Pitt men’s basketball is currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Panthers are sliding at the wrong time, but their schedule grants them a small break. On Wednesday, they get a rematch with the last team they beat.
In their last game of the regular season, the Pittsburgh Panthers (15-15 overall, 6-13 ACC) will travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (15-14 overall, 9-9 ACC) on Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
With the Panthers losing their past six games and the Yellow Jackets on a two-game winning streak, the second meeting between the two teams will be important for standings and momentum for the next season.
The Panthers are fresh off of a tight 73-77 loss to the NC State Wolfpack this past Saturday. Pitt started strong in the first half, making six of the first 10 shots and leading for much of the opening minutes of the game. However, familiar struggles with free-throw shooting and scoring droughts allowed the Wolfpack to remain within close digits and ultimately take the lead in the second half of the game.
Georgia Tech has won six consecutive games at home and is 6-3 in its last nine conference games.
In its previous match up with the Yellow Jackets back in February, Pitt won 73-64. With a home crowd behind them, the Panthers showcased their offensive and defensive potential, a rare phenomena with this year’s unpredictable squad. An energetic performance from junior center Terrell Brown kept the defense locked in, as Pitt’s defensive unit forced 22 turnovers that afternoon.
And on the offensive end, first-year guard Justin Champagnie carried the struggling Panthers’ offense. Champagnie recorded only the fourth 30-point scoring game in Pitt history and added nine rebounds for good measure.
He has scored in double figures 13 times in ACC play and averages 12.3 points per game. His ability to score on the three-point line and make plays within the paint makes him a crucial player for the upcoming game against Georgia Tech.
In order to win on Wednesday night, the Panthers will have to overcome the shooting struggles that have determined the last few games and the season overall. Pitt is currently shooting 41% from the field, tied for the lowest in program history with the 1968-69 season. In five of the past six games, the Panthers have shot under 40% from the field.
It’s a tall task for Pitt’s recently vapid offense. The scoring struggles will be met by defensive strengths from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech ranks No. 19 nationally in defensive efficiency and No. 19 in effective field goal percentage defense.
Champagnie and sophomore guards Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson combine for 54.7% of the team’s scoring and will go head to head with Georgia Tech’s top guards. Junior guard Jose Alvarado and sophomore guard Michael Devoe, who combine to score 39.7% of the Yellow Jacket’s points, will provide a worthy test for the Panther backcourt.
The Yellow Jackets currently sit in a four-way tie for fifth place in ACC rankings. Winning against Pitt would give them 10 ACC wins for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
Wednesday night’s game is important for the Panthers in order to create the energy necessary for a strong run in the ACC tournament and find some positivity to carry over into next season.
Despite winning against the Yellow Jackets earlier in the season, the Panthers will be unable to end their losing streak on Wednesday night. They have lost much of the energy gained during this year’s strong start. As the losses began to pile up, Pitt was unable to regain the momentum.
Not having the home-court advantage will negatively impact the road-weary Panthers when they head south on Wednesday. The Panthers have only won two of the 10 true road games that they have played this season and score less points in away games than at home.
A lack of energy and inability to score crucial points during crunch time will cause Pitt to fall short at Georgia Tech in its regular season finale.
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