ATLANTA - Pittsburgh had a great shooting first half Tuesday against Georgia Tech, but the second half was even better for the 22nd-ranked Panthers.
Pittsburgh made 65 percent of its field goal attempts in the final 20 minutes of an 81-74 victory in Atlantic Coast Conference play at McCamish Pavilion.
The Panthers, in their first season in the ACC, improved to 4-0 in conference play and 16-1 overall, getting 22 points from Talib Zanna, 16 out of James Robinson and 14 out of Cameron Wright. Tech, which was led by Trae Golden’s 22 points, fell to 1-3 in league play and 10-7 overall, losing for the first time in six meetings with Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh had a 14-point cushion with five and a half minutes to go, taking a 64-50 lead on a free throw from Zanna. The hosts hung around and thanks to Golden scoring the final 12 Tech points it was just a 78-74 game with 29 seconds left.
The lead changed hand 11 times in the opening half, but just once in the second.
Zanna had five points during the Panthers’ 9-0 run that put the ACC newcomer up for good at 41-37. Tech got to within 41-40 when Quinton Stephens knocked down a 3-pointer with 15:04 left in the game.
It was all Pittsburgh over the next seven minutes.
Lamar Patterson and Wright each scored six points during an 18-4 spurt that put Pittsburgh up 59-45 with 7:53 to play.
Patterson, who came into the game sixth in the ACC averaging 17.9 points, was held scoreless in the opening half. He and Wright (two first-half points) combined for 24 points over the final 20 minutes.
The Panthers made 17-of-26 shots in the second half, most of which were converted in the paint, in starting conference play with four consecutive wins for the first time since the 2010-2011 team won its first seven Big East games.
“That’s what we do, we’re a good shooting team but we do believe that lay ups are the best way to go,” said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon.
“They play with great toughness, they share the ball well,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said of Pittsburgh. “They know exactly who they are, they never…very rarely take a bad shot.”
Things were tight early on with Pittsburgh getting a 3-pointer from James Robinson to grab an early 9-4 lead.
Tech scored 10 of the next 14 points, which included a three-point play from Marcus Georges-Hunt and Golden’s 3-pointer, and went up for the first time at 14-13 on Kammeon Holsey’s dunk at the 10:42 mark.
It was a 22-20 Tech lead after Georges-Hunt drained a 3-pointer with just over seven minutes to go in the opening half, but Tech went cold after that.
The Yellow Jackets didn’t score for three and a half minutes, though the visiting Panthers made only three field goals during the same stretch and had just a 26-22 advantage with four minutes until halftime.
There were a bevy of lead changes during the opening half, the last instance coming when Tech got a pair of free throws from Golden to take a 31-30 lead with two minutes to play. Daniel Miller dunked off a feed from Corey Heyward and Heyward had a steal and finished a difficult, off-hand lay up to help the Yellow Jackets go into the halftime locker room up 35-32.