Panthers stay cold, fall 67-57 at VT

Justin+Champagnie+tied+with+Au%27Diese+Toney+for+a+team-leading+12+points+in+Pitt%27s+loss+at+Virginia+Tech.

Justin Champagnie tied with Au'Diese Toney for a team-leading 12 points in Pitt's loss at Virginia Tech.

By Marshall Worth, Staff Writer

Pitt men’s basketball fell victim to the dreaded trap game Saturday night, losing 67-57 to a struggling Virginia Tech team. The convincing win snapped the Hokies’ five-game losing streak and allowed them to leapfrog Pitt in the ACC standings. With the loss, Pitt falls to 6-9 in the ACC and 15-11 overall. 

The Panthers’ defensive woes from Wednesday followed them to Blacksburg, as Virginia Tech made a whopping 12 3-pointers to Pitt’s five. 

Virginia Tech, known for 3-point shooting and fast-break offense, played to its strengths and controlled the game’s tempo from the opening tip. After slow offensive starts for each team, the Hokies began to pull away, embarking on a dominant 17-3 run as the first half winded down. This featured four threes, including one from junior forward P.J. Horne. Not typically known as a scorer, Horne nonetheless led Virginia Tech’s offensive attack with 16 points and four threes — both career highs. 

The Panthers’ youth became apparent throughout the game, as mistakes compounded and sloppiness took center stage. Careless Pitt turnovers lead to easy fast-break layups, and failure to close out on 3-pointers paved the way for Virginia Tech’s staggering outside shooting numbers. 

Both offenses played aggressively, though only the Hokies cashed in on their efforts. Pitt won the free-throw battle, getting to the line 18 times compared to six for Virginia Tech, but converted only 10 of those 18 (55.6%). Virginia Tech’s drives, on the other hand, caused Pitt’s defense to collapse inwards, creating space on the wings for open looks. 

Pitt’s consistency issues at the line served as a microcosm for the team’s overall performance. Sophomore guard Xavier Johnson was one example — he didn’t score in the first half but heated up for 11 points after the break. Pitt’s offense followed that same theme as a whole, going on separate 7-0 and 8-0 runs but proving incapable of sustaining its success over the course of the game. 

A late Panther surge kept the score within single digits at halftime, but the overall messiness from the first half carried over after the break. Errant shot attempts from first-year forward Justin Champagnie led to five quick points for Virginia Tech, who scored 14 in the first five minutes. Pitt fought back and competed over the course of the second half, but one step forward often led to two steps back. 

With under ten minutes remaining, Champagnie made a forceful putback dunk that felt like a momentum-shifting moment. Virginia Tech responded, however, with a corner three from Horne. Pitt trimmed the deficit to six, the smallest since before halftime, with under three minutes left, but Virginia Tech responded with back-to-back threes, putting the game out of reach. 

The Panthers will look to bounce back Tuesday, albeit in a tough road matchup at No. 8 Florida State. 

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