The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets held off The Miami Hurricanes in dramatic fashion Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Hurricanes 63-57 in a must-win game. With this win, Georgia Tech joins the likes of Syracuse, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, and Clemson at 9-9 in the ACC.
Despite the victory, fans saw two completely different Georgia Tech teams Saturday night, the first half Yellow Jackets and the second half Yellow Jackets. So what happened in this thrilling ACC matchup?
Georgia Tech, in the first half, looked unbeatable. Despite the game having a very physical vibe, it was Georgia Tech who seemed to be battling harder, and it showed. After bearing down on the defensive side, shutting the Hurricanes down completely, the Yellow Jackets started to get it going on the offensive side. The offense led by Michael Devoe, James Banks III, and Jose Alvarado got Georgia Tech into a large lead of 32-20. Even bench players like Evan Cole looked fantastic, adding six of his points to allow Head Coach Josh Pastner and his men a large 40-24 halftime lead. The team went into the half shooting a solid 48.5% from the field. On the other side, the defense stepped up, suppressing Miami’s offense and causing a staggering 11 turnovers.
“I’m proud of my guys, a lot of teams would have probably folded,” Alvarado said. “Moses [Wright], James [Banks], Devoe, Bubba [Parham], everyone just played a big part… and I’m just proud of my team.”
The second half is where things got really rough for the Yellow Jackets. Despite an early push that saw them expand their lead to 20 points, things started to fall apart. Miami began to capitalize on every mistake by Georgia Tech, and before you know it, the 20 point lead turned into single digits. The Hurricanes overall went on a ginormous 24-2 run to take the lead. During this run, the Yellow Jackets endured a grueling four-minute scoring drought, numerous offensive fouls, and a plethora of turnovers. Junior guard Chris Lykes stole the show for the Hurricanes during this time, hitting two three-pointers, along with a huge and-1 layup that tied the game up. The promising, electric first half Georgia Tech had been completely overshadowed by this rough performance.
“We couldn’t score. We got stuck… we obviously had 18 turnovers that’s just too many. We were missing shots, we weren’t getting stops, and it was just a bad combination,’’ Pastner said.
James Banks III
Nonetheless, the Yellow Jackets buckled down and finished strong. Banks showed tremendous heart down the stretch fighting for every offensive rebound in sight, despite the second chance shots not falling. Ultimately it was this heart shown by Banks that sealed a Yellow Jacket victory, a steal leading to a Wright layup, and a crucial block on the other end secured a Georgia Tech victory. Banks finished with yet another double-double, 13 points, and 14 rebounds.
“I thought [James Banks] having a double-double was just really really good today. His motor was running start to finish,” Pastner said.
After this victory as aforementioned, the Yellow Jackets find themselves in 5th place in the ACC. They will host Pittsburgh in their final home game of the season on March 4th before traveling to Clemson to close out the year on March 6th. These two games are huge, must-win games for Coach Pastner and his men. The Jackets have currently won four of their last five games, including an upset win against Louisville. To close out the year with six wins in seven games would raise some eyebrows with the selection committee. Also, a higher seed would grant the Yellow Jackets a better chance at going deeper into the ACC tournament, which is right around the corner. Despite a slow start to the year, a strong finish could mean the world for Georgia Tech and could potentially see them slip into the NCAA Tournament.