Georgia Tech earns home win over Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech guard Lance Terry scored 14 points with four rebounds and three assists while playing all 40 minutes of the Yellow Jackets' win over Virginia Tech February 15, 2023 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Georgia Tech guard Lance Terry scored 14 points with four rebounds and three assists while playing all 40 minutes of the Yellow Jackets' win over Virginia Tech February 15, 2023 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Hitting 3-pointers and benefiting from an opponent’s cold streak, Georgia Tech lived life on the other side Wednesday night. Trying to put their nine-game losing streak behind them, the Yellow Jackets earned their second win in three games with a 77-70 win over Virginia Tech at McCamish Pavilion.

Continuing to show better form, the Yellow Jackets were 11-for-22 from 3-point range and took advantage of the Hokies going scoreless for more than six minutes in the second half, the sort of lapse that had undone the Jackets repeatedly during their slide. Jackets guard Deebo Coleman led with a career-high 21 points, including 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range, to go with five rebounds.

To Coleman, the win was redemption and reward following the Jackets’ last-second loss at Wake Forest on Saturday.

“We came out knowing that this game was going to be a character test for us, whether we were going to come out slow and sluggish because we were still upset about that game or we were going to forget it and leave it in our rear-view mirror and try to win,” he said.

To coach Josh Pastner, the win, in which the Jackets set a season scoring high for an ACC game and held the Hokies to 41.1% shooting from the field, it was demonstration of his team holding together after a prolonged stretch of defeat. Pastner gave credit to his coaching staff and the players for their resilience.

“It’s not easy when you have losses and you’re trying to keep everyone together and there’s a lot of negativity and everything else,” he said. “To keep guys together and have them performing every single day in practice is something that’s on our guys. It shows value of their character. It shows what they’re made of inside. I’m so darned proud of those young men. I just think we’ve continued to get better.”

Georgia Tech (10-16, 3-13 ACC) won without guard Deivon Smith, the productive and energetic sub who was sidelined with an ankle injury. Pastner shortened the bench, playing only seven players (one of whom, forward Jordan Meka, was only on the floor for six minutes).

The Jackets received winning plays from each in the form of defensive rebounds won, baskets and assists made, charges taken and shots blocked. Forward Ja’von Franklin delivered his fifth double-double of the season (10 points and 10 rebounds) and second in as many games along with five blocks, three assists and three steals.

“(Franklin) is playing good basketball for them,” Hokies coach Mike Young said. “He’s helped them with his bounce and his athleticism around the basket.”

Guard Lance Terry scored 14 with three assists and no turnovers in 40 minutes of play. In a critical sequence with the Jackets leading by five midway through the second half, guard Kyle Sturdivant drew a charge on Hokies forward Grant Basile in transition and then on the ensuing possession got a pass to Terry as he was falling to the ground that Terry converted into a 3-pointer.

“I wouldn’t use the word satisfying,” Sturdivant said. “I think we’re just grateful that our hard work paid off. We know this is the best time to be peaking within the season and I think we’re starting to catch rhythm at the right time.”

Virginia Tech (15-11, 5-10) had won four of its past six, averaging 81.5 points in the six games. Basile, who had racked up back-to-back 33-point games before Wednesday, was held to a relatively tame 21 points.

Georgia Tech came into the game with its play on an uptick. In the three games before Wednesday, the Jackets had averaged 68 points per game while hitting 43.2% of their shots. They had averaged 61.2 points and shot 38.5% in their first 12 ACC games. Defensively, the three-game average was 70.3 points per game and 42.4% shooting after averages of 75.1 points per game and 47.7% shooting in the first 12 games.

The Jackets continued their strong play, taking a 14-13 lead on a 3-pointer by Terry at the 13:01 mark of the first half and holding it for the remainder of the game. A 7-0 run near the end of the first half gave the Jackets a 33-23 lead, offering them rarely experienced control of a game in ACC play this season. Coleman led, scoring 14 of his 21 points in the first half.

“We’ve been very, very good with our transition defense,” Young said. “We were not (Wednesday). They’ve got to score in transition. We were fair in that regard.”

The Hokies’ second-half cold spell provided the Jackets the margin to withstand a rally that carved a 16-point lead at the 13:47 mark down to five points with 5:13 to play. The Jackets steadied themselves after, as Terry scored eight of his 14 points in the final four minutes.

Interestingly, a day after Pastner offered a critique of ACC officiating, the Jackets went to the line 26 times to the Hokies’ eight, although Virginia Tech’s end-game fouling skewed the margin. It broke a 10-game streak in which Georgia Tech took fewer free throws than its opponent.

The Jackets came into the game averaging the second-fewest free throws per game in ACC play and had taken 101 fewer free throws than their opponents, the widest disparity in the conference.

The Jackets did not make very good use of that advantage, as the ACC’s least-accurate free-throw shooting team was true to form, making 14 of 26, including 7-for-14 in the final three minutes when they were trying to put the game away.

“The only thing we didn’t do well was shoot free throws,” Pastner said.