The Pitt men’s basketball team gave up 84 points. The Panthers were outrebounded. They only shot 36.7% in the second half.
Yet somehow, they won by five.
The No. 24 Pitt men’s basketball team defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center 89-84, improving its record to 13-1 on the season.
“We never like to give up 80 points. We’ll take the win regardless,” Pitt senior point guard James Robinson said. “We definitely need to get back to locking people up on the defensive end.”
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory was equally upset with his team’s defensive performance.
“I don’t think any team I’ve ever been associated with has scored 84 points in regulation and lost,” Gregory said.
The high-scoring affair began with an early basket by Georgia Tech forward Charles Mitchell, giving the Yellow Jackets their only lead of the game. Robinson answered right back, crossing over and converting on an open midrange jumper, knotting the game up at 2-2.
Sterling Smith followed the bucket by draining a contested three pointer, giving Pitt a lead that it would not relinquish.
Pitt and Georgia Tech continued to trade baskets, as Michael Young asserted himself early on, tallying four quick points by the first media timeout.
Pitt surged after that first media timeout, extending its lead to double figures on a gliding layup by junior forward Sheldon Jeter.
The Yellow Jacket cut that deficit, though, as Young picked up his second foul and Jamie Dixon was called for a technical foul after criticizing officials, and an 8-0 run left the score at 23-21 Panthers.
Dixon addressed the foul in his postgame press conference.
“I didn’t say anything bad,” Dixon said. “I yelled ‘Make the right call.’ It is what is. That’s all I said… I don’t believe they’re good things. Some people think they’re good to get. I’d sure like to get my money’s worth just one time.”
After the technical, Pitt scored 11 unanswered points, highlighted by a three and two layups from Robinson, who finished with 18 points, eight assists, four rebounds and a steal.
The run built more of a cushion, expanding the lead to 34-21 with just more than five minutes remaining.
Gregory complimented Pitt’s senior point guard.
“He’s a guy that you just don’t really appreciate. I don’t think anybody really does, other than the other coaches,” Gregory said. “He dominated the game, especially in the first half, without ever really dominating the ball. He’s just really really good.”
A blocked Sterling Smith three attempt as time expired left Pitt with a 42-36 lead over the Yellow Jackets, despite only five minutes of play from star forward Michael Young.
A quick five points cut the Panthers’ lead to one, as they clung to a 42-41 advantage early in the period.
Jamel Artis curbed the Georgia Tech momentum a bit, draining back-to-back threes to extend the lead back to 48-43.
Pitt struggled to extend the lead, and a three by Yellow Jacket guard Travis Jorgenson cut the advantage to just 53-52.
But a Rafael Maia layup and a pair of free throws by Jamel Artis once again padded the lead to two possessions, as the Panthers remained ahead 57-52.
That difference eventually ballooned, as a pair of free throws and short range jumper from Young gave Pitt another double figure lead right after the third media timeout, as the score sat at 71-58. A Jamel Artis follow-up after a missed Sterling Smith basket increased the advantage to 73-58.
Pitt’s lead remained at 15 until Adam Smith, a Virginia Tech graduate transfer who scored 26 points against the Panthers last year, nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to dwindle the Georgia Tech deficit to single-digits at 78-69.
After Robinson missed one of two free throws, a three-point play by Mitchell following a Maia foul brought the Yellow Jackets even closer, as the Pitt lead fell to seven with less than three minutes left in the game.
A pair of late threes by Smith, who finished with 30 points and eight threes, added some suspense, but were ultimately inconsequential.
“Obviously [Smith] is a really good shooter,” Robinson said. “They run a lot of screens for him He has the green light. He made shots, especially down the stretch.”
The Panthers escaped thanks to their effort at the charity stripe in the final period. Pitt made 22 of their 24 free throws in the second half.
“It’s always good when we can close the game out on the line,” Robinson said. “I think I said it before, whoever does step up to the line, especially late in the game, we have complete confidence in them that they’re going to make it.
After the game, Dixon emphasized that the team they beat was no slouch.
“They’re a very good team,” Dixon said. “They’re well-coached, they run good stuff, they run a good offense, they’re tough, they’re veterans. They’re a good team, and they’re gonna win games.”
Robinson and Artis led the Panthers with 18 points each. Despite only playing 18 minutes, Young finished with 17.
Maia bolstered Pitt’s frontcourt in Young’s extended absence, playing 32 minutes and finishing with seven points and a team-high 12 rebounds, while matching up against Mitchell, who finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
“Obviously, [Mitchell] is a tough matchup, but we know now in the ACC every game is going to have really tough match-ups so we need to be ready for whoever’s on the other side.”
Pitt continues its ACC campaign on Saturday, when the team travels to South Bend, Ind. to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.