The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets picked up their biggest win of the year, upsetting the Louisville Cardinals 64-58 Wednesday night. The Cardinals were 12-1 in conference play coming into this game and sat at the top of the ACC. Despite a long, drawn-out, chippy game of basketball, the Yellow Jackets persevered and came out on top. The Yellow Jackets improve to 12-13 on the year (6-8 ACC).
So what went well for the Yellow Jackets to ensue this massive upset?
No one player stood out for Georgia Tech on offense Wednesday night. Everyone had their moments in different parts of the game to help push them to success. All five starters scored double-digit points, with Jose Alvarado leading the team with 18 points. When the shots from the outside started not to fall, it was James Banks III who helped keep the offense flowing. Despite the Cardinal’s big frontcourt, Banks found success in the paint, finishing the game with 10 points. Also, Jordan Usher added 11 points, Moses Wright had 12 points and Michael Devoe put up 11 points as well.
The Yellow Jackets took advantage of a chippy game with lots of fouls. Georgia Tech forced 27 fouls from Louisville. With these fouls came a ton of free throws. Despite struggling early from the line, the Yellow Jackets hit their free throws when it mattered, sealing the game. In the end, Georgia Tech shot 20-28 from the line. Overall the offense looked great from the first tip to the final whistle. The Yellow Jackets led all 40 minutes of the game, completely stunning the Cardinals.
“My team-mates stepped up a lot, and overall it was just a great team win,” Devoe said.
Coming into this game, Louisville’s offense was surging and were predicted by many to storm through the Yellow Jackets. The defensive scheme by Head Coach Josh Pastner and his defense worked to perfection. Louisville seemed stunned by the high tempo man defense, falling 16-5 early in the first half. Going into the half, Louisville was shooting 8-23 from the field and 1-7 from the three-point line. The struggles stayed with them for the second half as well. The Cardinals finished the game shooting 19-56 from the field and 3-24 from the three-point line.
Anytime you cause a team to shoot that poorly, you’re doing something right. The standout stat would be the suppression of star forward Jordan Nwora. Nwora coming into this game was in the first round of many NBA mock drafts but was completely ice cold all game. Nwora finished the game with two points on 1-6 shooting and had four turnovers. It wasn’t just Nwora who struggled for the Cardinals; the entire team turned the ball over all game long. Overall, Georgia Tech forced 16 turnovers, which allowed 14 huge points for the Yellow Jackets.
“[The assistant coaches] get full credit, and the players get the credit for executing the game plan,” Pastner said. “We’ve always been good defensively because that is controllable, which is effort based, toughness based.”
Highlight and Hustle Plays
In tight games, it’s huge for teams to get their home crowd amped up and give them that sixth man’s presence. Georgia Tech did that to perfection. For once, the crowd showed up in full support and it made a huge difference. As the game slowed down from the electric start, the crowd started to get out of it, until Georgia Tech rallied on a couple of highlight plays. A 50/50 ball sees Banks hit the floor, throwing a pass to Alvarado who throws it down the court to Usher who slams off an emphatic dunk, finally bringing the crowd back to life and starting another offensive run to end the half.
As Louisville clawed back to within two points late in the second half, it was Wright who ran down the court, blocking a shot off the backboard which would have granted the Cardinals their first lead of the game. Without key plays like these two, I believe Louisville would have completed the comeback and Georgia Tech would have let another game slip out of their fingers.
“I’m proud of my teammates, we did excellent on the 50/50 balls,” Alvarado said. “Moses Wright with the big-time block… I’m just so proud of my guys.”
With both of the factors at play, it allowed for a perfect storm for Pastner and his men.
So what comes next after a big win like this?
As it stands, Georgia Tech is sitting mid-table in the ACC rankings, and barring no crazy upsets will more than likely stay dead center for the remainder of the season. With a sub-par record, they’ll need to make a historic run in the ACC tournament for a shot at March Madness. But a tournament bid shouldn’t determine how you view this team’s success, every game this team has gotten better.
“We have gotten a ton better. If you look where we were in November [and] December and compare to where we are now, it’s night and day; it’s not even the same team,” Pastner said.
The Yellow Jackets will enjoy a much-needed bye-weekend before hitting the road for a tough two-game road trip. Georgia Tech will look to keep the momentum going as they face Wake Forest and Syracuse away, with high hopes for post-season basketball.