The Panthers (16-1, 4-0) trailed 35-32 at halftime but quickly seized control after the break for their sixth straight win. Georgia Tech (10-7, 1-3) called a couple of quick timeouts, trying to stem the onslaught, but the Yellow Jackets were overpowered in the lane and couldn’t prevent another victory by the conference newcomer.
Giving Pitt a bit of a scare in the final minute, Georgia Tech got as close as 78-74 before the Panthers sealed it at the free throw line. It was their closest victory of the season, the first 15 coming by an average of 17.8 points.
Trae Golden, the former McEachern High School star, led Georgia Tech with 22 points.
The previous day, Pittsburgh moved into The Associated Press poll for the first time this season. The Panthers sure looked worthy of the ranking through much of the second half, leading by as many as 14 points.
The first 20 minutes were tight all the way, with 11 lead changes and neither team getting up by more than five points. Georgia Tech closed the period with a flourish, taking advantage of two turnovers to rip off a quick 6-0 run that prompted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon to disgustedly call a timeout with 57 seconds remaining.
Robinson hit a jumper to halt the spurt, and Georgia Tech squandered a chance to take some momentum to the locker room when Marcus Georges-Hunt missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Yellow Jackets settled for a 35-32 lead.
The second half was totally different. Pittsburgh wore down the short-handed Yellow Jackets, who were playing with only eight scholarship players because of injuries and illness. Led by Zanna’s nine rebounds, the Panthers piled up a commanding 38-18 lead on the boards.
Cameron Wright had 14 points and Lamar Patterson added 12 for Pitt.
Even when something went right for Georgia Tech, it didn’t turn out well.
The crowd roared when Wright drove into the lane and had his shot swatted away by Daniel Miller. But Patterson chased down the loose ball, charged fearlessly back into the lane, hit the shot and was fouled by Georges-Hunt. The three-point play pushed the Panthers ahead 59-45 with 7:53 remaining.
Georges-Hunt chipped in with 13 points, while teammates Miller and Kammeon Holsey had 12 apiece.
Pitt had to get by without sixth man Durand Johnson, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in last Saturday’s victory over Wake Forest. The sophomore forward was blossoming as the first man off the bench, averaging 8.8 points and ranking second on the team with 22 3-pointers.
The Panthers went just 2-of-7 beyond the arc but didn’t need any long-range shooting the way they were controlling things on the inside.
Pitt beat Georgia Tech for the first time in school history. The Yellow Jackets came into the game holding a 5-0 lead in the series, but that didn’t mean much since the teams had not played since Dec. 28, 1989, when Georgia Tech won 111-92 at the long-since-demolished Omni in downtown Atlanta.