PITTSBURGH — Starting out a basketball game with a 20-point lead is a good way to win and an easy way to lose.
Georgia Tech opened with 13 unanswered points and went on a 21-1 run against Pittsburgh to win 69-54 on Saturday afternoon.
After the initial 13-point onslaught, Pitt made one free throw, but the Yellow Jackets went right back to scoring, extending their lead to 21-1 before the Panthers made a field goal. ?
A 20-0 start to a game is rare for any team, but for a Georgia Tech squad plagued by inconsistency, it was an especially rare outcome.
“Normally, we don’t do that,” center Ben Lammers said. “We have gotten better at starting, but we’ve never had a start like that. It was nice to have that 20-point cushion and be on the winning side of that.”
After a 14-2 Pitt run in the middle of the first half closed the gap, the Yellow Jackets again came out strong after halftime. Abdoulaye Gueye made two baskets as part of a 9-2 run and finished with a career-high 16 points and eight rebounds.
“We have finally gotten to start to practice and get our team together, so we have gotten better post-Christmas,” head coach Josh Pastner said. “We have improved in the start of both the game and the second half. . Our next stage is, are we able, when we have someone down, can we keep them down?”
Lammers scored 11 points with 16 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Georgia Tech (10-7, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) dominated on the inside, outrebounding the Panthers 39-20 and outscoring them in the paint 40-16.
Pitt (8-10, 0-4) got within 10 points in the second half, but after Shamiel Stevenson missed a layup, Georgia Tech rattled off 13 straight points.
“I don’t know what it was, but we spent the rest of the day trying to claw back and make a game from it,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings said of his team’s slow start. “It’s my responsibility to have them ready to play from the start and we weren’t ready to go.”
Stevenson and Jared Wilson-Frame each scored nine points for the Panthers.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have four players that average in double figures scoring, but it’s been team defense that has led to their four-game winning streak. They’ve held four straight opponents to 60 points or fewer and are 7-0 when they do so. They’re 2-7 when allowing more than 60 points.
Pitt: The Panthers announced earlier in the week that senior forward Ryan Luther will miss the rest of the season with a stress reaction in his right foot. Luther had been primarily replaced by freshmen Terrell Brown and Peace Ilegomah, but sophomore junior college transfer Kene Chukwuka emerged as an option after a strong showing against Duke. Chukwuka started and held his ground against Lammers, an all-ACC preseason selection.
Justin Moore did not make the trip for Georgia Tech, but Pastner said he is healthy and eligible, and did not travel for personal reasons. Moore was suspended two games for an undisclosed rules violation in November, missed three games for academic and personal reasons in December, and hasn’t played in any of the team’s four games in January.
Georgia Tech: Will return home Thursday for a visit from No. 3 Virginia, which is currently the top-ranked team in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are 2-0 at home in ACC play with wins over Miami and Notre Dame. The Cavaliers have won seven straight.
Pitt: Will visit Syracuse on Tuesday. The Panthers have won six of their last seven games against the Orange, but the lone defeat was their last trip to the Carrier Dome, a 77-66 loss last January.