PITTSBURGH- The Pittsburgh Panthers escaped today with a 76-68 win over Georgia Tech in a game that served to be a little too close for comfort. Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-14 ACC) has been hot recently and Coach Capel praised them in the postgame, but a loss today could have had devastating consequences for Pitt’s tournament resume.
The good news? No need to worry about that. Thanks to a stellar night from Nelly Cummings (22 PTS, 7 AST, 6 REB) and Blake Hinson (19 PTS, 6 REB) as well as a dominant night from the free throw line, (19-20 FT) the Panthers got it together when it mattered for their 20th win on the year.
FIRST HALF RECAP:
In one of the uglier starts to a Pitt game this year, it took until the 17:05 mark for a player on either team to make a field goal in open play (Georgia Tech did score on a goaltending call earlier). Through the first 15 shots in the game, both teams combined for a gaudy 4-15 line, including 1-6 from three.
Nelly Cummings got the Panthers up on the scoreboard thanks to a NASTY set of handles that put a Georgia Tech defender on skates, the beginning of what was a phenomenal first half for him (8 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists).
With Georgia Tech rolling with a smaller lineup the Yellow Jackets were forced to play a perimeter-centric game that struggled to find a rhythm. Of their first 20 shots, 10 came from beyond the three-point line, with only two of them finding the net. Georgia Tech shot (14-33, 3-15 3FG) as a whole, an ugly performance from an undersized team trying to carve out any sort of advantage they could find.
The good news for the Yellow Jackets was that outside of Nelly Cummings and Blake Hinson, the Panthers struggled just as much to produce on the offensive end. The Yellow Jacket zone seemed to throw the Panther’s offense completely out of whack, and the inability to consistently get the ball to the paint to take advantage of mismatches left the Panthers throwing more than a few passes to open space with nobody on the receiving end.
As a result, Georgia Tech took an 11-0 advantage in points off of turnovers in the first half. Even more shocking, Georgia Tech led in paint scoring too, winning that battle by an 18-12 margin. The consistent motion in the offense left Pitt out of place and frequently chasing their man, leading to easy entry passes down low.
Through the first 20, nothing was settled. Pitt went into the break leading 33-32.
SECOND HALF RECAP:
Ugly, unenthusiastic, uninspired, any synonym of this sort is likely to describe the style of basketball the Panthers played early on in the second half. The offense was sluggish and lifeless, with every possession feeling a little bit like 20 seconds of aimless dribbling followed by using the remainder of the shot clock to let off a bad shot.
A breakaway layup from Greg Elliott that ended up with him careening head-first towards the basket stanchion after a late shove from a Yellow Jacket defender, but the shove went uncalled. With Elliott late to get to his feet, Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit from beyond the arc, sending the Oakland Zoo into some rather unsavory chants toward the officiating crew.
While unfortunate at the moment, it did seem to wake the Panthers, and the crowd, up from the lull that they had found themselves in over the prior thirty minutes of game time.
As the game inched towards 10:00 to go in the second half, the Panthers found their footing on the offensive end. Federiko Federiko finally began to establish himself down low, scoring 14 points and 7 rebounds in the game before fouling out with 1:30 to go.
Georgia Tech, shorthanded and only playing six guys all night, began to tire as the game wore on. A Georgia Tech 2:30 long scoring drought coincided with a 7-8 shooting streak for the Panthers, finally providing Pitt the window they needed to establish a little bit of a lead.
After shooting just 40.7% from the field in the first the Panthers shot the ball much better in the second half, bumping the FG% up to 54.2.
At the final buzzer, Pitt was on top 76-68. It was an ugly win, but a win all the same. Pitt moves to 20-8 and 13-4 in ACC play.
What is next:
Pitt takes on Syracuse this Saturday in a sold-out game to close out the home schedule.