AP Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) (Mar. 1) – Joseph Forte scored 19 points, including the go-ahead layup with 51 seconds left in overtime, as North Carolina likely clinched its 26th straight trip to the NCAA tournament by holding off Georgia Tech 74-72 Wednesday night.
The victory moved North Carolina (18-11, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) within two of its 30th straight 20-win season and clinched its 36th consecutive winning record in the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets (12-16, 4-11) remained tied with Clemson for last in the league.
Jason Collier led the Yellow Jackets with 25 points, including a shot in the lane with 31 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime tied at 64-64.
The 7-foot Collier also blocked a shot by Ed Cota prior to his game-tying tally and affected Cota’s attempt at a game-winner with three seconds remaining.
Neither team led by more than three points in the extra five-minute period.
A 3-pointer by Tony Akins with 1:11 left in OT put the Yellow Jackets up 72-71, but Forte’s driving layup 20 seconds later proved to be the go-ahead score.
After a free throw by Cota, Georgia Tech had a chance to either tie it or win in the final moments, but Shaun Fein missed a 3-point attempt with 9 seconds left, and after a scramble for the ball, T.J. Vines threw it out of bounds trying to get it to the wing.
Julius Peppers added a season-high 14 points off the bench for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels trailed 32-30 after a lackluster half, but used a 13-2 run to start the second period to garner some breathing room. Forte sank a shot in the lane and a 3-pointer as North Carolina was 8-for-11 from the floor to start the period.
North Carolina led 57-47 with 8:26 left and appeared to be in control of the game before the Yellow Jackets got a pair of free throws and consecutive 3-pointers by Collier to pull back into it.
Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who announced he’ll resign at the end of the season, received a standing ovation from the Smith Center crowd during introductions. About 15 reporters honored him by wearing blue sport jackets and yellow ties – a trademark sideline outfit of the veteran coach.