On Senior Day, Georgia Tech collects win over Louisville

Georgia Tech guard Lance Terry puts up a shot in the lane against Louisville Feb. 25, 2023 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Georgia Tech guard Lance Terry puts up a shot in the lane against Louisville Feb. 25, 2023 at McCamish Pavilion. (Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

The opponent was Louisville, a team that possibly is the weakest among all the power-conference schools. And it was Louisville on an afternoon in which its coach lamented his team’s lack of resistance.

But it was a decisive win all the same for Georgia Tech, which knocked out the Cardinals 83-67 for its third win in its past five ACC games and looked little like the Yellow Jackets who lost nine games in a row earlier in ACC play, seven by double digits.

“I think we’re playing as well as anybody in the league,” coach Josh Pastner said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to go win every game. It just means you’re playing well.”

Both Tech’s field-goal percentage (48.2%) and point total exceeded Louisville’s season averages in ACC play. The point total and margin of victory also were season highs for the Jackets in league play.

The Jackets exploited the Cardinals’ lax defense for 12 3-pointers on 29 attempts (41.4%), continuing their on-target performance from behind the arc. After making 29.7% of its 3-point tries in its first 12 ACC games, Tech has made 39.2% in its past six league contests.

The Jackets waylaid Louisville with eight 3-pointers in the first half, which pushed them to a 45-32 halftime lead.

“We didn’t defend them,” Louisville coach Kenny Payne said. “They took it to us.”

It was the most points that the Jackets have scored in a half in an ACC game this season. In its first game against the Cardinals, a 68-58 road loss Feb. 1, Tech scored 28 and 30 in the two halves and didn’t make eight 3-pointers in the entire game.

The resurgence, however late in the season, has filled the Jackets with confidence.

“We’ve been playing very well the last couple games,” forward Ja’von Franklin said. “Kyle (Sturdivant) is moving the ball well, everybody’s been making their shots. So it’s just a team effort. We’re just moving the ball, playing together.”

Tech (12-17, 4-14 ACC) earned a season split with Louisville (5-24, 2-16) in a meeting of teams in 13th place and tied for 14th, respectively, in the ACC.

After notching career highs in points (24) and 3-pointers (six) in a road loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, guard Miles Kelly tossed in 19 points, making five of 10 3-point shots. Franklin continued his strong play, collecting his fourth double-double in the past five games with 21 points and 13 rebounds (both game highs) in 39 minutes of play.

With guard Deivon Smith (ankle) remaining sidelined, Pastner used only six players until the final minute, when he subbed in walk-on guard Coleman Boyd to honor him on Senior Day.

Guard Lance Terry played 40 minutes, scoring 17 points. Playing 39 minutes, Sturdivant scored his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 assists. Before Sturdivant, the last Tech player to record a points-assists double-double in a game was Josh Heath in the 2016-17 season, Pastner’s first year at Tech.

“Kyle (on Saturday) was as good of a guard as there was probably in the United States of America in college basketball the way he played,” said Pastner in unusually high praise. “He was great. His vision, his set-ups. I thought defensively, he was outstanding. The way he moved the ball. He was outstanding. He’s our team captain and he played like it.”

Of Sturdivant’s 10 assists, seven set up 3-pointers.

“I just wanted to push the pace and see what we could get in early offense,” Sturdivant said. “We got enough stops to allow us to get in transition. I already know when we get in transition, we’re a hard team to beat.”

Sturdivant also contributed a critical basket. After the Jackets had taken a 52-34 lead early in the second half on a 3-pointer by Kelly (assisted by Sturdivant), the Cardinals rallied by continually attacking the basket for scores. Louisville closed to 66-61 with 4:57 left in the game on a fast-break dunk by JJ Traynor.

Pastner called timeout. The hundreds of Cardinals fans in the arena, many of whom had come to the game from Louisville by the busloads and made up perhaps 40% of the crowd (announced at 6,070), roared their approval. It would have not been surprising to see the Jackets, their legs sapped, buckle. But Sturdivant stepped to the fore out of the timeout, working his way into the paint and scoring on a short jumper while getting fouled. His free throw returned the lead to eight points.

“I don’t remember if the play was for me, but I remember we needed a big bucket, so I just wanted to give my team the best shot,” said Sturdivant, who has scored in double figures in six of Tech’s past seven ACC games since returning to the starting lineup.

Two big plays by forward Jalon Moore – a block of a dunk try that resulted in a held-ball call and gave Tech possession and then a put-back score – advanced the lead to 10 points.

Louisville shot 44.3% from the field (27-for-61), but made only four of 17 tries from 3-point range (23.5%). The Cardinals got to the line 12 times, well under Tech’s average for ACC opponents (17.6 free throws per game).

The Jackets finish the regular season with road games at Syracuse on Tuesday and at Boston College on Saturday. Now in 13th place, they can finish no better than 12th (ahead of Saturday night’s Virginia Tech-Duke game) and are certain to play in the ACC Tournament’s first round in Greensboro, N.C.

“I always say it’s two seasons, it’s a regular season and then it’s a postseason,” Sturdivant said. “So when March comes, the ACC Tournament, it’s 0-0. So I want to be playing my best basketball right now, and we’re playing our best basketball. That’s the most important part. So we’re just going to take it day by day and keep getting better.”