After beating its first ranked team in more than two years Wednesday night, Pitt looks to topple a second straight Top 25 opponent from Virginia on Saturday.
The Panthers (9-5, 5-4 ACC), who snapped an eight-game losing streak against ranked foes with an 83-72 defeat of No. 16 Virginia Tech, travel to Charlottesville, Va., for a recently rescheduled Atlantic Coast Conference date with No. 14 Virginia (12-3, 8-1).
“Proud of our team, proud of our effort,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said after beating the Hokies. “We’re going to enjoy this and then we’ll start getting ready for Virginia.”
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, bounced back from Saturday’s 65-51 loss at Virginia Tech with a hard-fought win Wednesday night at NC State.
Virginia has won five straight meetings against Pittsburgh and leads the series 16-4. The Cavaliers are 7-0 at home this season and have a 13-game home winning streak dating back to Jan. 20, 2020.
The ACC altered the league schedule Wednesday. The Cavaliers were originally set to host Louisville on Saturday. They were not slated to face the Panthers until Feb. 24.
“Obviously, they just came off a big win tonight,” Virginia’s Sam Hauser said of facing Pitt. “So we’ve got our hands full again on Saturday.”
The Panthers had lost three straight and were coming off an 84-58 drubbing by Notre Dame entering Wednesday’s game with the Hokies.
Capel shook up his starting lineup and Xavier Johnson scored a career-high 32 points off the bench to fuel the upset, sinking 11 of 17 shots from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Justin Champagnie added 10 points and 13 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Another former starter, Ithiel Horton, scored 15 points.
Pitt put the game away with a 13-0 run, turning a 57-55 lead into a 70-55 advantage with about four minutes left.
“Somebody had to step up and I chose to step up at the right time, I guess,” said Johnson, a junior who started 78 of his previous 79 games.
Instead of shuffling his lineup, Virginia coach Tony Bennett challenged his regulars to show the grit and toughness that was lacking when Virginia Tech ran away from the Cavaliers with a late 19-0 run.
When NC State made a 12-2 push Wednesday to take a 46-45 lead, this time Virginia pushed back and pulled away for a 64-57 win in Raleigh, N.C.
“You never want your coach to call you soft, so you take that pretty personally and we responded pretty well,” said Hauser, who scored 18 points against the Wolfpack. “… We were physical, we were tough-minded, and that’s why we came out on top tonight.”
Trey Murphy III, who shared the team lead with 18 points, also took Bennett’s words to heart after Virginia Tech ended Virginia’s 15-game ACC winning streak.
“I was like, ‘I’m gonna make sure that I can’t give him a reason to call me soft,'” Murphy said. “Losing to Virginia Tech, that hurt us a lot, and it humbled us a little bit because we were on a roll. We just knew we had to come out and really fight this game.”
–Field Level Media