large part due to Champagnie, who pulled in a career-high 20 rebounds of his own.
With the win, Pitt tied the all-time series against Northwestern at ten wins apiece.
Pitt will continue its season on Saturday afternoon when the Panthers will take on Gardner-Webb at home, with a 2 p.m. tip-off.