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Pitt falls to Georgia Tech, 71-65

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Pitt men’s basketball team dropped another one — this time falling to Georgia Tech, 71-65.

Pitt (9-7) got off to a very good start, leading 13-8 early. But Georgia Tech (10-8) not only chipped away at that lead, but entered halftime up 31-22. The Panthers did make a run in the second half but it wasn’t enough. A 9 1/2-minute span to close out the first half was really critical. The team scored only four points during that time and that accounted for the halftime deficit.

For the Panthers, surprisingly, it wasn’t Justin Champagnie leading the way. Despite playing 38 minutes, Champagnie managed only six shots, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds. He was topped by a big game from Ithiel Horton, who led the team with 18, and Au’Diese Toney, who added 15 and nine rebounds. Xavier Johnson chipped in with 13. Georgia Tech got a huge game from Moses Wright, who led all scorers with 24.

Surprisingly, Pitt shot the ball fairly well. The made 51 percent of their shots from the field (better than Georgia Tech’s 47 percent), outrebounded the Yellow Jackets (29-24). The Panthers’ downfall tonight was turnovers — 18 of them, to be exact. But that wasn’t the only issue. Georgia Tech got to the line 23 times and was nearly perfect, making 21 of them. The Panthers, meanwhile, were only 8-15 from the line.

The turnovers were a problem — but in a six-point game, when your opponent makes 13 more free throws than you, that can make all the difference in the world.

This isn’t necessarily a bad loss. But for a Pitt team that was hoping to sort of stake out some ground in the middle of the conference, it’s a game that they probably should have won, given how well they shot.

The question for Pitt now becomes, will this slide turn into ones like previous years? As of now, the Panthers have five games left, including two against 13-5 Clemson. But they also get two against 8-9 NC State and one against 6-9 Wake Forest. That also does not include postponed games against Florida State, Boston College, and Louisville.

A few more opportunities for wins for Pitt but, at 9-7 and losing five of their past six games, it’s easy to see that things are slipping away a bit.

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