A last-second tip-in by Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt delivered a 71-69 upset of No. 6 Miami Wednesday night in Coral Gables, Fla., probably the biggest win of coach Brian Gregory’s two-year tenure.
“I don’t think many people thought we had a chance to win this game,” Gregory said.
Tied at 69 with under a minute to go, forward Robert Carter stole a pass into the post, setting up Georges-Hunt’s game-winner. Out of a timeout with 28.7 seconds left, Georges-Hunt took the ball with about eight seconds to go and, on a play called in the timeout, drove to the basket. His shot missed, but he followed with a left-handed tip-in as time expired, precipitating a happy pile-up of Tech players and staff on the court.
“To be honest with you, players win games and you’ve got to be able to make a play, and Marcus made a play on that one,” Gregory said.
In a season in which they have both struggled against the heavyweights of the ACC – the Jackets were 1-7 against Miami, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia – and failed to close out tight contests – 1-4 in games decided by five points or fewer – the Jackets pulled out a mammoth victory in the clutch.
“They were fired up, there’s no question about it, and they deserved it,” Gregory said.
Among those celebrating in the locker room afterwards was Tech great Kenny Anderson, who attended the game. Anderson lives in the area and just finished his second season coaching at the Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Fla.
Tech recovered from a 10-point deficit with 11:02 to go with efficient, aggressive offense and enough defense to slow down the high-powered Hurricanes. Down 65-60 after two Shane Larkin free throws with 6:01 to go, Tech held the Hurricanes to four points the rest of the way to pull out the win.
Guard Chris Bolden finished with a game- and career-high 21 points, including two on a layup in which he faked a behind-the-back pass to create an opening to the basket that gave Tech a 67-66 lead with 3:40 to go, the Jackets’ first advantage since the 13:28 mark of the first half.
Center Daniel Miller added 18 on 8-for-12 shooting to go with five rebounds. Georges-Hunt scored only four points, including the game-winner, but spread out six assists against one turnover. Tech, which turned the ball over 15 times in a dispiriting loss to N.C. State on Sunday, turned the ball over just nine times. The Jackets shot 51.7 percent from the field, 10 percentage points better than their league-worst average and 12.8 points better than Miami’s defensive field-goal rate.
It enabled Tech to overcome a considerable free throw disparity – 3-for-6 for Tech compared to 15-for-21 for the Hurricanes.
Tech improved to 16-13 overall and 6-11 in the ACC, while Miami dropped to 23-6 and 14-3. It was the Hurricanes’ first home loss of the season after 13 wins.
After Tech’s win over Maryland last week, Gregory practically scoffed at a question about whether it was the biggest win since he had been hired, pointing instead to the Jackets’ two wins over Georgia. While important, it would be harder to argue against the significance of Wednesday night’s win in Coral Gables – a win over a top-10 team on its home court as it attempted to win outright the ACC regular-season title. Tech had not beaten a top-25 team since Gregory's hire. Its last win over a ranked team anywhere was against No. 19 Maryland in the 2010 ACC tournament. It was the Jackets' first road win over a top-10 opponent since an upset of No. 3 Duke in March 2004, the season that they went to the national championship game. Tech had lost 13 such games after that.
“Our guys played their hearts out tonight, there’s no question about it,” Gregory said. “We played with great intensity, great energy, great belief in what we were doing.”
The win spoke again to the considerable turnaround Gregory has driven in the Jackets' capacity to win on the road. Tech had lost 36 of 39 ACC road games prior to its 64-54 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 9. The Jackets have won three of the past four ACC road games, including the Miami victory, since then.
With the win, Tech has secured a winning record for the regular season and gave its chances of earning an at-large bid to the NIT a considerable boost. Miami is ranked No. 3 in RPI according to realtimerpi.com. Prior to Wednesday, Tech's biggest RPI win was over No. 35 St. Mary's.