Pitt men’s basketball earns 89-81 ACC tournament victory against Georgia Tech


AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Pittsburgh guard Nelly Cummings drives between Georgia Tech guard Dallan Coleman and guard Kyle Sturdivant during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Greensboro, N.C.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

No. 5 seed Pitt men’s basketball entered Wednesday’s game in unfamiliar territory, as a win against No. 13 seed Georgia Tech would likely clinch them a spot in the NCAA tournament. A loss would add another blemish to the Panthers’ resume that they couldn’t afford. 

While the Panthers (21-10, 14-6 ACC) blew a 13-point halftime lead, they closed out the Yellow Jackets (15-17, 6-14 ACC) on the way to an 89-81 victory. Pitt shot 44% from three-point range and 56% from the field in a complete offensive performance to keep its season afloat. 

Pitt used offensive production from across the roster at the start of the game. All five of the Panthers starters scored a point in the first eight and a half minutes, giving them a seven-point lead at the 11:20 mark. 

Georgia Tech’s backcourt made its presence known early, accounting for the Yellow Jackets’ first eight points during the first four and a half minutes. Senior guard Lance Terry and sophomore guard Dallan “Deebo” Coleman both added a three while senior guard Kyle Sturdivant hit a mid-range jumper. 

Junior forward Blake Hinson’s first field goal of the game came on a three with five minutes left in the half. His bucket opened up an eight-point lead for the Panthers. Pitt’s lead snowballed to 13 points just a minute later following another bucket from Hinson and graduate student Greg Elliott’s second three-pointer of the game. 

A slow start from sophomore guard Miles Kelly hampered the Yellow Jackets’ offense. He missed each of his four field goal attempts in the first half and didn’t score a point. His lack of production was a major factor in Georgia Tech’s shooting struggles and a surprise following his recent run of strong performances. 

Pitt entered halftime with a 44-31 lead. Federiko led the Panthers with 13 points while graduate student guard Jamarius Burton added 10 points of his own. Coleman and senior forward Ja’Von Franklin paced the Yellow Jackets with nine points each. 

Sophomore center Federiko Federiko bounced back from a rough performance against Miami in the first half. He recorded 13 points and five rebounds while providing stout defense on the interior. 

The Panthers’ defense came out with more energy and ball pressure than their opponents are typically accustomed to in the first half. It resulted in the Yellow Jackets shooting 37% from the field and 25% from behind the arc. Pitt also forced six turnovers, which it turned into 11 points on the other end. 

Pitt kept pace with Georgia Tech on the boards in the first half, winning the rebounding battle 18 to 16. However, the Yellow Jackets gathered six offensive boards and recorded five second-chance points, building on a worrying trend for the Panthers. 

Pitt came out of halftime sloppy and turned the ball over on three-straight possessions. Georgia Tech turned the Panthers’ mistakes into two buckets on offense and quickly made it a single-digit game. The Yellow Jackets followed that up by going on a 6-0 run following three-pointers from Kelly and Coleman, which made it a five-point game. 

Franklin took control of the game during the early part of the second half. He scored eight points in the first five and a half minutes while also contributing significantly on the defensive end. His contributions made it a one-point game at the 14:41 mark.

The Panthers’ offense lacked impulse at the start of the half as well. They scored just six points in the first seven minutes and found very little success creating good chances. 

Pitt opened up a seven-point lead after making four-straight field goals with more than six minutes left. The two sides went back-and-forth over the ensuing minutes, with the Panthers holding a six-point lead with two minutes left. 

An empathetic and-one from Burton and a Hinson three gave Pitt an eight-point lead with under a minute left, leaving Georgia Tech hoping for a miracle. The Yellow Jackets made it a four-point game with 22 seconds left, but the Panthers ended up closing them out with little issue.

Pitt’s win over the Yellow Jackets eliminates some suspense on Selection Sunday. However, a win over Duke would further cement the Panthers as an NCAA tournament team for the first time in seven years. 

Tipoff for Pitt’s second round matchup against the Blue Devils is at 2:30 p.m. and coverage will air on ESPN.