Georgia Tech holds on to beat Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech's Michael Devoe scored 22 points and had six rebounds and three assists. (University of Pittsburgh)

Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech's Michael Devoe scored 22 points and had six rebounds and three assists. (University of Pittsburgh)

PITTSBURGH – Georgia Tech was coming apart. An 18-point second-half lead had been shredded to a mere four points. A little more than two minutes remained. The once-dormant Petersen Events Center crowd was fully engaged.

And, with his team needing him to stem the tide, Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe rose up for a 3-pointer.

Accepting a pass from forward Jordan Usher out of a press break, Devoe was wide open on the left wing. While working some clock might have been an option to consider, Devoe let the shot go without hesitation.

“It’s what I do,” Devoe said. “It’s something that I’ve always done, is take big-time shots like that.”

Pitt coach Jeff Capel had seen this before. Last season, Devoe dropped a cold-blooded 3-pointer on the Panthers from the “GT” logo late in the Jackets’ win at McCamish Pavilion.

“I was afraid,” Capel said, “because he makes those type of shots.”

With perhaps the game in the balance, Devoe’s arcing shot dove through the hoop with 2:03 left, nudging the Jackets’ lead back to seven points and helping tie down a 68-62 lead for Tech Saturday night.

It was not a classic ACC matchup. Both teams made more unforced errors than they ought. The Panthers turned the ball over 16 times and did not look remotely like the version of themselves that had won three games in a row prior to Saturday, including a road win over North Carolina on Wednesday. Capel said that he didn’t feel the energy beforehand that his team had shown in preparing for the Tar Heels.

“So I was really concerned coming into the game and I think I had a right to be, unfortunately,” Capel said.

The Jackets took advantage of many of the Panthers’ 16 turnovers by scoring easy transition baskets and built a 63-45 lead with 5:43 to play. But Tech came undone against Pitt’s increased defensive pressure, turning the ball over four times in the final four minutes, twice on shot-clock violations.

Devoe had acknowledged on Friday that he had not played with full energy in the team’s humbling home loss to N.C. State on Tuesday (in which the Jackets trailed by as many as 30 points to the Wolfpack, then in last place) and further espoused his plan to play the final games of his senior season with 110% effort. He delivered a staggering blow, one that Capel will surely remember.

“That’s what he does,” Capel said. “That’s what he’s done throughout his career and that’s one of the reasons why he’s one of the best guards in our league. He’s not afraid of the moment.”

While none of his eight field goals were dunks (a goal of Devoe’s at his career’s end is to get his first career dunk), he did score one that counted more, both literally and in the context of the game.

“Thank goodness Michael Devoe was that open and took the shot and made it, because it was getting hairy there,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “Goodness gracious.”

Tech (11-15 overall, 4-11 ACC) elevated itself ever so barely out of last place in the league, now a half-game ahead of N.C. State and Clemson. The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Jackets.

Pitt (11-17, 6-11) had its senior night spoiled by the Jackets, who benefited from the Panthers’ turnovers and their 5-for-20 shooting from 3-point range.

“A win is a win,” Devoe said. “I’ll take it.”

Devoe’s dagger 3-pointer was a part of a team-high 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists. The late 3-pointer moved him into 14th place on Tech’s all-time scoring list with 1,617 points. He passed B.J. Elder, who is on the Tech staff as its associate director of personnel and was on the bench Saturday night.

“I definitely want to give a shoutout to B.J.,” Devoe said. “Great mentor, great person and obviously was a great basketball player here at Georgia Tech. I want to give a huge shoutout to him, but it’s a great accomplishment. It’s truly a blessing. And I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff here. They’ve developed me really well the last four years that I’ve been here. I’m extremely grateful to be able to play for coach Pastner and his staff.”

Center Rodney Howard scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting along with seven rebounds in 33 minutes of play. It followed a double-double effort against N.C. State and a 10-point game at Virginia in the game prior. In the eight ACC games he had played before that – he missed five games with an ankle injury – he had scored a total of 15 points.

“When he’s playing like he does or like he has been it just totally changes the dynamic of our team,” Pastner said.

For the game, Tech shot 46.4% (26-for-56) and registered 18 assists, tying its high for assists in an ACC game this season. Pitt shot 41.2% (21-for-51).