Pitt hangs on late against Georgia Tech, wins second straight game


The Pitt men’s basketball team relied on a largely three-part offensive attack to win its second straight game.

Hosting Georgia Tech on Saturday afternoon at Petersen Events Center, the double digit scoring contributions of Jamel Artis, Cameron Wright and Michael Young were much needed in a close game that featured 10 ties and seven lead changes, the point differential staying within two possessions for all of the second half.

With the 70-65 victory, Pitt has a winning ACC record for the first time this season.

Wright began the offense early for Pitt (13-5, 3-2 ACC), making the game’s first shot and leading all scorers with 10 points at halftime. He finished with 20,  a game-high that ties his career high, by converting seven of 11 field goals, one of two 3-pointers and 5-7 free throws.

“My teammates did a great job finding me. I couldn’t have done it without them. They delivered the passes on time. They did everything I could’ve asked them to do,”  Wright said.”That’s why I love them.”

Artis finished with the same number, also equaling a career high, which came on on 7-14, 1-3 3-pointers and 5-6 free throws. Unlike the balanced output of Wright, though, the sophomore’s scoring was skewed heavily towards the latter part of the contest, compiling 16 of his 20 after halftime. His explanation for his success echoed Wright.

“My teammates found me on offense, and I made shots,” Artis said of the difference between the first and second period. “When I’m making shots, they can find other people, and that’s what helped us get this victory.”

In this case, those other people were almost entirely just Wright and Young. Excluding the trio, The rest of the team, seven players, made just five field goals between themselves, missing 17 to finish with 14 points.  

Young had 16 by the time the game ended, bringing his total of double digit efforts on the season to 14 in 18 games.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said he was pleased with his team’s shot selection, something that has troubled it lately, but said the issue still comes down to conversion, with opponents continuing to pack the interior and give space to shoot, knowing the Panthers have struggled in that area.

“At some point, we’re going to have to hit some shots,” Dixon said. “They’re really sagging. We’ve faced it all year and know It’s been a challenge.”

The Panthers led by as many as nine in the first half, thanks in part to awful shooting initially by Georgia Tech, who made just two of their first 15 shots. But an eventual 15-6 run by the Yellow Jackets (9-8, 0-5 ACC) tied the game at 25. The guests took their first lead after two made free throws with 3:30 left before the break.

Having gone into halftime tied at 31, Artis and Wright combined for back-to-back 3 pointers when play resumed— the team had missed all six of its attempts in the first half—  to establish a lead that would last just less than two minutes.

But as the half went on, effective defense kept Pitt’s lead intact when it mattered. Georgia Tech had an almost three and half minute stretch without a basket and then another that lasted just over five and ran until there was 1:26 remaining, adding difficulty to any possible comeback attempt.

“They didn’t really have a lot of shooters on the floor, so  we didn’t really have to pressure them out past the three-point line, “ Young said. ”[We had success by] just being solid on defense, playing our defense and really got after them.”

In a matchup that proved so even, four points from as many free throws by Pitt’s Chris Jones with under a minute to play were a crucial contribution. As a team, the Panthers made 10-12 free throws in the last two minutes to maintain their small advantage over the Yellow Jackets.

“The entire team, we made the extra effort to get free throws up on our own and together as a unit because free throws are big just like today it can come down to the wire,” Wright said. “We need to make our free throws. That’s what we did tonight.”

Pitt plays at No. 4 Duke next. The game is Monday night at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.