The Pittsburgh Panthers have adjusted well to their new surroundings, winning their first three conference games as a member of the ACC. But their most recent win, an 80-65 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon, came at a cost as sophomore forward Durand Johnson suffered an injury to his right knee with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
On Sunday afternoon it was reported that the injury will end Johnson’s season, as he tore the ACL and meniscus in the knee.
On a team littered with players who have shown signs of improvement from last season to the current campaign, Johnson was averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Although shooting just over 33% from beyond the arc, Johnson is second on the team in made three-pointers. And over the last two games, Johnson scored a total of 28 points (17 against Maryland) after going scoreless in Pitt’s ACC-opening win at N.C. State.
Given Johnson’s increased production throughout the season and his recent run of success, this is a tough loss for the Panthers to absorb.
“We are thoroughly heartbroken for Durand,” Pitt coach Jamie 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.”
With Johnson being a valuable reserve and shooter for the Panthers the question is who steps up to knock down those shots, beginning with a game at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. Lamar Patterson is the only other Pitt player who’s in double figures in three-pointers made (31), and with guards Josh Newkirk (34.8%) and James Robinson (32.0%) not being long-range marksmen the Panthers could encounter more zone looks as teams attempt to take advantage of this.
How Pittsburgh goes about attacking these looks will determine just how well they perform in ACC play, and bench options such as Michael Young (6.1 ppg) and Jamel Artis (4.7) will need to raise their production as well.