Georgia Tech closes regular season with win over Boston College

Georgia Tech sophomore guard Miles Kelly shoots against Boston College in the Yellow Jackets' 73-65 victory in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics

Credit: Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics

Georgia Tech sophomore guard Miles Kelly shoots against Boston College in the Yellow Jackets' 73-65 victory in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, on March 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Boston College Athletics)

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Georgia Tech will go into the ACC Tournament on a roll. The team’s nine-game losing streak, defined by off-target shooting, faltering in pivotal moments and calls and bounces that leaned toward the opposition, recedes further into the past.

On Saturday afternoon at Conte Forum, the Yellow Jackets won for the sixth time in the past eight games, defeating Boston College 73-65 in a game influenced by Tech’s continued on-target 3-point work, its stopping a second-half attempt by the Eagles to break away and a big 3-point basket by guard Kyle Sturdivant in the final minute.

On Saturday night, the team was to travel directly to Greensboro, N.C., site of the ACC Tournament, where the Jackets will play Florida State at 2 p.m. Tuesday in a game between the No. 12 (FSU) and 13 (Tech) seeds.

“It does feel great to finally start winning a lot,” guard Lance Terry said. “Hopefully we can push it into the tournament and win five in five days, and that’d be it.”

Tech won its fifth ACC game of its past seven, and this one may have been the most difficult to secure. Down 55-46 at the 10-minute mark, the Jackets’ 3-point shooting found the mark and carried them to the win. After setting a school record with 18 made 3-pointers in the win at Syracuse on Tuesday, the Jackets made their first three 3-point tries, then missed all but one of its next 17.

But in the final 10 minutes, the Jackets recalibrated and made seven of their last nine from behind the arc.

“Probably eight weeks ago, six weeks ago, that 55-46 goes to a 65-53 or something advantage to the opponents just because we weren’t able to stop it,” coach Josh Pastner said. “That’s been the difference of part of reinventing what we’ve been able to do. It’s not an easy thing.”

For the game, the Jackets made 11 of 29 3-point tries (37.9%). Over the past seven ACC games, Tech has shot 41% from 3-point range after making 30% in the first 13. None were bigger than the final two Saturday.

With the score tied at 63-63, Miles Kelly made a 3-pointer with 1:46 left for a 66-63 lead. After Boston College guard Mason Madsen’s 3-point try went in and out, the Jackets had the chance to begin to put the game away. On an isolation play, Sturdivant stuck a 3-pointer over guard Makai Ashton-Langford with the shot clock running out for a 69-63 lead with 58 seconds left. Four successful free throws in as many tries by Sturdivant sealed the game for the Jackets.

“We were trying to not rush anything, so we just ran through our offense, and we looked up and the shot clock was dwindling down, so Kyle just had to make a big play,” said Kelly, who finished with a game-high 21 points, including 5-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. “He made a big shot.”

Said Sturdivant, “Just put ’em away. Hit ’em with a kill shot, and let’s go on back to Greensboro.”

Tech (14-17, 6-14 ACC) earned its second consecutive road win after losing its first eight league road games. Boston College (15-16, 9-11) came up short in its attempt for its first winning regular season since the 2017-18 season and saw its three-game win streak come to an end.

Tech made the trip without guards Deivon Smith and Tristan Maxwell and center Rodney Howard, practically ensuring that Pastner would continue with the six-man rotation that he had used in recent games. Indeed, the six-man rotation of forwards Jalon Moore and Ja’von Franklin and guards Deebo Coleman, Terry, Kelly and Sturdivant covered all 200 minutes, with Terry going the distance for the fifth time this season.

The Jackets caught a significant break early, when Eagles forward Quinten Post was hobbled less than three minutes into the game and did not return. Post is Boston College’s leading scorer and rebounder (16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game) and came into the game making 54.1% of his field-goal tries.

“You never know,” Pastner said. “Quinten Post is a really good player. It’s hard to tell on those things. Obviously, if you’re the losing team, you’re going to say it’d be nice to have him.”

Franklin just missed his sixth double-double in the past seven, with eight points and 15 rebounds. With the score tied at 60-60, he made a critical block that led to a go-ahead 3-pointer by Kelly that was enabled by Franklin rebounding his own miss to keep the possession alive.

On a gray and slushy afternoon in the ACC’s New England outpost, the Jackets sought a confirming finish to their 31-game regular season. After losing nine games in a row – seven by double digits – the Jackets then won four of their next six against ACC competition. The most recent was a stunning 96-76 win at Syracuse, in which Franklin achieved the fifth triple-double in school history and the Jackets dropped a school-record 18 3-pointers.

However encouraging, three wins were at home and at the expense of three teams in the bottom third of the league (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Louisville) and the fourth on the road against a team in a freefall (Syracuse, on Tuesday).

The form of the Jackets’ two losses in that six-game span also were suggestive of a team on the rise – to Wake Forest and Pittsburgh – but Saturday’s confrontation offered the potential to be Tech’s second best win of the season after its Jan. 4 home upset of No. 16 Miami.

Boston College had won its past three games before Saturday, including a 15-point win over No. 13 Virginia. Eagles coach Earl Grant’s team also was fueled Saturday by the emotions of Senior Day, its attempt to reach .500 in ACC play for the first time since the 2010-11 season and its objective to earn the No. 9 seed in the ACC Tournament and avoid playing in the first round Tuesday.

With another win in his pocket, Pastner did not fail to praise his team for its character in pulling together after losing the nine consecutive games, Tech’s longest losing streak since the 1980-81 season. He compared it with being in the depths of the ocean.

“We were in the Mariana (Trench) part,” he said. “And somehow we’ve been able to win without scuba gear. We’ve been able to find our way to get up to the surface and put our head above water and resurface for air.”