Dec. 03, 2013
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech erased a 12-point deficit in the final seven minutes and came away with a 67-64 victory over Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion.
Tech (6-3) snapped a five-game losing streak in the 15th annual inter-conference series, avenged a 75-62 loss to Illinois in Champaign a year ago and tagged the Illini (7-1) with their first loss of the season.
Robert Carter, Jr. set a career high with 21 points while Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20, and they combined to score 14 points in the Yellow Jackets’ closing 19-4 run. Their efforts marked the first time two Yellow Jackets had scored 20 or more points in the same game during third-year head coach Brian Gregory’s tenure.
Illinois built a 26-17 advantage while the Jackets struggled from the floor, missing 10 of 11 shots during the stretch. Then following an Illini timeout, the Jackets made seven of their final 10 field goal attempts, including a deep three from Solomon Poole that gave Tech its first lead with 2:10 remaining. The Jackets closed the first half on a 19-7 run and took a 36-33 lead to the locker room.
The Jackets maintained their lead in the opening minutes of the second half as they led 44-40 with 16 minutes to go. But following a Carter, Jr. jumper, the Jackets again went cold from the floor. In a period of seven and a half minutes Tech went 0-for-10 from the floor while the Illini exploded for a 21-4 run.
But just like in the first half, Georgia Tech finished the period with a furious rally. A Georges-Hunt three pointer cut the lead to single digits and a Carter Jr. put-back made the score 60-53 in favor of Illinois.
Coming out of the final media timeout and still trailing by seven, Georgia Tech got another timely three-pointer from Solomon Poole, and Georges-Hunt capped the 12-0 spurt with a layup to tie the game at 60-60 with 1:48 remaining.
Illinois responded with a clutch three-point play from junior forward Nnanna Egwu that put the Illini in front again at 63-60. After a made free throw on an intentional foul, Illinois led 64-60 with less than 90 seconds to play.
Tech responded with Carter, Jr.’s most pivotal field goal attempt of the night: a three-pointer from the top of the arc that cut the deficit to one point. On the next Illini possession, redshirt-senior Daniel Miller intersected the passing lane and created a loose ball that Trae Golden corralled. Miller finished with a layup on the other end for a 65-64 Tech lead with only 24 seconds remaining.
The Jackets forced a difficult three-point attempt from the baseline in the final seconds and the rebound was secured by Carter, Jr. The sophomore forward knocked down his two free throw attempts to set a career high of 21 points and cement the come-from-behind victory.
Georgia Tech returns to action Saturday at 2 p.m. against East Tennessee State at McCamish Pavilion.