Jackets slip past two ranked foes

The men’s basketball team improved to 3-2 in ACC play and 14-4 overall with a pair of wins over ranked conference foes. Tech took down North Carolina on the road 73-71 on Saturday, then returned home and beat Clemson 66-64 on Tuesday. The wins gave the Jackets three conference victories, putting them at 3-2 in the ACC and 14-4 overall.

The Jackets traveled to UNC on Saturday looking for their first win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill since 1996.

After Tech assumed a 5-4 lead on a jumper from junior forward Gani Lawal, there were no more lead changes until late in the second half. The Jackets pushed their lead to 20 over the next 10 minutes, scoring 24 points to Carolina’s five.

Sophomore guard Iman Shumpert, who finished the game with 30 points and six assists, accounted for 10 of Tech’s 24 in this stretch.

A Carolina foul shot and another jumper from Shumpert closed out the first, putting the score at 42-28 heading into halftime.

In the second half, a pair of free throws by Carolina’s redshirt junior forward Will Graves cut the differential to eight. The Jackets responded with seven straight points, but the Tar Heels recorded 12 unanswered points and put themselves within four with eight minutes left.

Graves, responsible for eight of these 12 points, led the charge for the Heels in the second half. He finished the game with 24 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc.

With 4:33 left, Graves hit another three-pointer to put Carolina ahead for the first time since the beginning of the contest. The teams swapped leads for the next three minutes.

A steal by freshman forward Derrick Favors gave Tech the ball with 1:06 remaining and, after driving the lane and drawing a foul, Shumpert knocked down a pair of free throws to give Tech a one point edge at 70-69. Carolina forward Travis Wear hit a shot in the paint to put the Heels back in front, but Tech senior forward Zachary Peacock drove to the basket and hit a jumper to put Tech right back ahead with just 28 seconds remaining.

A Carolina foul put redshirt senior forward D’Andre Bell at the line with three seconds to play. Bell hit the second of his two foul shots, and the Heels quickly passed the ball to half-court and called a timeout. However, Graves missed what would have been a game-winning three, and the Jackets survived 73-71.

After taking down the Tar Heels, the Jackets headed back home to face the No. 16 Clemson Tigers on Tuesday. Despite shooting just 39 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line, Tech was able to defeat another ranked opponent, beating the Tigers 66-64. The win gives the Jackets their third conference victory, putting them at 3-2 in the ACC and 14-4 overall.

Tech’s forwards carried the team through much of the game. Lawal finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Favors recorded 17 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

Clemson took control early, going up 9-2 after three minutes of play. The Jackets rallied, putting in three straight baskets in the paint to cut the deficit to one. Consecutive dunks by Lawal gave Tech its first lead with 10 minutes remaining in the half, but Clemson’s Tanner Smith hit a three-pointer to take the lead right back.

Tech freshman guard Glen Rice Jr. responded with an alley-oop to Favors, whose dunk gave the Jackets a lead that would hold until midway through the second half. The score at the break was 35-29 in favor of Tech.

Although the Tigers struck first in the second period, the Jackets were able to maintain their lead, extending the differential to nine on a three-pointer by Shumpert.

The Tigers clawed back to tie the score at 49 with 11:35 left. In the ensuing minutes, the Jackets took the lead three times only to have Clemson tie it up again.

Finally, after the fourth tie in nine minutes, the Tigers pulled in front on two foul shots by forward Trevor Booker. Tech’s Bell answered with two free throws of his own just seconds later, tying the game back up at 64-64.

With just nine seconds remaining in the contest, Clemson guard Demontez Stitt lost the ball while driving to the basket, giving the Jackets the ball with a chance to win. After a timeout, Tech inbounded the ball to Peacock. Clemson’s Trevor Booker fouled while defending Peacock, putting the senior at the line to shoot two.

“We told Zach [Peacock] to flash to the middle if they did that,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said after the game. “He got to the middle, drew contact with [Trevor] Booker and drew the foul.”

Peacock hit both shots, putting Tech up 66-64 with just three seconds to play, and Shumpert broke up Clemson’s inbound play to seal the narrow victory.