Honolulu, Hawai’i – Freshman Baye Ndongo continued his sensational performance in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with 20 points and eight rebounds Saturday night, but it was not enough to lift Georgia Tech to victory as the Yellow Jackets fell, 72-64, to Nevada in the championship game.
Tech (8-4) snapped a four-game winning streak and finished as the runner-up in the tournament, and Ndongo was voted to the all-tournament team after averaging 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds over three games. The Wolf Pack won its fifth straight game and improved to 12-1.
The Jackets trailed from the 12:03 mark of the first half on, unable to contain the Wolf Pack guard tandem of Kenan Blackshear and Jarod Lucas, who combined for 50 of their team’s 72 points. Lucas scored 10 of his 20 points in the first half to stake Nevada to a 36-30 lead at intermission. Blackshear scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half, answering every Tech attempt to rally with a key bucket. They combined to go 6-for-6 at the foul line in the closing minute to seal the championship for the Wolf Pack.
Never trailing by more than seven in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Tech nonetheless was unable to catch Nevada. The Jackets twice got within a single point, first at 57-56 on Naithan George’s layup with 6:23 remaining, and again at 60-59 on George’s free throw at 4:05. Blackshear answered with a bucker each time. After Kowacie Reeves, Jr., scored on a putback and a free throw to make it 64-62 with 2:38 left, Blackshear responded yet again with a jumper in the paint.
Ndongo hit 7-of-8 shots from the floor and went 6-for-6 at the foul line to lead the Jackets Sunday night. He finished the tournament 23-of-26 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. Miles Kelly was the only other Yellow Jacket in double digits with 10 points five rebounds and three assists.
Tech is off until Jan. 3, when the Yellow Jackets resume their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule at Florida State. Tip is at 7 p.m., and the game will be televised live on the ACC Network.
Freshman Baye Ndongo averaged 18 points and 9.3 rebounds in the Diamond Head Classic, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. (photo by Courtney Metzger/Hawaii News Source)
- Georgia Tech fell short on winning its first neutral site multi-team event since the 2003 NIT Preseason NIT. In 11 such events since then, the best the Jackets have been able to accomplish is four runner-up finishes (2006 Maui Invitational, 2010 Legends Classic, 2015 NIT Pre-Season Tipoff, 2023 Diamond Head Classic). All-time, Tech has won 11 in-season tournaments.
- Tech is 4-2 all-time in the Diamond Head Classic. The Yellow Jackets finished third in the 2019 event. Tech is 10-7 all-time in the state of Hawai’i.
- Tech is 3-3 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams this season (UMass was a Quad 2 win, while Nevada was a Quad 1 opportunity). The Jackets’ remaining ACC schedule has eight Quad 1 and four Quad 2 opponents. Tech was 3-14 last season against Quad 1/2 foes.
- Tech is 6-2 since freshmen Baye Ndongo and Naithan George entered the starting lineup Nov. 28 against Mississippi State.
- Tech has outrebounded nine of 12 opponents and tied one this season; Nevada was the first team to outrebound the Jackets since Nov. 22 vs. Cincinnati. For the season, Tech has a plus-6.5 rebounding margin and ranks No. 2 in the ACC, No. 47 nationally.
- Tech was held below 40 percent from the floor for the fifth time this season and first time since Dec. 5 at Georgia. The Jackets had connected on 46.4 percent of its field goal tries in its prior three games (Penn State, UMass, Hawai’i), its best three-game aggregate percentage this season. The Jackets’ season rate is 41.5 percent.
- Nevada’s 49.1 percent from the floor was the best an opponent has shot since Howard hit 50 percent in the second game of the season. Tech had held each of its previous four opponents under 40 percent from the floor, limiting them to 36.1 percent (93-for-257) collectively. The Jackets rank No. 43 nationally in effective field goal percentage defense (KenPom.com), 22nd in 3-point FG percentage defense and 37th in block percentage.
- Tech has committed fewer than 10 turnovers in its last two games (9 each vs. Hawai’i and Nevada) after averaging more than 19 in the three games prior.
- Tech remains one of the nation’s better offensive rebounding teams this season, grabbing 10 against Nevada and averaging 14.3 per game. The Jackets lead the ACC in that category and ranked 13th-best nationally. Tech also leads the ACC in total rebounds per game and is No. 16 nationally.
- Tech has not connected on more than 30.4 percent of its threes in any one game since going 13-for-29 in its 2023-24 opener against Georgia Southern. The Jackets have connected on 28.5 percent this season from beyond the arc.
- Miles Kelly and Kowacie Reeves, Jr., are the only Tech players to start every game this season.
- Freshman Baye Ndongo averaged 18.0 points and 9.3 rebounds at the Diamond Head Classic, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. He hit 23-of-26 shots from the floor in the tournament, the best percentage (.885) of any tournament participant.
- Ndongo is Tech’s leader in rebound average (9.1 rpg), field goal percentage (62.2 pct.) and blocked shots (15 total). He has averaged 11.8 rebounds over his last four games.
- Freshman Naithan George averaged 10.7 points and 3.3 assists in the Diamond Head Classic.
- George has started Tech’s last eight games at the point guard position and has averaged 7.5 points and 4.6 assists in those games. He had eight dimes each against Alabama A&M and Penn State, and nine vs. Duke.
- Senior point guard Kyle Sturdivant averaged 10.3 points in the Diamond Head Classic, hitting 10-of-22 from the floor, 3-of-7 from three-point range and 8-of-8 from the foul line. Sturdivant’s 21 points against UMass was a career high. The six highest scoring games of his Tech career have occurred away from home.
- Kowacie Reeves, Jr., has scored in double digits in seven of Tech’s 12 games. He has hit 44.3 percent of his shots from the floor, a team-best 37.8 percent from three-point range and 85.3 percent from the foul line.
- Miles Kelly averaged 10.3 points in the Diamond Head Classic, but hit just 10-of-37 shots from the floor and 2-of-18 from three-point range. He remains Tech’s top scorer at 14.8 points per game.
- Kelly leads Tech in getting to the free throw line, attempting 67 foul shots this season after trying 59 all of 2022-23.
- Kelly grabbed five more rebounds against Nevada and averages 6.0 this season, second on the team. Kelly averaged just 2.5 rebounds per game over his first two seasons.
- Deebo Coleman has just six turnovers this season in 282 minutes.
Miles Kelly scored 10 points with five rebounds and three assists in the loss. (photo by Courtney Metzger/Hawaii News Source)