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Pitt Fights Off Swarming Georgia Tech Squad, Wins 89-81 in ACC Tournament Opener



Guillermo Diaz Graham and Nike Sibande during Pitt's ACC Tournament game vs. Georgia Tech in Greensboro, N.C. on March 8, 2023. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

GREENSBORO, N.C. —  On Wednesday afternoon, Pitt prevailed in its opening matchup of the ACC Tournament, fighting off a ferocious comeback effort from 13-seed Georgia Tech and finishing on top by a score of 89-81.

The Panthers cruised through the first half behind strong starts from Federiko Federiko and Jamarius Burton, the lone Panthers to score in double digits in the frame.

To open the contest, Burton walked his way into an easy mid-range jumper, foreshadowing the efficient interior looks that Pitt would have throughout the first half. Burton continued to shoot confidently inside the arch, hitting five of his eight first-half attempts for 10 points in the frame. In addition, Federiko played the half of his life, hitting all five of his field-goal tries for a team-best 13 points in the frame. The Finnish sophomore also grabbed five rebounds in the frame, leading Pitt to an 18-16 rebounding margin in the first.

While Federiko and Burton stayed consistent inside, Pitt pulled away with timely three pointers from Nelly Cummings, Greg Elliott, and Blake Hinson. Down the stretch of the half, the Panthers hit seven shots in a row to take a 13-point lead into the break.

However, the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t let the first half deficit keep them down for long. To start the second, Josh Pastner’s squad swarmed the Panthers with a 10-2, forcing three Pitt turnovers in a row and turning those into buckets on the other end. All of a sudden, the Panthers’ lead had dwindled down to just five.

The Jackets continued to buzz, putting a hurt on Pitt early in the half with three dunks, two layups, and two three pointers in the first five minutes to cut the lead to just one. Georgia Tech then took its first lead of the game on an emphatic and-one finish from Miles Kelly, drawing Federiko’s third foul of the game.

Down the stretch, Burton continued to attack and Greg Elliott came up huge with several more threes for the Panthers. His fourth three of the night extended Pitt’s lead back up to seven, giving the Panthers the momentum with over six minutes remaining. The Marquette transfer finished the game with a 4-for-4 shooting night from three-point range, adding 16 points.

All five of Pitt’s starters scored in the second half, as did Guillermo Diaz-Graham and Nike Sibande off the bench. To close out the victory, the Panthers earned a huge and-one floater from Burton, as well as a key three pointer from Hinson to cap off the win. After Georgia Tech trimmed the lead down to four in the final 22 seconds, Pitt put a stamp on the win with good free throws from Elliott.

Burton finished as Pitt’s leading scorer, dropping 21 points in the win alongside a team-high eight assists. Federiko followed with 19 points, also adding eight rebounds in the effort.

As a team, the Panthers shot 56% from the field and 44% from three-point range (7 for 16).

For Georgia Tech, Ja’Von Franklin dominated Pitt’s thin front court inside, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 boards. Deebo Coleman added 17 points, and Kyle Sturdivant contributed 16. Kelly also added 16, going 5 for 12 from the floor.

With the win, Pitt improves to 22-10 on the season. For the first time since 2015-16, Pitt has defeated a team three times in one season.

The Panthers move on to the quarterfinals to face fourth-seed Duke. That game will tip off at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon on ESPN2.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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