James Robinson and Jamel Artis scored 18 points apiece and No. 24 Pittsburgh held off Georgia Tech 89-84 victory on Wednesday night.
Robinson added eight assists for the Panthers (13-1, 2-0 ACC), who won their ninth straight behind a balanced attack even with second-leading scorer Michael Young limited early by foul trouble. Young finished with 17 points in just 18 minutes, one of five Pitt players in double figures.
Adam Smith led the Yellow Jackets (10-5, 0-2) with a career-high 30 points, including eight 3-pointers that allowed Georgia Tech to hang around after Pitt built a 15-point lead with less than 7 minutes to go. Charles Mitchell had a career-best 20 points and 17 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets.
Pitt appeared to be firmly in control when an Artis putback put the Panthers in front 73-58. Smith, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, basically kept the Yellow Jackets in it by dropping in a series of jumpers, including one at least 5-feet behind the 3-point line.
Georgia Tech drew within 83-77 with 1:20 to play and forced Pitt into only its fourth turnover but Smith’s ensuring 3-point attempt was well off. When Sterling Smith tipped in an Artis miss with 30 seconds left, Pitt was out of harm’s way.
The Panthers have reinvented themselves in their third year in the ACC, entering the poll for the first time since February, 2014 thanks to their hot start.
Coach Jamie Dixon has ditched the staid and static style that marked their successful run in the Big East and opted for a more fluid, up-tempo approach. Pitt came in averaging 85 points — its best mark through 13 games in Dixon’s 13-year tenure — thanks largely to the improved all-around play of Artis and a more aggressive approach by Robinson.
The Yellow Jackets are still searching for anything resembling consistent traction under Gregory, who hasn’t come close to .500 in conference play in his first four years on the job. Georgia Tech hung tough in a loss at North Carolina last Saturday, continuing a trend of contentious near misses.
It looked like it wouldn’t even be close early. The Panthers made 10 of their first 14 shots and raced to a 12-point lead in the opening eight minutes before Michael Young went to the bench with his second foul. The Yellow Jackets steadied themselves and withstood another 11-0 surge to get within 42-36 at the break thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Smith.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have lost seven straight games against ACC opponents. … Georgia Tech opens ACC play 0-2 for the fourth straight season.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers, the top-shooting free throw team in the country, went 25 of 30 (83 percent) from the line. … Dixon earned a rare technical foul in the first half after being warned to stay in the coach’s box. … Senior center Rafael Maia finished with seven points and 12 rebounds.
Georgia Tech: hosts No. 6 Virginia on Saturday.
Pittsburgh: at Notre Dame on Saturday.