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Jackets Topple No. 3 North Carolina

THE FLATS – Freshman point guard Naithan George hit a driving left-handed layup over 6-foot-11 All-American Armando Bacot with 7.7 seconds to go, lifting Georgia Tech men’s basketball to a historic 74-73 win over No. 3 North Carolina on Tuesday evening at sold-out McCamish Pavilion.

Georgia Tech, which trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half and led by as many as eight in the final five minutes, was down 73-72 after North Carolina’s R.J. Davis capped a 13-4 UNC run with a driving layup of his own with 34.6 seconds left to play.

However, on the Yellow Jackets’ ensuing possession, George drove from the right wing to the left block and floated the game-winner over Bacot’s long reach, high off the glass and through to give Tech the 74-73 advantage.

After a UNC timeout with 4.6 seconds remaining, the Tar Heels went to Davis again, but he couldn’t get around Tech’s Ebenezer Dowuona and his contested running jumper from the left block was off the mark at the buzzer, setting off a court-storming celebration for the Thrillerdome crowd.

The win was Georgia Tech’s first over a top-3 opponent in nearly 19 years, dating back to a 78-75 victory over No. 3 North Carolina in the 2005 ACC Tournament semifinals (March 12, 2005). It was also the Yellow Jackets’ first regular-season win over a top-3 team since a 76-68 triumph at No. 3 Duke on March 3, 2004, and its first home win over a top-3 foe in three decades, going back to a 89-69 rout over top-ranked UNC on Jan. 12, 1994 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Making Tech’s win over the third-ranked Tar Heels even more impressive was that the Jackets’ played the final 36 minutes without their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, ACC Freshman of the Year candidate Baye Ndongo, who was forced out of the game before the first media timeout due to a head injury. Despite being without Ndongo for the majority of the game, the Jackets (10-11, 3-7 ACC) won for just the second time in their last 10 games, while snapping North Carolina’s 10-game winning streak and handing UNC (17-4, 9-1 ACC) their first conference loss of the season.

Several Yellow Jackets stepped up in Ndongo’s absence, none more so than fifth-year senior Kyle Sturdivant, who came off the bench to score 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 night from 3-point range. Sturdivant’s 18 points were his most-ever in a home game during his four-year Georgia Tech career (the Atlanta native transferred to Tech following his freshman season at USC).

George’s game-winner capped a 16-point night and Miles Kelly added 15 to round out three Yellow Jackets in double-figures. Tyzhaun Claude, playing 28 minutes (11 more than his season average of 16.9 minutes per game), and Tafara Gapare, playing 25 (10 more than his average of 14.9), grabbed eight rebounds apiece to help fill the void left by Ndongo.

Tech trailed by as many as 11 points late in the first half, but closed the opening period on a 12-1 run to send the game to halftime knotted at 37-37.

Davis led UNC with 28 points while Harrison Ingram pulled down 13 rebounds for the Tar Heels.

Georgia Tech returns to action on Saturday at NC State. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. and the game will be televised across the United States on The CW (Peachtree TV – Ch. 17 in Atlanta).

Tyzhaun Claude scored nine points with eight rebounds and helped limit UNC All-American Armando Bacot to nine points and nine boards. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Post-Game Notes

TEAM NOTES

  • Tech sold out its first game in McCamish Pavilion for the first time since January 8, 2020, a 73-64 loss to No. 2-ranked Duke.
  • Tech’s last win over a team ranked No. 3 or higher was March 12, 2005, a 78-75 victory over No. 3 North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C.
  • Tech’s last win over a top-3 team in the regular season was March 3, 2004, a 76-68 road win at No. 3 Duke.
  • Tech’s last win over a team ranked No. 3 or higher at home was Jan. 12, 1994, an 89-69 win over No. 1 North Carolina.
  • Tech is 4-8 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams this season. The Jackets’ remaining ACC schedule has four Quad 1 and two Quad 2 opponents. Tech was 3-14 last season against Quad 1/2 foes.
  • Fifteen of Tech’s 21 games this season have been decided by 10 points or fewer, nine of those by five points or fewer. Five of Tech’s seven ACC losses have come by single digits.
  • Tech has exceeded a point per possession in six consecutive games, and in eight of 10 ACC games this season (KenPom.com).
  • Only six Tech teams since 1997 have finished a season with a KenPom.com offensive efficiency rating higher than the current Yellow Jackets’ rating of 110.4. All but one of those teams played in the post-season.
  • Tech has made 76.8 percent of its free throws (63-of-82) in its last four games.
  • Led by Kyle Sturdivant’s 18, Tech got 39 points from its bench, more than half of its 74 in the game. That was a season high for the Jackets in an ACC game, one off the season high of 40 vs. UMass Lowell.

PLAYER NOTES

  • Freshman forward Baye Ndongo left the game five minutes in to be evaluated for a head injury, did not return.
  • Freshman point guard Naithan George reached double digits in points for the fifth time in the last six games with his 16-point effort against North Carolina, seventh time this season. The 6-3 guard has averaged 14.2 points over that stretch, hitting 45.8 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from three-point range. He also has 36 assists and nine turnovers across those six games.
  • Senior point guard Kyle Sturdivant hit double digits for the fourth time in ACC play with his team-high 18 points against the Tar Heels, seventh time this season. It was his career-high in points for a Tech home game, though he has scored more in games away from McCamish Pavilion. Seven of his eight highest point totals have come in road or neutral games.
  • Sturdivant went 4-for-4 from three-point range against North Carolina, a career-high for three-pointers. He had hit three four times previously.
  • Tyzhaun Claude (9 points, 8 rebounds vs. North Carolina) has averaged 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds over Tech’s last five games, hitting 10-of-14 from the floor and 13-of-17 from the foul line. He has averaged 24.8 total minutes.
  • Claude and Tafara Gapare each exceeded their average minutes by mote than 10 against the Tar Heels in an effort to make up for the loss of Ndongo (53 total minutes combined). They had eight rebounds each and combined to score 15 points (6-13 FG, 3-3 FT).

Kyle Sturdivant hit four three-pointers and scored 18 points. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Game Highlights

Post-Game Press Conference

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