ATLANTA — Jeff Capel’s Pittsburgh Panthers battled turnovers all day on Sunday afternoon at Georgia Tech, but the last one was too much to overcome.
Pitt turned the ball over 13 times in the first half and 18 in the game, but had the ball down by three with under two minutes to play in spite of everything. But a botched entry pass to Abdoul Karim Coulibaly resulted in a steal from Michael Devoe, and 15 seconds later Bubba Parham drained a corner three to double the lead.
Georgia Tech (9-7, 5-6) closed down the game from there and sent Pittsburgh (9-7, 5-6) to its fifth consecutive defeat by a 71-65 count. The loss drops the Panthers below .500 in ACC play for the first time all season, and leaves them in the bottom half of the conference standings.
The visitors built up an early 13-8 lead thanks to some strong attacks on Georgia Tech’s 1-3-1 zone, but the well started to dry up on entry passes after that. The Yellow Jackets closed the gaps and forced the ball to the perimeter, where everything broke down in a hurry.
The rest of the first half was a parade of bad passes and poor ball handling that resulted in just three made field goals over the final 14 minutes before the break. A big afternoon for Moses Wright on the other end paced the home team; the senior forward finished the first half with 13 points and compiled 24 for the game.
Georgia Tech built its largest lead of the game at 33-22 early in the second half, but that’s when Jeff Capel’s offense finally woke up. Ithiel Horton almost single-handedly brought Pitt back to life with 10 points early in the second half, including a pair of transition three-pointers off Georgia Tech turnovers. Horton led all Pittsburgh scorers on the day with 18 points, closely followed by Au’Diese Toney with 15. And when Toney drove into the lane and cut the deficit to 44-42, the Panthers had weathered the storm to turn a dismal first half performance into a competitive game.
They took another punch when they responded from an 11-4 Georgia Tech run that pushed the lead back to nine. Xavier Johnson intercepted a cross-court pass and laid the ball in at the other end to tie the game 55-55 with just over four minutes remaining.
But Devoe went on a personal 5-0 run to restore a 60-55 advantage for Josh Pastner’s club, and they never relinquished it down the stretch. Georgia Tech was a near-perfect 17-for-19 at the free throw line in the second half, and six in the final 1:03 put the game out of reach.
Pittsburgh will return home to face North Carolina State on Wednesday afternoon.