ATLANTA (AP) — For a week that began with his school dropping an appeal of its NCAA postseason ban, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner delighted in the focus of his players.
“It's not easy to get the news that we got on Monday, but to be able to come out and play like we did with the edge and energy, the compete and the fight, that's really who we've been this year," Pastner said. “These guys have just played their tails off every possession."
Jose Alvarado scored 23 points, Michael Devoe added 13 and Georgia Tech won its third straight game with a 73-57 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Barely two days since athletic director Todd Stansbury met with his players to discuss the decision to drop the appeal, Pastner didn't know how they would respond, but the Yellow Jackets (16-14, 10-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) got some measure of satisfaction in earning their most wins in league play since 1995-96.
Eric Hamilton finished with 12 points to pace Pittsburgh (15-16, 6-14).
Xavier Johnson connected from 3 and Hamilton hit two free throws to help Pitt pull within four early in the second half, but the Jackets, fueled by Evan Cole's and Jordan Usher's dunks, went on a 15-4 run to go up 47-32 on Alvarado's 3.
Alvarado scored on consecutive possessions and Devoe followed with a corner 3-pointer to make it 59-43 with 7:47 remaining. Devoe hit another corner 3 that made it a 19-point lead that essentially finished off the Panthers, who dropped to 1-9 in league road games.
“We were able to make a couple of shots and we had the momentum back a little bit," Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “They are a good team, a veteran team playing well. They were able to withstand it and they punched us back. We could never get close after that."
Georgia Tech, which led throughout, has won six in a row at home in league play to finish 6-4. The Jackets, who began the day in a five-way tie for fifth place in the ACC, have won five of six overall and eight of 11.
They took their biggest lead in the first half at 18 on Alvarado's layup at the 3:41 mark, but Pitt got 3s from Ryan Murphy, Gerald Drumgoole and Johnson to pull within nine at intermission.
Devoe hit a pair of free throws made it 20-9 midway through the for Georgia Tech's first double-digit lead.
Pitt has dropped seven straight since forcing 22 turnovers in a 74-63 win over Georgia Tech on Feb. 8. Jordan Champagnie, trying to become the first freshman to lead the Panthers in scoring and rebounding since Charles Smith in 1985-86, scored a season-high 30 in that game, but finished with 11 points and didn't score a field goal until the outcome was all but decided.
The Jackets can finish in fifth place by beating Clemson in two nights and getting a loss from Syracuse.
Pitt: The Panthers struggled badly through much of the first half against Georgia Tech's 1-3-1 zone, a bad prescription for a team that began the game shooting 40.5% from the field, its lowest mark since 1968-69, and 29.2% on 3s, the lowest mark in program history. Pitt finished the game 31% from the field, caused mostly by Au'Diese Toney going 3 for 14.
Georgia Tech: After ranking near the bottom of the ACC in shooting in their first three years under coach Josh Pastner, the Jackets are second in field-goal percentage in ACC games and sixth in 3-point accuracy.
The NCAA ruled in September that major recruiting violations were committed by one of coach Josh Pastner’s former assistants, Darryl LaBarrie, and his former friend Ron Bell. Pastner was not directly named in the NCAA’s findings and was largely cleared in the school’s investigation. In dropping its appeal, Georgia Tech announced it will not attempt to play in the ACC tournament.
Seniors James Banks and Shembari Phillips, playing their last home games, were honored before the game. Banks had four blocks. The victory assured the Jackets of a .500 finish in the ACC, a mark last reached when the 2006-07 team went 8-8.
“We worked hard and we got better together," Banks said. “I think that's what you see on the court. It kind of (stinks) that we were able to get on a roll this late in the year, but that's the culmination of a lot of guys putting in a lot of hard work together, a culmination of what we're doing off the court and our camaraderie."
Pitt: ACC tournament next week in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Georgia Tech: Ends the season Friday at Clemson.
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