Jamel Artis and James Robinson led five Pitt players in double-figures with 18 points apiece and the Panthers held firm down the stretch to close out a 89-84 victory against Georgia Tech. Pitt shot 23 of 28 from the free throw line and made 22 of 24 tries in the second half to ice the victory.
"It's always good when we can close games out on the line," Robinson said. "Whoever steps up to the line, especially late in the game, we have complete confidence in them."
Michael Young scored 17 points, Sterling Smith added 11 and Sheldon Jeter had 10 off the bench for No. 24 Pitt (13-1, 2-0 ACC).
The two teams combined to commit 42 fouls and shoot 45 free throws. Physical play should be expected, head coach Jamie Dixon says, with the way games are being officiated.
"You better get comfortable with it," Dixon said. "It's hard to guard people when there's contact and there's a foul. That's why we've got to go to the foul line as much as we did."
Adam Smith made 8 of 13 3-pointers and scored 30 points to lead Georgia Tech (10-5, 0-2 ACC). Marcus Georges-Hunt added 14 and Charles Mitchell posted a double-double with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
Smith shook loose to make a number of 3-pointers in the final minutes, but Mitchell posed more of a problem for Pitt's defense through the entire game. Rafael Maia, Young, Jeter and the rest of Pitt's interior defenders needed to bow up against the 6-foot-8, 269-pound load.
"He's very physical at all times so we needed to be ready because he was always trying to get the ball," Maia said. "There's no play where you can't be ready for him to be aggressive."
Pitt shot 10 of 14 to take an early double-digit advantage and led 21-9 eight minutes into the game. The Yellow Jackets cut Pitt's leads to two points with a 8-0 run, but the Panthers responded with a 11-0 spurt to go back up 13 points, 34-21, with five minutes left in the first half.
Late 3-point shooting brought Georgia Tech within single digits at the half, 42-36. Pitt finished the first 20 minutes shooting 62 percent from the field.
The teams went back-and-forth to start the second half. Georgia Tech drew within a point at 53-52
Pitt entered the bonus with 10:12 remaining in the game and took advantage of free throw opportunities to lead 67-58 at the under-8 timeout, despite shooting 29 percent through the half's first 12 minutes. Young, who played only 18 minutes due to foul trouble, scored on back-to-back possessions to give his team a 13-point lead with seven minutes to play.
The Panthers led by as many as 15 points after Artis tipped home a miss by Sterling Smith with 6:30 to play.
Adam Smith, the league's top marksman from long range, hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to bring the Yellow Jackets back within single-digits, 78-69, at the final media timeout with 3:02 to play.
The Yellow Jackets continued to inch closer down the stretch, but fell short as Pitt answered at each step and head coach Brian Gregory's team came up short.
"We got to the point where we had to score on almost every play," Gregory said. "We left some points on the free throw line and missed some point-blank shots around the basket we need to finish."