Pitt's X Factor

Player of the Week

Xavier Johnson, Pittsburgh

Xavier Johnson / PittsburghPanthers.comXavier Johnson / PittsburghPanthers.comIn a dog fight in their overtime against Louisville, freshman guard Xavier Johnson helped secure Pittsburgh’s first conference win in 690 days. Snapping the 23-game ACC losing skid, the 6-foot-3 freshman recorded two great back-to-back performances with games versus Louisville and NC State. Johnson’s 21 points and 10 assists marked his second double-double of the season in the Louisville win. He was 7-of-15 from field goal range, grabbed five boards, and hit the free throw that extended the Panthers’ lead to three with 15 seconds remaining in overtime.

Following the team’s first ACC victory since 2017, Johnson responded with another impressive outing on the road at NC State. Despite the six-point loss, the 190-pound freshman was the one player who kept the Panthers in a manageable winning position. In the second half, Johnson poured in 20 of his career-high 25 points, converting on 66% of his field goal attempts, and was 9-for-11 from the charity stripe. Although Pittsburgh fell just short of an ACC winning streak, this is clearly an improved team from last year, and Johnson has proven to be one of the more valuable players for the Panthers.

Who’s Hot


Virginia Cavaliers

Tony Bennett and his squad are off to another perfect start. This past week, the Cavaliers picked up two road wins at Boston College and Clemson to improve to 15-0 overall and 3-0 in the ACC. In no surprise at all, Virginia’s 63-43 win against Clemson marks the
seventh time that the Cavaliers have held opponents to under 50 points this season. The Cavaliers’ trademark defense will be tested this upcoming week as they compete with two offensive powerhouses: rival Virginia Tech and the Duke Blue Devils.

Cameron Reddish, Duke

Reddish has been off his ‘A’ game for nearly a month now, until he hit the game-winner on the road at 13th-ranked Florida State on Saturday. Before heading to Tallahassee, Reddish was 7-of-38 (18.4%) from downtown in his last six games, but he was a different player
against the Seminoles. The 6-foot-8 freshman scored 23 points, all in a variety of ways—reverse layups, jumpers, 3-pointers, and drilled Duke’s clutchest shot of the season so far. With 2.8 seconds remaining, Coach K drew up a play using RJ Barrett as a decoy,
leaving Reddish wide-open for three in the right corner who hit the dagger. The Blue Devils pulled out a tough road win, defeating its fourth top-15 opponent this season.

Georgia Tech’s Defense

This season, it is the Yellow Jackets’ defense that is keeping them close in games. Georgia Tech is holding opponents to 63.1 points per game, which is ranked fourth in scoring defense in the conference. Georgia Tech is not a team that naturally comes to mind when you think of the league’s elite defenses this year, but they sure are causing problems for ACC opponents. Georgia Tech was four points shy of pulling off a massive upset at home against Virginia Tech, holding the Hokies to a season-low 52 points. Following the loss to Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets went on the road and upset the Orange. Georgia Tech ranks second in the league in 3-point field-goal percentage defense, and limited Syracuse to 7-of-33 shooting from beyond the arc.

Who’s Not

North Carolina Tar Heels

Roy Williams never knows which North Carolina team is going to show up. On Tuesday, the Tar Heels traveled to a hostile environment at 15th-ranked NC State, knocking off their in-state rival. Fast forward four days later, and North Carolina suffers a 21-point loss to Louisville in the Dean Dome. The Tar Heels have lacked defensive effort this entire season and are not competitive when shots aren’t falling. This team has talented assets—Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Nassir Little, and Coby White—but have been unable to find a way to mesh, which is concerning 16 games into the season. North Carolina holds a 1-4 record in games they have trailed by 10 or more points.

Syracuse’s Trio

The Orange are off to a 2-1 start to conference play, however they failed to pick up a must-win at home against a young Georgia Tech team. In Syracuse’s two games this week, the Orange’s three leading scorers—Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Elijah Hughes—combined
for 23-of-67 (34%) from the field. These three players are going to have to be more efficient, especially with their next opponent being Duke, if they want to head back with a win.

Top Five Individual Performances of the Week

Trey McGowens, Pittsburgh

The Panthers’ star freshman was spectacular in the team’s first ACC win in nearly two years, scoring 33 points, grabbing six rebounds, and forcing three Louisville turnovers. Setting the school freshman scoring record, the 6-foot-3 guard was a productive 12-of-19
from the field, easily getting into the lane however he wanted. McGowens has a bright future ahead playing for first-year head coach Jeff Capel.

RJ Barrett, Duke

The Ontario, Canada native scored a team-high 32 points on the road at Florida State. Barrett was 10-for-19 from the field, with four made shots coming from the 3-point line. Whenever it seemed that the game was in doubt for the Blue Devils, Barrett powered straight
to the basket, drawing contact and getting to the line. Along with three rebounds and two steals, Barrett made eight of his nine free throws, which is something he has struggled with all season long.

Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State

The Seminoles nearly knocked off the top-ranked Blue Devils, and forward Mfiondu Kabengele had a lot to do with keeping Duke on the ropes. Coming off the bench, the 6-foot-10 sophomore provided a strong inside presence for the Seminoles. He packed the stat sheet, tying his career-high 24 points and 10 boards, along with three blocks and two steals. Although the Seminoles fell just short, Kabengele’s performance is a great sign moving forward.

Dwayne Sutton, Louisville

Led by junior forward Dwayne Sutton, Louisville handed North Carolina its worst home loss under head coach Roy Williams. Sutton nearly tallied a triple-double against the Tar Heels with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He was tasked with guarding the
preseason ACC Player of the Year, Luke Maye, and held him to 3-of-14 from the field. He has emerged as an elite rebounder for the Cardinals in the team’s first three ACC games.

Zion Williamson, Duke

In his first ACC road game of the season at Wake Forest, Williamson became the first Duke player to record 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists under Coach K. The 30 points was a season-high for the freshman, who led his team to another blowout victory. The
high-flying sensation was 13-of-16 from the field, which included three made 3-pointers—a part of Williamson’s game that has evolved over the past several weeks.

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