Jan. 27, 2005
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA – Jarrett Jack walked toward the opposite end of the court, struggling to catch his breath. The Georgia Tech guard remembered his two missed free throws in overtime, along with a critical turnover that allowed Wake Forest to tie it up in regulation.
He was determined to put an end to a long, grueling night and get the 22nd-ranked Yellow Jackets back on the right track.
Jack came through, making two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to give Georgia Tech a 102-101 overtime victory over the fifth-ranked Demon Deacons on Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I told myself that I had to come through for my team,” said Jack, who scored 23 points. “The mark of a great team is being able to put the past behind you.”
The Demon Deacons got the last shot, but Chris Paul missed at the buzzer. He also had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but that attempt fell off the rim, too.
“Coach said get the ball and try to get to the basket,” Paul said. “I just missed it.”
It was a thrilling game, featuring all sorts of twists and turns.
Georgia Tech (12-5, 3-3) built a 17-point lead in the first half, but Wake Forest (16-3, 4-2) got back in it. Eric Williams led the Demon Deacons with 27 points, but Paul managed only eight on 2-of-11 shooting.
“We take pride in stopping great players,” said Will Bynum, who scored a career-high 30 points for the Yellow Jackets and spent time guarding Paul. “He’s a great player, so we try to play him as physically as possible. Don’t let him get into rhythm. Be there in his face every time.”
Georgia Tech’s student body stormed the court after the final miss, setting off a raucous celebration that lasted several minutes. Weary players from both teams struggled just to make it to their locker rooms.
The Yellow Jackets started the season in the top five, but three straight ACC losses sent them tumbling in the rankings. They had to bounce back from a stunning upset at home by Virginia Tech last Saturday.
“This may have been make or break for our season,” Bynum said. “If we had lost this game, it could have destroyed our confidence.”
It was a game that didn’t want to end, stretching on for nearly 3 hours and leaving both teams huffing and puffing. Georgia Tech’s Isma’il Muhammad hobbled off the court with severe leg cramps, but the pain subsided after he was injected with fluids. He finished the game with both arms wrapped in gauze.
Before his clinching free throws, Jack walked almost to the opposite foul line, gaining a few precious seconds to catch his breath.
Wake Forest took off up the court and Paul missed a desperation shot as the horn sounded. But official Tony Greene signaled that the Demon Deacons had called a timeout, forcing a look at the television replay to determine how much time was left.
The clock was reset to 2.8 seconds, and Paul got one more chance. Jack fell down trying to keep up with the Demon Deacons star, but it didn’t matter.
Clearly, the Yellow Jackets seem to have figured out Paul, the leading vote-getter on the AP’s preseason All-America team. He was held to a career-low two points in the game at Atlanta last year.
“We have a lot of big bodies,” Jack said. “That’s something he’s not used to. … Size bothers anybody.”
Williams’ size bothered the Yellow Jackets. The 6-foot-9, 291-pound junior repeatedly muscled through double- and triple-teams to reach the basket.
“I couldn’t let them stop me,” he said. “No matter how many guys they put on me, I had to get around them.”
But Williams met his match near the end of a game – a cramp that forced him to the bench.
“I was crying after the game. I felt I let my team down,” he said. “I was disappointed about having to come out.”
Justin Gray added 22 points for Wake Forest.
Wake Forest seized its first lead since scoring the opening basket of the game, going up 94-92 when Vytas Danelius laid it in off Paul’s pass with 2:15 remaining.
Luke Schenscher put Georgia Tech back in front on a dunk with 44 seconds left, and Georgia Tech appeared to be in good shape when Muhammad stole the ball from Williams at the other end.
But Jack stumbled bringing the ball up court, Wake Forest came up with the loose ball and Taron Downey drove in a for a layup at the other end. Bynum threw his body into Downey, sending both players tumbling into the basket support and drawing an intentional foul on Bynum.
Downey hit two free throws with 19 seconds left to make it 98-all, and Wake Forest got the ball. But Paul couldn’t convert.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. “We battled back and certainly had a chance to win it in the end.”