PITTSBURGH (AP) – Coming into Monday’s non-conference finale against Canisius, Pittsburgh freshman Justin Champagnie had made just five 3-pointer on 37 attempts.
Against the Golden Griffins, he made 5 of 6 and tied his career high by scoring 21 points as the Panthers held off Canisius 87-79.
Champagnie took the ball to the corner and hit a 3-point shot on Pitt’s first possession of the game. On the second possession, he hit another. A quick steal and a fast break later, and Champagnie had started the game on a personal 8-0 to set the tone for what was to follow.
“My confidence just shoots up when that happens,” Champagnie said. “It was a real confidence boost for me to continue playing good.”
He did just that, as Champagnie was part of a two-pronged Pitt barrage from long range with guard Ryan Murphy, who had 16 points and was 4 for 7 from deep. The Panthers were 9 of 16 for 56.3% from 3-point range. Pitt’s previous season best was 41.7% from beyond the arc.
Xavier Johnson also had 16 points and added eight assists for Pitt (10-3).
Pitt coach Jeff Capel was pleased with the offensive output, but not the season-high 79 points allowed.
“We shot the ball really well and we needed it,” Capel said. “We’re getting better (offensively) and it was great to see that, but it can’t be at the expense of our defense. That has to be what we hang our hat on.”
Canisius stayed in the game by dominating on the offensive glass. The Golden Griffins had 16 offensive rebounds, compared to six for Pitt and turned that into 18 second-chance points.
Majesty Brandon scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting while Jalanni White scored 14 points and cleaned up nine rebounds for Canisius (5-7).
Canisius: Brandon has now scored 64 points over his last three games and emerged as a top scoring threat off the bench for Canisius. He averaged 10.6 points per game over his first nine with the Griffins after transferring from Monroe Community College.
“He’s starting to get a little bit more comfortable, not only with what we’re asking him to do, but his teammates becoming more comfortable with what he’s good at,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said.
Pitt: At 10-3, the Panthers finished the first half of their schedule with exactly the same record that they did last season. They then finished the regular season by dropping 15 of their final 18 games. But this year’s early season schedule seems to have given the Panthers a tougher test, with games against Top 25 foes Florida State, Louisville and West Virginia and other major conference opponents in Northwestern, Kansas State and Rutgers.
“I think we’re a better team that we were last year,” Capel said. “I think we have more experience. The core of our team will go into the meat of ACC play with it not being their first time.”
BACK IN ACTION
Pitt freshman guard Gerald Drumgoole returned to the court after missing eight games with a left ankle sprain. He played 4:09 and scored four points.
Canisius: Returns home after going 0-3 on a season-long, three-game road trip to face Manhattan on Friday. Canisius is 3-0 at home this season.
Pitt: Will host Wake Forest on Saturday. The Panthers are 1-1 in ACC play so far this season and have lost three straight to the Demon Deacons.