Johnson's 3-point shooting boosts Pitt past Lehigh, 77-58
Durand Johnson told James Robinson before Pitt played Lehigh that he was going to be on from 3-point range.
Then, only one game after going 0 for 4 from beyond the arc, Johnson delivered.
Johnson made five 3-pointers in the first half, one shy of the school record, to lift the Panthers to a 77-58 victory Wednesday in the Progressive Legends Classic at Petersen Events Center.
“He hit that first 3, and I knew he was going to be hot for the rest of the night,” Robinson said. “So I kept giving him the ball, and he kept coming through.”
Not that it was the first time Johnson vowed to have a hot hand.
“He's a scorer, so he does,” Robinson said. “I believe him every time. He really showed he could score.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore from Baltimore, came off the bench to give the Panthers a boost after Lehigh had cut it to 12-8. He hit three 3s in a two-minute span and 5 of 6 in the half. The school record for 3-pointers in a half is six, held by Jason Maile (against Villanova in 1997) and Jason Matthews (against Providence in '90).
“I wanted to come out with more confidence and be shot-ready,” Johnson said. “My teammates found me, and I was able to knock down shots.”
Pitt (4-0) took advantage of Johnson's shooting by outscoring Lehigh, 32-15, the rest of the half.
The Panthers shot 46.8 percent (29 of 62) from the field, including 11 of 26 from 3-point range and beat Lehigh (1-4) on the boards 44-23.
Talib Zanna made all of his seven shots from the field and scored a career-high 23 points with 14 rebounds. Lamar Patterson added 17 points, and Johnson finished with 15.
Robinson had a career-high 11 assists with no turnovers, two shy of the school's record for assist-to-turnover ratio.
“We're up big numbers, and the guy's still not looking for his, which is pretty typical of Pitt basketball,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said.
Lehigh was led by 6-10 freshman center Tim Kempton, who scored 20 points. The Panthers held Mountain Hawks leading scorer Mackey McKnight to eight points, 11 below his team-leading average.
It was Pitt's second game in the Legends Classic. The Panthers beat Howard, 84-52, on Sunday. They play Texas Tech on Monday and the Houston-Stanford winner Tuesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“I thought Johnson did an excellent job,” Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. “We knew coming into the game that he had excellent shooting potential from the perimeter. We were in a difficult position where we also knew that we had to protect our paint and protect our interior and almost pick our poison. However, Johnson was the one guy we didn't want to let go on the perimeter. He stepped up, was able to convert and make those open shots.
“Unfortunately we didn't adjust in time to really neutralize him.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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