X. Johnson leads Pitt Past Drexel 83-74

[Pittsburgh,PA] Two days after being stunned by St. Francis, the Pitt Panthers basketball team were hoping to make amends and fix what went wrong in that 80-70 loss as they welcomed the Drexel University Dragons to the Petersen Events Center. And their mission was accomplished as the Panthers led from start-to-finish in an 83-74 win that improved their record to 1-1 (0-0 ACC).

Pitt Guard Xavier Johnson (#1) going to the hole In Panthers first game of the season against St. Francis ( Photo Credit : Vince Butts -UMT-Sports )

“First of all, it feels good to win, and get our first win of the season as well. I thought our guys really bounced back over the past couple of days. Since the game on Wednesday night, we’ve gotten after it at practice and I thought the team responded.” Said Pitt Head Coach Jeff Capel. “We got a good start, and we did some really good things throughout the game. We still have a lot of work to do, but I thought our veterans, Xavier, Justin, and Au’Diese stepped up big time for us. I thought Gerald Drumgoole’s minutes at the end, after sitting the whole game, were really key the last six minutes. It was a big thing for him to be able to step up and do that.

Justin Champagnie
Panthers Justin Champagnie with the Dunk (Photo Credit : Vince Butts UMT-Sports )

Point Guard Xavier Johnson led the way for Pitt with 27 points. He also had 8 assists and 6 rebounds. Au’Dese Toney scored 20 (6 assists, 4 rebounds) and Justin Champagnie added 19 (7 rebounds) as the Panthers showed energy and strength to beat a Dragons team that certainly was not a pushover.

“I thought he valued the basketball a little bit more and slowed down the play to a better pace. He was really locked in on both sides of the ball.” Said Capel of Johnson. “I thought that was key, he thought he made pretty good decisions, since he has been playing well in practice as well as the last game.”

Led by Carmen Wynter’s 24 points and James Butler’s 8 rebounds, the Dragons kept the Panthers on their toes at the foul-line (78%) and on defense, in which they forced 13 turnovers (10 steals)and grabbed 29 rebounds. After the Panthers had their largest lead of the game (56- 40), the Dragons chipped away and eventually got it to 76-70 with over 6 minutes to play. Then Johnson and Toney took over with key baskets to help secure the victory.

Pitt Head Coach Jeff Capel ( Photo Credit : Vince Butts- UMT Sports)

But the Panthers also showed their mettle on defense as they grabbed 26 rebounds and had a game-leading 5 blocks (Led by Forward Karim-Abdoul Coulibaly’s 3) and they also were 73% from the free-throw line.

For Pitt, they learned the valuable lesson to never take their foot off the pedal, because that has the potential of allowing their opponent to get back in the game, which is what happened in the second half, but after Capel called a timeout to gather his team, the Panthers were charged-up to press even harder on that pedal to secure the victory.

The Panthers will now prepare to hit the road for the first time in this young season as they will travel to Evanston, Illinois to face the Northwestern Wildcats (0-0,0-0 Big Ten) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They then return home December 12 to host the Gardner-Webb Runnin’

Bulldogs (0-0, 0-0 Big South Conference) as they have had their first 3 games postponed because of Covid-19.

“I’m proud of the way we showed up today, however we have a lot of work to do, but feels a lot better than it did the other night.”-Sad Capel.

 


Notes: The Petersen Events Center attendance was 500-the required capacity required by the state of Pennsylvania due to Covid-19 Protocols.

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