If issues appeared past bizarre throughout and after Pitt’s 73-64 victory Saturday in opposition to Georgia Tech, right here’s a few the explanation why:
• Jeff Capel felt the necessity to apologize to his staff for getting a technical foul late in what was on the time a five-point sport.
“That was actually silly of me,” mentioned Pitt’s coach, who whirled and threw a chunk of paper towards his bench when Terrell Brown was known as for his fifth foul. “It may have value us the sport.”
• Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, sounding honest, stopped simply in need of placing Pitt within the 2021 Last 4.
“I believe they’re going to be actually, actually good subsequent season,” he mentioned. “I’d be shocked if in preseason rankings, they’re not a top-three or 4 decide within the ACC.”
• However none of that was as uncommon as what Justin Champagnie did to etch his title within the Pitt document books in entrance of a loud crowd of 10,754 at Petersen Occasions Middle. Champagnie scored 30 factors on 12-of-17 capturing, grabbed 9 rebounds and two steals and blocked a shot. His effort marked the fourth time in class historical past a freshman scored 30, following teammates Trey McGowens (twice) and Xavier Johnson, who did it final yr.
“It was a fantastic second for me. It was an actual large confidence-booster,” he mentioned.
However that’s so far as he needed to go.
“However on the identical time, it’s on to the following sport,” he mentioned. “I can’t simply dwell on me having a great sport. My teammates count on me to play good.”
No large deal to Champagnie, however the consequence actually was essential to a Pitt staff (15-9, 6-7) that has gained another sport than it did final season with no less than eight left to play.
“Massive-time win,” Capel mentioned. “The tip of a extremely hectic week for us. Third sport in seven days.”
Exhibiting little indicators of fatigue, Pitt performed with out injured guards Ryan Murphy (concussion) and Onyebuchi Ezeakudo (ankle). 4 starters — Champagnie, McGowens, Johnson and Au’Diese Toney — performed 38 minutes or longer.
Johnson by no means got here out of the sport and ended up with 11 factors, seven assists, three steals and no turnovers.
Almost as spectacular as Champagnie’s capturing contact was Johnson and McGowens combining for all 16 of Pitt’s assists whereas committing solely two turnovers. McGowens had a career-high 9 assists and backed up Champagnie with 14 factors.
It was a staff victory, with Pitt getting good minutes from reserves Eric Hamilton, Gerald Drumgoole Jr. and Karim Coulibaly.
However the day belonged to Champagnie, who elevated his scoring common to 12.6.
Afterward, Capel talked about how his prized freshman overcame adversity nearly from the primary day he stepped on campus.
First, he had surgical procedure on his proper pinky finger after taking part in his senior yr of highschool with a dislocation.
“He didn’t say something about it till every week after he was right here,” Capel mentioned.
Then, Champagnie nearly missed the complete season when it appeared he had a torn ACL in his knee. However he hasn’t missed a sport.
“He’s a man who has a whole lot of expertise. He’s studying learn how to put all of it collectively,” Capel mentioned. “He’s studying what it requires to be a extremely good participant at this degree.
“It’s onerous. The whole lot you need to accomplish is on the opposite aspect of onerous. It’s one thing we’ve tried to instill in our gamers all yr. It’s important to beat onerous. It’s important to conquer onerous. It’s important to work tougher, and he’s studying how to try this.”
Champagnie mentioned Capel sat down with him after the loss to Notre Dame final week for one of many many one-on-one conversations the coach likes to have together with his gamers. Champagnie scored 20 factors, with 11 rebounds, however he mentioned, “I solely awoke within the second half.”
“He advised me to return out right here and convey power. Don’t have an on and off swap.”
Mentioned Capel: “He has a toughness about him. So long as he’s keen to work, which I believe he’ll, he has an opportunity to proceed to get higher.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Assessment workers author. You’ll be able to contact Jerry by e mail at [email protected] or through Twitter .