ATLANTA -- Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon told his players beforehand that their ability to rebound could be the crucial factor in winning on the road.
It turned out their success on the glass was the deciding factor in Tuesday’s 81-74 win over Georgia Tech.
Pittsburgh outrebounded Georgia Tech 38-18, with 12 of those coming on the offensive end, and wound up winning its 11th straight game.
“Rebounding is something you have to do; you have to do that to win that on the road,” Dixon said. “Obviously by that kind of margin is good.”
Georgia Tech couldn’t find a way to slow Pitt center Talib Zanna, who had 22 points, one short of his career high on 8-for-10 shooting. Zanna had a team-high nine rebounds, leaving him just shy of his sixth double-double of the season.
“You’ve got to get on the glass, and we didn’t do that,” Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. “I was disappointed in our defense. We didn’t play defense like we need to play in this league.”
The rebounding domination helped fuel Pittsburgh’s success from the field. The Panthers shot 56.9 percent from the floor and made 65.4 percent in the second half. They took only seven 3-pointers.
“For the most part we took good shots,” Dixon said. “A lot of layups, which is how we ended up shooting 56 percent.”
Pittsburgh also got 16 points from guard James Robinson, who made 5-of-7 from the floor and posted his first double-figure scoring effort since Dec. 3.
Their effort helped offset one of the worst offensive nights of the season for guard Lamar Patterson, a contender for ACC player of the year. Patterson failed to score in the first half and wound up with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Patterson did have a game-high seven assists.
“He didn’t have his best game in the first half,” Dixon said. “Lamar didn’t seem to have a lot of patience. It wasn’t his best game, but his passing was terrific.”
Georgia Tech (10-7, 1-3 ACC) was led by guard Trae Golden with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 13 points before fouling out, and center Daniel Miller and forward Kammeon Holsey each scored 12.
The turning point came in the second half when Pittsburgh went on a 9-0 run to erase a five-point deficit and take a 41-37 lead. The Panthers stretched their lead to 11 points at 53-42 on a jumper by Robinson with 11:10 left.
“We had some stops and got going in transition,” Dixon said.
Pittsburgh led by as many as 14 with 7:53 left when Georgia Tech tried to come back. The Yellow Jackets cut the Panthers' lead to 71-65, but Golden's 3-point try hit the rim and fell away with 1:18 left to end the threat.
Both teams spent most of the first half attacking the rim. Pittsburgh scored 20 points in the paint and Georgia Tech had 16 during the first half, which saw Georgia Tech leading 35-32.
Georgia Tech was without guard Jason Morris, who had started the last four games and who suffered a concussion Saturday, and guard Solomon Poole, who was out with a migraine. The Yellow Jackets already were without forward Robert Carter Jr., the team’s leading rebounder, after meniscus surgery.
“As disjointed as we were, we still put up a pretty good fight,” said Gregory, who had two players foul out and was playing a walkon by the end of the game.
With a 4-0 start in its first season in the ACC, Pittsburgh is off to its best start in conference play since opening the 2010-11 Big East at 7-0.
Of note: Pittsburgh was playing without forward Durand Johnson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who had emerged as one of the top sixth men in the ACC. Johnson torn the ACL and meniscus on his right knee in Saturday's win over Wake Forest. ... Pittsburgh moved into the rankings for the first time this week and landed at No. 22. ... Both teams play again Saturday. Pittsburgh is back on the road against No. 2 Syracuse, while Georgia Tech completes a three-game homestand with a game against Miami.