ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech basketball team is starting to earn a little more national respect.
The Yellow Jackets (6-1) moved up more than 100 spots in the RPI rankings after their wins over Rhode Island and Northwestern. Georgia Tech moved from No. 156 to 40, making head coach Brian Gregory’s team the eighth-ranked team from the ACC. Georgia Tech is 3-1 against teams in the top 100.
“Our guys are fighting through some stuff and showing resolve,” Gregory said.
The Yellow Jackets return home Saturday to play USC Upstate at McCamish Pavilion. It will be the first meeting between the two programs. USC Upstate is 7-2 under head coach Eddie Payne.
This game will be the first of three straight at home for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets played four in a row on the road -- three at the Orlando Classic and at Northwestern in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
USC Upstate has an RPI rating of 261. The Spartans are led by senior Ty Greene, who averages 16.5 points, and Fred Miller, a Chamblee native who averages 14.4. The Spartans make 37.8 percent of their 3-point tries, and that has helped them to their best start in Division I play.
Georgia Tech continues to get contributions from different players in each game. Five individuals have taken their turn leading the team in scoring. Lately it has been junior transfer Charles Mitchell, who led the team with 15 against Rider and 13 against Northwestern. Mitchell has one of two 20-point efforts by the team this year and is averaging 11.0 points and a team-leading 7.9 rebounds.
A key for the Yellow Jackets has been the play of point guard Josh Heath, who came off the bench to scored 12 points in 19 minutes against Northwestern. It was his first career game scoring in double digits. Heath made all six of his field goal tries and had five assists without a turnover. It was his third game without a turnover.
It was a typical floor game for Heath, a 6-foot-2 transfer from South Florida. He has 34 assists and seven turnovers, with four of those coming against Rhode Island. The 4.9 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks fourth in the ACC and 13th in the nation.
Georgia Tech also has gotten better at the free-throw line. The Yellow Jackets made 14-of-18 against Northwestern (77.8 percent), and that was a key factor in their ability to hold the lead in the final minutes.
Chris Bolden was 5-for-6 in the final two minutes. The improvement may prove important, as Georgia Tech is getting to the line more often (22.7 per game) than at any time under Gregory.
Georgia Tech made 15-of-20 against Rider (75 percent) and a respectable 21-of-31 (67.7 percent) against Rhode Island. For the season, the Yellow Jackets are shooting 62.9 percent.
Basketball notes: Georgia Tech is 15th in the nation in rebound margin (plus-11) and have not been outrebounded by an opponent this year. ... Gregory has played at least nine players in every game and has used at least 10 players in six games. ... Robert Sampson had his first double-digit game with 12 points against Northwestern. He was 4-for-5 from the floor, the only miss being on an attempted dunk.