Five Takeaways: Pitt Fights Off Yellow Jackets With Clutch Buckets from Its Veterans
GREENSBORO, N.C. — After building a 13-point halftime lead, Pitt fell apart in the first few minutes of the second half, allowing Georgia Tech to climb all the way back into this game in less than three minutes of action.
Pitt Fights Off Swarming Georgia Tech Squad, Wins 89-81 in ACC Tournament Opener
The Yellow Jackets turned up the intensity on both sides of the ball, forcing three-straight Panther turnovers and converting offensively on a 10-2 run. In what felt like a heartbeat, Pitt’s hard-earned first-half lead had been decimated. After Georgia Tech cut it to a five-point deficit, it then kept its foot on the gas, turning that deficit into a lead of its own.
A Deebo Coleman layup, two Ja’Von Franklin dunks, and an and-one layup by Miles Kelly carried the Yellow Jackets into their first lead of the game, 52-50, with more than 12 minutes to go.
However, the Panthers didn’t fold there.
Pitt stopped the bleeding with a Federiko dunk, a pair of Cummings free throws, and buckets by Burton and Sibande. Minutes later, when the game was still in reach down the stretch, Pitt put away the Yellow Jackets with numerous clutch baskets.
Jamarius Burton, who had already posted several strong buckets throughout the game, took it upon himself to make a play when there was 1:30 left in the game and Pitt led by just four.
Burton drove right into Georgia Tech’s Lance Terry at the elbow, pivoted twice, offered a quick pump fake, then hit a one-handed jumper falling away to his right side. Terry was called for the foul, Burton hit the shot, and the Panther faithful erupted as Burton flexed to the television camera.
Huge play down the stretch.. @theACCDN pic.twitter.com/ssc6PHiEqr
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) March 9, 2023
Shortly after, on Pitt’s next possession, Burton swung a pass over his shoulder to an open Hinson, who squared up and knocked down his third three pointer of the game, pushing Pitt’s lead to eight with just 41 seconds remaining.
Blake Hinson. Dagger. pic.twitter.com/TCt8qA2oKq
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) March 8, 2023
ELLIOTT SNAPS OUT OF COLD STREAK IN A BIG WAY
Greg Elliott has been one of Pitt’s most important players throughout the entire season.
The starting guard has the highest three-point shooting percentage out of anyone on the Panthers, and has hit crucial shots in just about each of Pitt’s big wins. However, in his last two games, he struggled to hit from downtown, going 0 for 5 from three-point range and scoring just two total points in the two-game stretch.
On Wednesday, Elliott found his stroke.
“The grind hasn’t changed,” Elliott said. Like I always told you, I was confident no matter what. My teammates had confidence in me. I just had to step up and shoot the shots when they passed me the ball and get ready to knock it down.”
Elliott hit four of his five shot attempts — including four of his four three-point tries — in the win. His threes seemed to come at the largest times in the game, and his two threes in the second half came at times in which Pitt’s inside game had slowed down. After the game, Elliott said that after the first one went in, everything opened up for him.
“It was an ocean after that, in all honesty. I wasn’t thinking about nothing else. Once I saw the first one go up and in, I felt like the rest of them were going to go up and in too, so, that’s really all it was.”
FEDERIKO DOMINATES THE FIRST HALF
In the first half, Pitt’s Federiko Federiko shined in his role.
The Finnish big man hit all five of his first-half field goal tries, including the Panthers’ second bucket of the game off of his own offensive rebound. While his production slowed down in the second half due to foul trouble, Federiko’s impact was felt throughout the majority of the first half as well as occasionally in the second on both sides of the ball.
He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four dunks in the Panthers’ 89-81 win. Just three points shy of his season-high, Federiko finished with a 7-for-7 shooting night and went 5 for 6 from the free-throw line.
“We just looked at the scout, and they’re smaller than us, so we just wanted to use our size,” Federiko said after the game.
BY THE NUMBERS
Pitt shot a season-high 56% from the field in Wednesday’s win, hitting 31 of its 55 shot attempts. The Panthers drained 7 of their 16 three-point attempts, a 43% mark.
Pitt won the rebounding battle, grabbing 34 to Georgia Tech’s 33. The Panthers turned the ball over nine times to Georgia Tech’s eight. Blake Hinson led the team in +/- with a +11 score.
All five starters scored in double digits for Pitt: Burton 21, Federiko 19, Elliott 16, Hinson 12, and Cummings 11.
Off the bench, Guillermo Diaz-Graham and Nike Sibande each scored five points.
“Our team can score on the inside, and can score on the outside,” Diaz-Graham told PSN. “It’s really tough to guard it, especially when we have guys that can shoot the ball and can get inside and make a layup. And we have Fede. Fede had a great game on the inside. So it’s really tough to guard a team like us.”
PANTHERS CONFIDENT HEADING INTO QUARTERS
With the win, Pitt now moves to 22-10 on the season with three wins over Georgia Tech.
The Panthers have reached the 22-win mark for the first time since the 2013-14 season, and will now look ahead to their matchup against Duke on Thursday afternoon, again at 2:30 p.m.
“Everybody in this league knows we’re just as good as anyone in this league,” Cummings told PSN. “I think we’re going to go out tomorrow and have to prove something.”