Coming into this game, I actually felt Georgia Tech would be a tougher test for Pitt than Syracuse would. Georgia Tech played North Carolina tough this past weekend, and Adam Smith is a guy who could really score for the Yellow Jackets.
I'm having trouble remembering the last time Pitt played a conference game which had such a high amount of offense from both teams. It was a very entertaining game to watch, and Pitt's offense was simply gorgeous to watch in the first half. At times, the officiating seemed to really ruin the flow of the game. Some weird foul calls, a technical foul on Jamie Dixon, and just overall inconsistent calls really hampered the flow of the game. It was the type of game that normally I would have felt Pitt was losing if I didn't know the score just based on the feeling of the game. Players were getting frustrated, but they were still scoring enough points to stay ahead of Georgia Tech.
The key to this game is Pitt got a ton out of its foundation three of James Robinson, Jamel Artis, and Mike Young. Robinson was aggressive early, including scoring 7 straight points in one run. He scored 18 overall for the game to go with 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and only one turnover. Robinson came into the game leading the NCAA in assist to turnover ratio at 6.1, and this game only improved on that. This year Robinson has much been more aggressive, and aggressive James Robinson is good James Robinson. Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory called Robinson "one of the most underrated players in the country". Artis matched Robinson with 18 points himself, including hitting two pretty important threes late in the game. He added 5 assists himself, but did turn the ball over three times. Artis is just so versatile, and challenges Robinson for being Pitt's best passer. He's not as good, but he's starting to remind me a little of Lamar Patterson.
If you didn't know how much he played, you'd probably think Young had a pretty standard game with him scoring 17. Young, however, was hampered by foul trouble early, and only played 18 minutes which is pretty incredible production. He only registered one rebound, but that turned out to be totally fine as his teammates picked up that slack.He scored in a variety of ways, including one take to the basket that was really impressive. Young is playing at a first team All-ACC level right now, and he's shown no signs of slowing down entering conference play.
Rafael Maia had a really solid game. He pulled down 12 rebounds to tack on to his 7 points. He also played a season high 32 minutes (his highest was only 25 against Duquesne before this) thanks to Young and Nelson-Ododa being in foul trouble. He's easily the best post defender Pitt has right now, and probably one of the least flashy players you'll watch on Pitt. Maia is more athletic than he looks, and grabs rebounds in really unconventional ways. He reminds me somewhat of a shorter senior year Gary McGhee. It was rare you would get a big offensive game out of McGhee, but he was always good for defense and just being a wall down low. That's pretty much what you get with Maia.
Sheldon Jeter was once again pretty solid for Pitt adding in 10 points, but he did not have a great shooting night. He settled for some jumpers at points that I felt aren't really part of his arsenal, but made up for it with his 6 rebounds. I think the light is starting to turn on for him a little bit.
Sterling Smith had a good game as well (are you starting to notice a theme here?). In his last two games, Sterling Smith has really improved from beyond the arc, putting down 6 three's on 10 shots. He only had 1 make on his previous 10 attempts before that He was 3-5 tonight, and had a big putback to add to those as well.
Overall, Pitt had 5 guys in double figures, and was really balanced overall offensively. The defense, however, was not good. Especially towards the end of the game, it seemed Pitt could simply not stifle Georgia Tech. Adam Smith had 30 points with 8 (!!) threes to go along with Charles Mitchell's double double of 20 and 17. Normally, Pitt loses a game when a player goes off like that. It's a statement to Pitt's offense that Smith and Mitchell's performances weren't enough.
Looking ahead, we still just don't know very much about this team. Syracuse or Georgia Tech are Pitt's best win, and they aren't very good overall. Pitt is ranked, but a lot of national media are very skeptical of this Pitt team. Their only loss is to a good Purdue team, but the lack of a result from the Gonzaga game is definitely hurting the perception. The good news? Pitt leads the country in free throw percentage. I know it's been said, but this is just so not Pitt that it bears worth repeating. Pitt actually out shot their average in this game at 83.3% from the line. Pitt is also top 15 in the country in scoring per game. Not only do they score the ball, but they do it efficiently coming in at #10 in the country according to Kenpom. That's been a staple of Dixon's tenure at Pitt. This team is very deep, and can score a lot better than most Pitt teams have been able to in the past. It remains to be seen if it can be sustained, but I really like what I've seen on that front so far.
Coming up, Pitt heads on the road to face off-and-on Notre Dame team, and a very good Louisville team. We should know a lot more about Pitt after their road trip.