Jamel Artis scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and the Pitt Panthers held Georgia Tech scoreless for a five-minute stretch late in the game as Pitt squeaked out a 70-65 victory Saturday afternoon, improving to 3-2 in the ACC.
In a game where each possession was a grind, Pitt (13-5, 3-2 ACC) held the Yellow Jackets to just 40 percent shooting on the afternoon, while getting just enough offense of their own to get by.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Jamie Dixon. “We have some things to work on, but we took care of the ball, defended well and made free throws. All important things. It was a great win against a very good team.”
Artis (20), Cameron Wright (20) and Michael Young (16) combined to score 56 of the Panthers’ 70 points on the afternoon on a day where they struggled from the floor as well, shooting only 44 percent.
With the game tied at 53 with just over six minutes left, Artis made a layup and converted the subsequent free throw to give the Panthers the lead for good. Pitt followed that with an 8-2 spurt that they never looked back from.
“My teammates found me and I made shots,” said Artis.
Overall the game was tight throughout, featuring 10 ties and seven lead changes.
Despite getting outrebounded by 10 on the afternoon, Pitt was able to hold GT to long scoring droughts a few times. None bigger than a lengthy one late in the game that swung the momentum Pitt’s way.
“I thought we were solid defensively,” said Young. “They didn’t really have a lot of shooters on the floor so we didn’t have to pressure them. It was just a matter of being solid, playing our defense and get after it.”
A big part of Pitt’s success defensively is the fact that they forced 16 Georgia Tech turnovers.
“We wanted to win the rebounding battle,” said Dixon. “But we did everything else good to make up for it. We switched defenses a lot on them and played a lot of guys so I think we wore them down some. Forcing the turnovers was big for us.”
The Yellow Jackets made things interesting in the end, but the Panthers converted their free throws down the stretch to put the victory on ice. On the afternoon Pitt made 20-of-26 attempts from the charity stripe.
“After the Florida State game we put in the extra effort on our free throws,” said Wright. “Free throws are big. Just like today when it comes down to the wire, we need to make our free throws and we did that tonight.”
The first half turned out to be a tale of two different teams.
Pitt got off to a solid start from the floor, led by Wright, who scored 10 of his 20 points in the first 20 minutes. The Panthers came out and made nine of their first 15 shots from the floor and quickly jumped out to a 19-10 lead.
The Yellow Jackets started the game in brutal fashion, making just two of their first 15 field goal attempts.
But the teams quickly switched roles as Pitt went ice cold from the floor, going a lengthy stretch where they missed nine consecutive shots and made just 2-for-14 overall. Meanwhile the Yellow Jackets heated up and pieced together a 17-6 run that eventually saw them take a 27-25 first-half lead.
Young put an end to the Pitt scoring drought with a late jumper and a pair of free-throws which tied the game at 31 at the half.
Robert Sampson led Georgia Tech (9-8, 0-5) with 16 points, Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 13 and Charles Mitchell and Quinton Stephens each had 10.
“Over the last couple of weeks, Jamie has done a great job of getting back to Pitt basketball,” said Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory. “They are tough and physical. They are a really good team that is starting to play well.”
The Panthers were able to close out a three-game ACC home stand with two straight wins before they hit the road to take on Duke on Monday night.
Photo Credit: Associated Press