Georgia Tech falls to Syracuse in overtime

It was an opportunity that any Georgia Tech supporter would accept. In the final 23 seconds of overtime, Yellow Jackets guard Michael Devoe had three shots with his team down one against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

However, Devoe, the third-leading scorer in the ACC who came into the game making 46.4% of his field-goal tries, missed all three, the last as time expired. It left Tech a 74-73 loser to Syracuse on Monday night.

“All you can ask for in basketball is a chance to win the game and we had some great looks there in overtime by Michael Devoe, who’s one of the best players in the ACC,” coach Josh Pastner said to media at Syracuse. “We had three really good looks by him, but that happens. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall.

After ending a three-game losing streak in a win Saturday at Pitt, Tech (11-16 overall, 4-12 ACC) fell back into a three-way tie for last place with Clemson and N.C. State. Syracuse (15-12, 9-7) has won six of its past seven.

Down 74-73 in overtime after guard Kyle Sturdivant hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 left, the Jackets survived a Syracuse possession in which the Orange fired up three shots but then failed to take the lead when Sturdivant turned the ball over with about 29 seconds left. But the Jackets gained the ball back with 22.5 seconds left after a Syracuse turnover, just its fourth of the game.

Devoe had two jumpers to take the lead that missed before a held ball with 3.3 seconds left gave the Jackets the ball out of bounds. Forward Khalid Moore passed from the baseline to Devoe, but his fadeaway jump shot from the top of the key, challenged by guard Buddy Boeheim, was off the mark as time expired.

“We tried to make ‘em throw it out, which they did and then tried to get to Devoe, and he got him off balance a little bit,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

A missed shot that Pastner rued perhaps even more was a 3-point try with 2:27 to play in overtime and Tech ahead 70-69. The shot was on target but failed to go down. Syracuse claimed the rebound and Buddy Boeheim knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Orange a lead that they maintained until game’s end.

“That was a six-point swing,” Pastner said. “I was like, goodness, gracious. It’s just not our year with the basketball gods.”

Boeheim acknowledged that Devoe’s miss “gave us a chance to win.” Had Devoe connected, he added, “that would have been a back breaker.”

For the game, Tech made 39.4% of its shots (26-for-66), near its season rate (44.1%). Syracuse made 32.9%, well below its season average of 45.7%, fifth in the ACC. The Jackets played most of the game in man-to-man defense, eschewing the 1-3-1 zone it often uses. Syracuse’s three leading scorers, Buddy Boeheim, Joseph Girard and Jimmy Boeheim, combined for 50, about four points above their combined season average. But they shot a combined 14-for-52 to do it.

“They’re a good defensive team,” Boeheim said of the Jackets. “They get after you. It’s seldom Buddy and Jimmy both have bad shooting nights. They both did. Joe did. Cole (Swider) was our superstar compared to them, and yet we were able to get stops at the end.”

Tech center Rodney Howard continued his run of productive play, scoring a career-high and team-high 19 on 7-for-12 shooting. Howard hit double figures in scoring for the fourth consecutive game after scoring 10 or more three times in his first 18 games this season, all of them against mid-major competition. He also gathered 10 rebounds for his second double-double in three games and the third of his career. He fouled out with 3:08 to play in overtime.

“If you look at the games that we’ve been playing, you wouldn’t say that the other team’s big is better than our big,” Pastner said. “He’s been pretty good.”

Backup guard Deivon Smith did not play Monday, held out of the game due to a concussion suffered in the Jackets’ win at Pittsburgh. (Pastner said it was highly doubtful that he’ll play on Wednesday at home against Virginia Tech.) Pastner called on freshman guard Jalon Moore, who played a career-high 15 minutes in just his sixth ACC game of the season. Moore, often stationed at the free-throw line in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone, scored four points and grabbed four rebounds. Devoe scored 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. He was 2-for-10 from the field after halftime. He was also largely responsible for guarding Buddy Boeheim, who was 5-for-20 for 15 points.

After both teams exchanged spurts at the game’s start, neither team led by more than five from midway through the first half until Syracuse took advantage of a defensive stop and a turnover by forward Jordan Usher to go up 59-53 with 5:23 left.

But, coming out of a 30-second timeout, Tech guard Deebo Coleman delivered back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it back up at 59, setting the stage for the game to be decided in the final four minutes before the game was extended to overtime.

The game was tied at 63 going into the final minute of regulation. Tech gave up the ball with 15.6 seconds left on a shot-clock violation, its 13th turnover of the game. Syracuse forward Jimmy Boeheim missed on a drive from the wing in the final seconds, challenged ably by Howard, sending the game to overtime.

Tech was playing its second road game in three days and now will return to play Virginia Tech on Wednesday, a tough stretch of three games in five days. Monday’s game had originally been scheduled to be played Dec. 29 but was moved because Tech was in the midst of a COVID-19 pause. Pastner said that the team’s charter flight home to Atlanta from Syracuse was delayed, and indicated that the team wouldn’t return home until about 6 a.m. Tuesday.