Pitt’s backcourt leads charge in victory over ACC foe Georgia Tech
ATLANTA — The temptation was there to wonder who among Pitt’s four freshmen would fill the scoring void left by the season-ending injury to sharpshooting sixth man Durand Johnson.
Turned out it was Pitt’s starting backcourt.
Point guard James Robinson and shooting guard Cameron Wright combined for 30 points — nearly a dozen above their combined average — to lead the No. 22 Panthers to an 81-74 victory over Georgia Tech on Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion.
“James can score, and I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent this year, but we lost Durand, and that hurt all of us,” said Wright, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half. “We’re playing for him because he deserves it. He brings energy, things that coaches can’t coach. He brings a passion to the game, his intensity and, of course, that 3-point shot that we’re going to definitely miss.”
The victory sets up a showdown between former Big East foes and ACC newcomers Pitt (16-1, 4-0) and No. 2 Syracuse (17-0, 4-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
Robinson cracked double digits for the first time this season, scoring a career-high 16 points.
“I just said I was going to be aggressive on the offensive end,” said Robinson, who also had five assists and four steals. “If my shot was there, I was going to take it.”
Talib Zanna had 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting with nine rebounds for his fifth career 20-point game and second of the season. The Panthers shot 56.9 percent (29 of 51) from the field. They finished with a 38-18 rebounding edge.
“You’ve got to fight under the glass, and we didn’t have that, so I’m very disappointed in that,” said Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory, noting that Pitt had 21 second-chance points to the Yellow Jackets’ 11.
Georgia Tech (10-7, 1-3) was 8-1 at home this season, with its only other home defeat coming to Dayton on Nov. 20. The Yellow Jackets were led by Trae Golden’s 22 points. Marcus Georges-Hunt added 13, and Kammeon Holsey 12.
Where Pitt was playing its first game without Johnson, who was averaging 8.8 points when he tore his ACL against Wake Forest on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets were playing without forward Robert Carter Jr. (knee) and Jason Morris (concussion) and guards Travis Jorgensen (knee) and Solomon Poole (migraines).
Chris Jones was the first Panthers player off the bench, replacing Lamar Patterson at the 16:03 mark. But Jones never attempted a shot in the first half, picking up two personal fouls in a 30-second span before coming out at 11:49. He never returned to the game.
Patterson went 0 for 5 from the field and committed four turnovers in going scoreless in the first half. He finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.
“You never like to see one of your best players have an off-night, but it’s definitely a long season, so there’s going to be times like that,” Robinson said. “We have full faith in Lamar.”
Georgia Tech took advantage, going on a 6-0 run for a 35-30 lead. Golden hit two free throws, Dan Miller dunked and Corey Heyward — son of former Pitt running back Craig and brother of Steelers defensive lineman Cam — scored on a layup.
“Georgia Tech came out there and played their hearts out,” Wright said. “In the first half, they played extremely well.”
“I’m really happy with how we did,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, “and how we responded.”