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Pitt loses sharpshooter Durand Johnson for season with torn ACL

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Durand Johnson plays against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt's Durand Johnson plays against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Durand Johnson plays against Wake Forest in the second half Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt's Durand Johnson plays against Wake Forest in the second half Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Durand Johnson is fouled by Maryland's Jonathan Graham in the first half Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt's Durand Johnson is fouled by Maryland's Jonathan Graham in the first half Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Durand Johnson takes a shot against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt's Durand Johnson takes a shot against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pitt's Durand Johnson (second on the left) sits on the bench with a torn ACL late in a game against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pitt's Durand Johnson (second on the left) sits on the bench with a torn ACL late in a game against Wake Forest on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.

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When Durand Johnson pulled himself out of the Wake Forest game, coach Jamie Dixon started to wonder what was wrong.

Pitt's sixth man and top sharpshooter never wants to come out of games.

Tests later revealed that Johnson, a 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore swingman from Baltimore, had torn the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in the 80-65 victory Saturday at Petersen Events Center. He will miss the remainder of the season.

Johnson was injured when he was fouled and fell to the floor with 5:30 left. He remained down for several minutes before being helped off the court.

He returned to make two free throws then left the game.

“When he pulled himself out, I wanted to stay positive, but he's never pulled himself out of a game, so I thought something was up,” Dixon said Sunday. “I didn't want to think that way. When he got up, I felt better. But he went back in and then pulled himself out.”

Johnson is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday at UPMC South Side. Pitt (15-1, 3-0 ACC) will play at Georgia Tech (10-6, 1-2) at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Pitt's most dangerous 3-point threat, Johnson ranked fourth in scoring (8.8 points) and second in 3-pointers (22) while averaging 19.8 minutes per game. After going scoreless in the ACC opener at N.C. State, he had a career-high 17 points against Maryland and 11 points in 18 minutes against Wake Forest.

“We are thoroughly heartbroken for Durand,” Dixon said. “With his passion for the game and outstanding work ethic, Durand has contributed significantly to our success. He has made so much improvement in all facets of his game this year.

“I expect that same passion and work ethic to help Durand return at 100 percent next season.”

Dixon said redshirt freshman swingman Chris Jones and newcomers Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis could receive more playing time in Johnson's absence. But Dixon warned against the need for any of them to try to replace Johnson's 3-point shooting.

“Guys don't have to change their game,” Dixon said. “I talked to the team about the bench, the passion, the energy Durand brings to practice, to shootarounds and games. That's the thing we need to have. We need that on the floor. He's a vocal, energetic kid. That's what I like about him most.

“He'll come back strong next year and continue to work hard and be ready to go. I have a lot of faith in him.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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