Georgia Tech first-year coach Damon Stoudamire, not long after his team had beaten No. 3 North Carolina on Tuesday at McCamish Pavilion, recalled the 2000 NBA playoffs when an upstart Portland team upended Utah in the Western Conference semifinals.

Stoudamire averaged 8.8 points per game for Portland (and Tech assistant Bonzi Wells scored 7.6 ppg) in a series the Trail Blazers won 4-1. The triumph was symbolic, Stoudamire said, in that the victory was proof that Portland could play with, and beat, the best.

He sees some similarities between that Portland squad and his Yellow Jackets (10-11, 3-7 ACC), who are halfway through the league portion of their schedule and have proved, at times, to be able to take down elite competition.

“To have the type of wins that we’ve had, hopefully now we can start to move that direction,” Stoudamire said. “There’s belief. There has to be belief. You can’t say, ‘Well, I can’t.’ No, you did it. You did it against these teams.”

Tech managed only three wins in its first 10 conference games, but all three wins were impressive enough to give the program hope that it still can play good basketball more often than not. Those victories – Dec. 7 against No. 7 Duke, Jan. 16 at Clemson and Tuesday against UNC – all currently are considered Quadrant 1 wins, according to the NCAA’s NET ranking system.

However, most of the Jackets’ seven conference losses have left much to be desired. There was the 24-point defeat at Virginia Tech on Saturday as well as home setbacks to Boston College (Jan. 6), Notre Dame (Jan. 9) and Pittsburgh (Jan. 23). The latter three of those opponents are slumming it with Tech near the bottom of the ACC standings.

Springing upsets against some of the ACC’s best only to fall short against some of the league’s worst has made for a frustrating stretch.

“The biggest thing for me is that I want to build consistency. I love everything that comes with it, with beating those (top) teams, but I don’t want it to be us only getting up for those type of teams,” Stoudamire said. “We gotta get up for everybody. That’s what you want in your program is consistency. You gotta live it every day.”

The Jackets are two games back in the standings of escaping the bottom six – the ACC’s 10th-15th-place teams begin the ACC tournament in March a day earlier than the rest of the field. Tech’s next 10 games on the conference slate begins with a Saturday trip to North Carolina State (14-7, 6-4 ACC) and includes two matchups with Wake Forest (13-6, 5-3 ACC), rematches at home with Clemson (14-6, 4-5 ACC) and Florida State (12-8, 6-3 ACC) and trips to Miami (14-7, 5-5 ACC) and Virginia (15-5, 6-3 ACC).

That run presents a tough road for a Tech squad that ranks among the bottom in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, shooting percentage, free-throw shooting, scoring defense, steals, 3-point shooting, turnovers and turnover margin. Making matters worse, the Jackets also may have to at least start the second half of the ACC gauntlet without freshman center Baye Ndongo, who left Tuesday’s win with a head injury and spent the rest of the evening in the training room.

Tech’s NCAA NET ranking sits at 128 after Tuesday’s win. That means Stoudamire’s bunch likely will have to win the ACC tournament to reach the NCAA tournament. But he thinks if that bunch of his can start playing at the same level night in and night out, then the possibilities are endless.

“We wanna drive the speed limit,” he said. “We don’t wanna be the car that comes and gets mad and gets road rage, and we’re just gonna speed around the car and do all that stuff. We wanna drive the speed limit because you know, when you drive the speed limit that’s consistency. That’s consistency. And that’s where we’re trying to get.”

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