Georgia Tech kept its postseason dream alive Tuesday, but like most of the team’s triumphs during this unexpected season, it didn’t come easy.
With the game tied with 6:17 left, the Yellow Jackets finally found their offensive gear. They scored the final seven points of the game to dispatch Pittsburgh 61-52 in the final regular-season game of the season at McCamish Pavilion.
The win improves Georgia Tech’s record to 17-13 and 8-9 in the ACC. It gives the team a chance to finish at .500 in the conference if it can find a way to beat Syracuse on the road in the season finale Saturday. The Yellow Jackets haven’t finished .500 in the ACC since 2007.
The Yellow Jackets were better suited this time to handle the quick 24-hour turnaround than they were last week, when they struggled against N.C. State after an emotionally draining win over Syracuse.
Head coach Josh Pastner restructured the preparation after Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame so there was less time spent on the court. As a result, the team looked fresher down the stretch against Pittsburgh.
Three who mattered
Ben Lammers: Sporting a new haircut, the junior scored 20 points — the sixth time he has scored 20 or more this season. Lammers had a three-point play during the final four minutes and threw down an emphatic slam during the closing stretch.
Josh Okogie: The freshman played his best during the final five minutes, despite being burdened with four personal fouls. Okogie scored eight of the team’s final 10 points and finished with 14. Okogie also won seven 50-50 balls.
Quinton Stephens: After a poor first half (no rebounds, two assists), the senior rallied to finish with six rebounds and five assists. He scored nine points in his final regular-season appearance at McCamish Pavilion.
The Yellow Jackets kept Pittsburgh at bay and pulled away by hitting seven straight field goals to end the game. The biggest were a pull-up jumper by Okogie and a slam by Lammers on a nice feed from Josh Heath.
Georgia Tech got to the line: The Yellow Jackets were 10-for-15 from the free-throw line, including 7-for-10 in the second half. They made as many as Pittsburgh tried, a big win in Pastner’s opinion.
Guard rebounding makes a difference: Georgia Tech’s guards had 18 of the team’s 33 rebounds. Conversely, the Pittsburgh guards had 10 rebounds. Likewise, the Yellow Jackets had assists on 14 of their 24 made field goals, just shy of their goal of 60 percent.
Ogbonda provides a lift: Seeing that Lammers was getting tired, Pastner went to freshman Sylvester Ogbonda for a five-minute stretch in the first half. Sandwiched around a timeout, it gave Lammers an extended rest, and he was much fresher at the end.
Pastner’s record intact: Pastner has never lost three games in a row as a player or a coach. To have that remain intact this season is remarkable.
Another good crowd: The game didn’t have a lot of curb appeal but still drew a nice crowd — especially in the student section. The crowd of 7,185 provided some energy and enthusiasm that helped spark the team.
They said it
Pittsburgh hea coach Kevin Stallings on whether Georgia Tech is a tournament team: “I hope so. I don’t want to speculate, but they’ve put together an awfully good year.”
Pastner on whether Georgia Tech is a tournament team: “Eight wins in the ACC? How can you not automatically be in the NCAA Tournament? Eight wins should be an automatic berth — and I’m not biased.”
Pastner on the defensive effort against Pittsburgh: “We had to guard, and we guarded. We had to because we really struggled to score. It’s taken some time off my life.”
Georgia Tech plays at Syracuse at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the final regular-season game.