Georgia Tech came close, but couldn’t close the deal Wednesday night.
The Yellow Jackets, seeking their third consecutive ACC win, fell 62-61 to Virginia Tech in a game in which they held the Hokies to their season scoring low, but lost their chance at an upset when a last-second shot by forward Quinton Stephens was off the mark.
Georgia Tech (11-7 overall, 3-3 ACC) trailed 49-40 at the 11-minute mark of the second half before rallying late. The lead changed hands four times in the final 1:32, the last time on Hokies guard Seth Allen’s drive to the basket with 15 seconds left for the final 62-61 score.
After Allen’s score, the Jackets had two possessions to win the game, but were unable to execute an alley-oop from guard Tadric Jackson to center Ben Lammers off an inbounds pass, and then had to foul. After Hokies guard Justin Robinson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 8.9 seconds left, Stephens missed his pullup jumper near the free-throw line as time expired.
Virginia Tech (14-4, 3-3) had lost three of four going into the game but was 10-1 at home.
Lammers, the leading shot blocker in the ACC with 3.3 per game, rejected eight shots Wednesday, tying Alvin Jones’ school record for the most blocks in an ACC game. He had six in the first half alone as the Hokies repeatedly tried to challenge him in the lane.
The blocks, plus shots that he altered, led directly to the Hokies shooting 10-for-28 (35.7 percent) in the first half.
Lammers finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
When the game was lost
The Jackets were 9-for-15 (60 percent) from the free-throw line, not good enough in a game decided by one point. One miss was at the front end of a one-and-one, which made it even more costly. It was a particularly poor performance given that the Jackets had come into the game shooting 69.4 percent from the line overall and 79.4 percent in ACC games.
Georgia Tech also had several makeable shots at the basket that it could not convert, which has been a recurring problem. In one critical sequence, after Virginia Tech had gone up 49-40 for its largest lead of the game, the Jackets drew to 49-46, the final four points provided by back-to-back layups in transition by Josh Okogie.
However, Stephens and Jackson could not convert open-court opportunities, Stephens getting called for a charge and Jackson missing a layup. Baskets could have put Georgia Tech in the lead, but the missed chances instead put the Jackets in a position of having to continue to chase.
Stephens strong again
Stephens led the Jackets with 18 points, giving him a three-game total of 56 points. Stephens was 5-for-10 from 3-point range, including a bomb from the right wing with 3:29 left that tied the score at 55. He was errant on the final shot of the game, near the free-throw line as time expired.
Stephens also added 13 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and fifth of his career.
Slowed down the Hokies
Beyond limiting them to their lowest scoring output of the year, Georgia Tech held the Hokies to 40 percent shooting, their second-lowest rate of the season. Virginia Tech came into the game at 48.8 percent shooting from the field, third highest in the ACC. Further, Virginia Tech was 6-for-25 from 3-point range (24 percent). The Hokies had made 39.4 percent of their 3-point shots going into the game, also third highest in the ACC.
The Hokies had a hot streak early in the second half, making four out of six to start the half, but were 2-for-19 the rest of the time. Virginia Tech had open looks, but appeared to be forced out of rhythm by the various defensive looks that Georgia Tech gave them.
What’s next for Georgia Tech
The Jackets will complete a three-game road stretch with a Saturday matchup at No. 16 Virginia, which routed Boston College 71-54 Wednesday night. The Cavaliers are 37-2 in ACC home games going back to the 2012-13 season.
Pastner will keep the team in Virginia rather than return to Atlanta.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com