Georgia Tech maintains momentum in win over Florida State

Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire on the sideline during Wednesday's game against Clemson at McCamish Pavilion.

Credit: Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech

Credit: Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire on the sideline during Wednesday's game against Clemson at McCamish Pavilion.

McCamish Pavilion’s crowd level and number of Georgia Tech players’ high fives reached a game-high with nearly nine minutes left against Florida State on Saturday’s Senior Day.

Forcing a missed layup, the Yellow Jackets had the momentum and numbers in transition. Although junior guard Miles Kelly missed the right wing 3-point attempt, senior forward Tyzhuan Claude chased after the loose ball that teetered the baseline, grabbing it in time to pass mid-air to freshman guard Naithan George at the left wing.

Staying composed in the chaos, George knocked down the 3-pointer to give Tech its first double-digit lead of the game — one of many high points in the Jackets’ 85-76 over the Seminoles. Tech secured its first back-to-back wins in ACC play this season and its largest margin of victory in a conference game.

“I’m glad we ended our home stretch on this note. I feel like everybody had fun and everybody contributed,” Claude said. “This has given us good momentum going into the (ACC) tournament, and I think we’re a scary team to play.”

Tech raced to an 11-4 lead in the game’s first few minutes behind points in the paint and strong defense. The team thrived off driving downhill, ball movement and attacking the basket, showcased by two emphatic slams by freshman forward Baye Ndongo.

The Jackets ended the first half with 12 assists, one less than its 13.1 per-game season average, and 44 points to FSU’s 40.

“When we play connected and play together, I think we’re a hard team to play against, I don’t care who you are,” senior guard Kyle Sturdivant said. “We just have to stay with that and continue to let defense translate to offense and get out into transition.”

Although FSU battled back by the end of the first half behind its streaky shooting and length, Tech found its stride on defense after the intermission.

Besides Baba Miller’s single free throw, coach Damon Stoudamire’s squad put the Seminoles in offensive purgatory, forcing scoring droughts of five and three minutes. Along with seven blocks, Tech’s bread and butter was rebounding, crashing the boards on a consistent basis.

Tech snagged 55 rebounds – one shy of the program’s record for most rebounds in an ACC game, with 34 on defense and 21 on offense – the Jackets held their lead through many one-shot stops on defense and second-chance baskets on the other end of the floor.

Ndongo (14), Claude (10) and sophomore forward Tafara Gapare (10) finished with double-digit rebounds.

“The front line just did a good job all game long of sustaining against Florida State,” Stoudamire said. “Those three guys did a really good job of controlling the glass and helping us get out, and one thing that did is it led to us getting easy baskets.”

Both Claude and Sturdivant, the game’s leading scorer with 20 points, echoed a similar message about Tech after the contest: They are a dangerous team to face right now.

Stoudamire agreed with their sentiment, noting how his team has proved that it can beat any team, but also lose to them.

With two games left in the regular season and the ACC Tournament less than two weeks away, he’s focused on seeing how the Jackets will fare against their next opponent in Wake Forest.

“As a coach, sometimes you get a little scared because you don’t know if your team’s ready to cash that check, but … I’ve seen something different in the guys, and I’m interested to see how they respond,” Stoudamire said.