PITTSBURGH — If Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was looking to get the attention of junior guard Xavier Johnson by having him start Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech on the bench, mission accomplished.
Johnson was not in Pitt’s starting lineup for the first time this season and just the second time in his three-year career, replaced at point guard in the starting five by freshman Femi Odukale.
He checked into the game at the first media timeout, approximately five minutes into the game. From there, he generally resumed his usual role, but he played at a level that he hasn’t reached in quite some time.
Johnson scored a career high 32 points, leading the Panthers to an 83-72 upset victory over No. 16 Virginia Tech.
Johnson shot 11 of 17 from the floor and 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He also added five rebounds and seven assists, with a few of those finding backcourt-mate Ithiel Horton.
Horton was also not in the starting lineup for the first time this season, and also responded positively, scoring 15 points while shooting 4 of 9 from beyond the arc.
As a team, Pitt’s nine made 3-pointers is the second-most for the team this season and most in ACC play.
The teams played a very tight game through 30 minutes, with Pitt only pulling away late when 3-pointers from Johnson, Horton and Au’Diese Toney contributed to a 13-2 Pitt run.
Leading scorer Justin Champagnie was held to 10 points, but grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and is the first for Pitt against a ranked opponent since beating Florida State on Jan. 9, 2019.
The Panthers will now go on the road for two straight games, visiting Virginia on Saturday and Louisville on Tuesday. Saturday’s game in Charlottesville will tip off at 4 p.m.