Georgia Tech improved to an unexpected 3-1 in ACC play on Saturday afternoon, taking down the Pittsburgh Panthers by a final score of 69-54 on the road and securing a 10th win on the season.
Though Pitt is among the youngest teams in the entirety of the NCAA, featuring a staggering seven freshmen, getting a road win in the ACC has proven time and time again to be a near-impossible task. Don’t underestimate how big this one was for Tech, a team must play a near-flawless conference schedule just to maintain relevance in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee.
The Jackets got off to the hottest start imaginable, building a 13-0 lead behind 9 quick points from Jose Alvarado at the 16:10 mark. Pitt’s Terrell Brown broke up the shutout with a free throw at the 15:45 mark, but Tech managed to stretch the lead to an impressive 21-1 just minutes later before Pitt finally put things together ever so slightly. The Panthers would actually cut the lead to as few as 7 points, but first half MVP Abdoulaye Gueye (10 points on 5-5 shooting for the period) powered the Jackets to a 40-29 lead at the break.
The second half started off with more of the same for the Jackets, who held Pitt without field goal attempt for the first five minutes of action. The Panthers didn’t hit a shot until a layup at 14:41 by Kene Chukwuka, and by that time Tech had built what would prove to be an insurmountable 19-point lead over one of the nation’s least experienced teams.
Abdoulaye Gueye remained the team hero for the second half, finishing the game with a near-perfect 7-8 shooting performance and 16 points to go with 8 rebounds. Following close behind him were Tadric Jackson, who contributed 13 points off the bench, and Josh Okogie, who dropped 12 points, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Jose Alvarado was key for burying the Panthers early but scored just 1 point in the second half to finish the contest with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
Meanwhile on the defensive end, it was Ben Lammers who carried Tech to a 39-20 edge on the boards with 11 points and 16 rebounds for the game. Pitt simply had no answer for Tech’s frontcourt, which ran wild on offensive rebounds and made a full comeback effectively impossible for the Panthers. No Pitt player cracked double figures in scoring for the game.
Next up for the Jackets will be a huge home game against the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers in what will be perhaps the biggest test of the entire season for Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets. A win would go a long way towards repairing the damage done in the losses to Grambling State and Wright State while a loss could be the final straw for Tech’s tournament hopes.