GREENSBORO, N.C. — Off its game at the start and behind for most of the game, Georgia Tech found a way into the second round of the ACC Tournament.

Behind by as many as 11 points early in the second half and five with two minutes left, the No. 13-seed Yellow Jackets capitalized on the scoring touch of guard Miles Kelly and a series of winning plays to knock out No. 12-seed Florida State 61-60 on Tuesday afternoon in the opening game of the first round at the Greensboro Coliseum.

“I want to give an incredible shout-out to our young men, our team,” coach Josh Pastner said. “They had to fight, scrap, kick, claw their way to find to be able to win this game. I’m just so darned proud of these guys.”

Tech advances to play No. 5-seed Pitt on Wednesday afternoon. The game will start after the Syracuse-Wake Forest game, which begins at noon.

“It feels good, but I know we’ve still got some more work to do,” said guard Kyle Sturdivant, who distributed seven assists with only one turnover. “It’s a satisfying feeling, but we know we’ve got to prepare for Pitt now.”

Trailing 60-55 at the two-minute mark, the Jackets caught the Seminoles with Kelly’s fourth 3-pointer of the game and a short jumper in traffic by Sturdivant, scores that sandwiched guard Deebo Coleman killing an FSU possession by drawing a charge on Seminoles guard Chandler Jackson after first blocking his shot in the lane.

Coleman’s explanation of the play: “Just don’t let him score.”

Taking possession with the score tied 60-60 after a 3-point try by Darin Green went in and out for the Seminoles with 28 seconds remaining, Pastner elected to let his team play for the last shot without calling timeout, trusting his feel and his players.

Starting beyond the 3-point arc, Sturdivant used a screen from forward Ja’von Franklin to dribble to the right, where he slid a bounce pass to guard Lance Terry on a backdoor cut. Terry couldn’t put down a dunk try, but Franklin grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled going to the basket After bouncing in one free throw for the final 61-60 lead with .3 seconds left, Franklin intentionally missed the second, requiring the Seminoles to try a desperation shot from the backcourt that was off-target. Franklin’s free throw gave Tech its first lead since the first five minutes of the first half.

“Kyle made an excellent read on a backdoor to Lance, and then Ja’von cleaned it up there with the offensive rebound,” Pastner said. “Just great execution.”

The Jackets earned some revenge on the Seminoles, whose 75-64 win in Tallahassee, Florida, on Jan. 7 sent Tech on its nine-game losing streak. Pastner, whose job security is in question after his team finished in the bottom three of the ACC for the second season in a row, has led the Jackets to seven wins in their past nine games, including four consecutive victories. Tuesday’s win was Pastner’s first in a first-round game in the ACC Tournament after falling short in his first four tries.

After the game, Pastner was his typically effusive self, recognizing athletic director J Batt, executive associate AD Brad Stricklin, executive deputy AD Jon Palumbo (all in attendance), proposing once again that FSU coach Leonard Hamilton should be in the Basketball Hall of Fame, acknowledging two august media members in the news conference (the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s David Teel and freelance writer Barry Jacobs) and congratulating Pitt coach Jeff Capel (whom Pastner will oppose Wednesday) for winning ACC coach of the year.

“Yes, we gave up a big size advantage, but our toughness, our scrap, our 50/50 balls, our motor, that’s the power of being at Georgia Tech,” Pastner said. “You develop that great toughness in there at an incredible school.”

Kelly led the Jackets with 21 points, 16 of them in the second half. The Jackets’ leading scorer, Kelly is averaging 23 points per game in Tech’s past five games. In the second half, with his team needing offense, he actively looked for his shot.

“I just knew we needed to get going,” Kelly said. “I know in the first half we couldn’t really get going offensively, so I just knew we needed a little spark offensively in the second half.”

The 6-foot-7 Franklin collected another double-double, with 10 points and 19 rebounds, breaking the school record for most rebounds in an ACC Tournament game held by former Tech center Luke Schenscher and doing so against three Seminoles post players 6-10 or taller. Further, Franklin played all 40 minutes. On Wednesday, he may have to do it again against a fresh-legged Pitt team.

“The man over there, he’s got it,” Franklin said, gesturing in the locker room to team trainer Richard Stewart. “Hydrate, cold tub, whatever he needs me to do, I’m going to do that.”

The Jackets shot 37.7% from the field for the game, including 46.4% in the second half.

Tech (15-17) and FSU (9-23) met under different circumstances than their last matchup in Greensboro, when they played for the league championship in 2021, a game memorable for the Jackets’ forcing 25 turnovers in the 80-75 win.

Through the first half, the game strayed from the possible script of “hot team versus team that had lost six of its final seven regular-season games, including the past two by double digits.” Challenging the Jackets with their length, quickness and aggression, Florida State took control of the game early by limiting open shots and benefiting from Tech’s suddenly errant 3-point shooting.

Tech, which had shot 41% from 3-point range in its final seven ACC regular-season games, made its first two 3-pointers and then missed 12 of its next 13, helping the Seminoles gain a 31-21 halftime lead. All the more disconcerting was the fact that Florida State ranked 341st in Division I in 3-point percentage defense going into the game and had allowed each of its past five opponents to shoot 42% or better from behind the arc.

Tech finished the game shooting 29.6% from 3-point range (8-for-27). The Jackets, who had become a fluid and efficient unit in winning six of their final eight games of the regular season, were having trouble holding onto the ball and making open shots. Tech’s 21-point half was its lowest-scoring first half of the season and a far cry from the 40.4 points the Jackets had averaged in the first halves of their final seven ACC games of the regular season.

“When we came in at halftime, I was just like, all right, we got the first-half jitters out of the way,” Coleman said. “It’s time to play like how we’ve been playing.”

Was that really the diagnosis?

“I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that’s what I thought it was,” he said.

The Jackets’ unlikely late-season surge continues on for at least one more day, propelled by a team unwilling to surrender.

“I know (Tuesday, Monday), all the time during the game we were just hitting home that we’re not ready to go home,” Coleman said. “It’s just like we know if we lose, that’s it. It’s not like we’re getting a bid in the NCAA Tournament if we lose right now unless we go all the way and win the ACC championship. That’s the only way we keep playing. We know we don’t want it to end.”

An earlier version of this story misstated the record that Georgia Tech forward Ja’von Franklin set with 19 rebounds in Tuesday’s game.

Georgia Tech forward Javon Franklin (4) drives between Florida State guard Jalen Warley (1) and Cam Corhen (3) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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Georgia Tech forward Javon Franklin (4) dunks past Florida State guard Chandler Jackson (0) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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