Yellow Jackets break skid with home win over Syracuse

Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant scored 17 Saturday. File photo by Jason Getz /



Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant scored 17 Saturday. File photo by Jason Getz /

Georgia Tech got its groove back Saturday at McCamish Pavilion by knocking off Syracuse 65-60.

The Yellow Jackets had four players score in double figures, got double-doubles from Miles Kelly and Baye Ndongo (and nearly a third from Tafara Gapare), owned the glass and made clutch plays down the stretch to break a four-game losing streak.

“It’s a marathon. It’s not just one game,” Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant said about snapping the losing streak. “You feel like you’re at the top of the world one game, one game you feel like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ But you just gotta stay even-keel and stay committed to your work and everything else will take care of itself.”

Sturdivant, who scored 17 points to go along with four assists, played like a veteran cognizant his college playing days are numbered. Time and time again the senior stepped up with a critical made shot or timely pass in leading Tech to its first victory since Jan. 30.

Ndongo had 16 points and 11 boards, Kelly finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Gapare collected nine rebounds to go along with 10 points. But where the Jackets (11-15, 4-11 ACC) made their hay was in the paint by scoring 32 points inside and grabbing 12 offensive rebounds.

Tech dominated the overall rebounding battle 49-28 and had 14 assists on 24 made field goals while cracking the code of Syracuse’s zone defense.

“I was just really happy we got back to rebounding,” Tech coach Damon Stoudamire said. “That’s something that we’ve been missing. But I thought we made a concerted effort and I thought everybody that came in and played did their job in terms of getting to the glass. So I was really proud of our team for that.”

In a 57-57 game and with possession, continuing to work hard to break Syracuse’s zone defense, Tech got the ball under the basket to Ndongo who converted a reverse layup with 3:16 on the clock to put the Jackets ahead by a bucket. It took the Jackets nearly three minutes to score again, but when they did on Kelly’s and-1 on a runner from the left side, they went up 62-58 with 31 ticks on the clock.

Syracuse (16-10, 7-8) only managed two free throws from there as the Jackets closed out the victory. Tech returns to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday when it hosts Clemson (17-7, 7-6).

“We needed this win bad,” Kelly said, “and I’m glad that we got it.”

After a slow start to the evening, Tech found its mojo akin to the style of play that led it to its three previous ACC victories. Gapare was running the floor for dunks, Ndongo was a force in the paint on both ends of the court, the Jackets as a team were sharing the rock consistently and crisply, Tech made all six of its free throws and a frustrated Orange team shot just 12 of 33 from the field (and 3 of 17 from long range).

All that led to a 32-23 advantage for the revitalized home team with three minutes left in the first half, a lead that shrunk to 34-30 at the break mostly due to 10 Tech turnovers (including five straight at one point).

The Jackets went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to go up 45-36, a run capped by Sturdivant’s pull-up jumper from the left elbow. Sturdivant’s pump-fake, step-back 3 from the right wing with 11:57 to go gave Tech a 48-38 lead.

About that time Syracuse again switched defensively to its patented zone. That helped fuel a comeback that was completed by Chris Bell’s 3 from the right corner putting the Orange up 55-54 with 5:50 on the clock. That was the last 3, and the last field goal, that Syracuse would make as it finished 4 of 25 from behind the arc.

JJ Starling had 18 points to lead the Orange.

“We limited a lot of the things that have been killing us when we lose games like this,” Stoudamire said. “We were coming up with the loose balls down the stretch, we were coming up with two-hand rebounds down the stretch, we got the big offensive rebound down the stretch and that has eluded us in losses. It was great to see and it was great to see for them.”


  • With 16 points Saturday, Kelly now needs eight points to reach 1,000 for his career.
  • Tech is 9-9 all-time against Syracuse and 5-3 against the Orange at home.
  • The Jackets are 7-6 at home this season, 7-11 against teams with a winning record, 8-4 when leading at halftime, 4-15 when trailing at the 5-minute mark, 2-10 when scoring less than 70 points and 6-1 when holding the opponent to less than 70 points.
  • Tech has played 18 games decided by single digits.
  • Attendance on Saturday was announced as 6,241, giving Tech an average of 4,956.