The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fought off the Pittsburgh Panthers 71-65 in an exciting Valentine’s Day affair at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. The Jackets now advance to 10-8 overall and snap a two-game losing streak with the win.

Pitt’s double teams made it hard for the Jackets to get going early. Panthers forwards Justin Champagnie and Abdoul Coulibaly swarmed every ball-handler with double coverage. This caused a lot of problems to begin the game as the Jackets struggled to pass out of these situations. It did not matter whether it was smaller guards Michael Devoe and Jose Alverado, or a bigger Jordan Usher. A double team was coming.

Georgia Tech took off as soon as they were able to dissect the defense in front of them. Tech forward Moses Wright became much more aggressive in the second half. When the game began, Wright seemed to shy away from backing down Coulibaly in the paint. Wright began to use his size down low and this changed the momentum in the Jacket’s favor. Wright was able to draw fouls off of Coulibaly and establish his dominance in the paint. He had a big play where he dunked over Coulibaly and another where he got a block on the Panther’s Femi Odukale. Tech was able to get the rebound and keep the momentum in their favor. The second half could be summarized as the “get it to Moses and let him work” hour. Wright ended the game with 24 points, three rebounds, and two blocks.

Bubba Parham provides an energetic spark off the bench but can be a liability on defense at times. Parham was tasked with guarding Pitt’s Ithiel Horton for most of the night. Horton got the best of the situation with an incredible stat line. 18 points on 54% shooting from the field and 50% from behind the arc. Parham has to be better when guarding the opposing team’s best players. Parham ended the night with 11 points and two rebounds. Bubba knocked down a clutch three to extend Tech’s lead to 65-59 with a minute remaining.

“We were 6/18 on three but we made some threes late that opened some things up for us.” Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner said. “It comes down to a make or miss game a lot of times.”

Pitt’s Toney Au’Diese caused a lot of trouble late in the game. He was able to blow by Devoe to get an easy basket. Protecting the rim late has been a weakness that Tech has shown in the past couple of games. Bubba was able to put down a clutch three-point shot to extend Tech’s lead on the following play. Jordan Usher left the game with an ankle injury soon after. He was replaced by Kyle Sturdivant. Usher’s defense was sorely missed late in the game but Michael Devoe stepped up. Devoe brought down some crucial rebounds to maintain Tech’s lead late in the game. Devoe also scored his 1000th career point on a three made late in the game.

“I relied on my defense and that’s what turned the corner for me and it’s helped me in the last couple of games,” Devoe said. “Just playing well on the defensive end and everything else will take care of itself.”

Pitt caused a lot of problems for themselves tonight. First, they couldn’t handle the rock and committed 18 turnovers. Their starting guard Xavier Johnson gave up seven possessions on his own. Second, they committed a couple of unnecessary offensive fouls. The Panther’s Xavier Johnson committed an unnecessary charge against Devoe. This was later followed by an offensive foul on center Terrell Brown. Tech had a few things that they needed to clean up tonight as well. Knocking down open looks was an issue for the team in their loss against UVA and it showed itself again tonight. Tech shot 33% from behind the arc tonight as the team threw up a lot of bad looks. This will be something they will have to correct before the tournament madness begins in March. Georgia Tech will be back at home this Wednesday to face Boston College at noon.

“It was tough to come back like that but our guys dug in.” Pastner said. “It was a great character win against a really good Pittsburgh team.”

Photo by: Georgia Tech Athletics

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