Former Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner’s first season was distinguished by, among other things, a win over the eventual national champion. His seventh and final season may carry the same hallmark.
Miami, which plays Connecticut on Saturday in the second Final Four matchup, is two wins away from its first-ever national title. It would finish a season that includes a 76-70 loss to Tech at McCamish Pavilion on Jan. 4. If the Hurricanes claim the title, it would be the second time that Tech defeated the eventual national champion in Pastner’s completed tenure, the first being the celebrated upset of North Carolina in the ACC opener of the 2016-17 season, Pastner’s first at Tech.
In the defeat, Miami played one of its poorest offensive games of the season. The Hurricanes shot 35.3% from the field, their third lowest rate of the season. After a basket to take a 70-64 lead with 4:50 left in the game, Miami did not score again. The Hurricanes made five of 32 3-point field-goal attempts for their lowest scoring percentage (15.6%) of the season. For Tech, guard Lance Terry set a season scoring high with 24 points while playing all 40 minutes.
“The game comes down to motivation, of how hard kids are going to play,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said after the game. “I thought Georgia Tech’s players played extremely hard and that led to a lot of good decisions. I thought our guys were a little bit out of character. A lot of the credit goes to Georgia Tech’s defense. We weren’t making shots we can make.”
Miami guard Isaiah Wong, who would go on to be named ACC player of the year, scored six points and was 1-for-11 from the field.
“He is so good at scoring the ball,” Larrañaga said. “And he just had a bad night. He’s entitled to a bad night every once in awhile, and tonight was it.”
Speaking at the postgame news conference soaked in water after a locker-room dousing from his game, Pastner said, “We just did a really high-level job (defensively) from start to finish.”
The game was a peak for the Jackets, who went on to lose their next nine games, a slide that led to Pastner’s dismissal at the end of the season. For Miami, it was preparation for March.
“I would just say, I thank the ACC for preparing us for these types of games,” Wong said on Sunday after the Hurricanes defeated Texas to advance to the Final Four. “Just coming in, every game we played in the ACC, it’s always a close game it’s always a shot to win. I feel like coming into march we’ve been in those types of situations. We played good, and we weren’t afraid or scared of any situation. We just stuck together and played together throughout the game.”
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