Freshman Justin Champagnie scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first half as the host Pittsburgh Panthers defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 87-79 on Monday afternoon.
Pitt (10-3), which has won three straight and eight of its past nine games, also got 16 points from Ryan Murphy and 16 points and eight assists from Xavier Johnson. Trey McGowens added 14 points and Au’Diese Toney had 13.
Panthers freshman Gerald Drumgoole, who started Pitt’s first two games but later went down with an ankle injury, played his first game since Nov. 15 and had four points.
Canisius (5-7), which lost its third straight game, got 20 points from Majesty Brandon, a junior-college transfer who scored a career-high 30 in his previous game against Siena. Jalanni White added 16 points.
Malik Johnson, who entered the game leading Canisius in scoring (13.6), had 14 points and seven assists.
Golden Griffins freshman Jacco Fritz, the three-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week, had 10 points. Scott Hitchon, who had a career-high 29 points at Buffalo on Dec.18, was held to three points.
Pitt, which hadn’t played since Dec. 20, got off to a hot start thanks to Champagnie, who made his first three shots — two 3-pointers and a steal and layup — to give the Panthers an 8-0 lead.
The Panthers stretched their lead to 13 points at 23-10, but Canisius cut its deficit to 38-34. Pitt’s lead at the half was 42-36, but only after Canisius’ Malik Johnson dribbled about 60 feet before hitting a floater in the lane at the buzzer.
Canisius, which never led, outrebounded Pitt 21-14 in the first half. Canisius shot 45.5 percent from the floor in the first half, irritating Pitt coach Jeff Capel.
“We did not play defense at all,” Capel said in a halftime TV interview. “We did none of the dirty work. Our rebounding was atrocious.”
Perhaps inspired by Capel, Pitt won the second-half rebounding battle, 17-13, although Canisius still shot the ball well.
Canisius trailed by just five points, 78-73, with 3:46 left, but Pitt managed to pull away for the win.
For the game, Pitt shot 50 percent, including 9-of-16 on 3-pointers. Canisius shot 48.3 percent, including 8-of-22 from deep.
—Field Level Media