The season hasn’t gone perfectly to plan for either of Tech’s basketball programs. However, both were able to capture wins at the ACC Tournament in their respective divisions.
The women’s tournament extended from March 1 to March 5, providing a chance for Tech to show their skill beyond their record. Even though they ended the year on a four-game skid and entered the game as the No. 14 seed, the tournament wiped their record and provided a chance to make some noise against all-too-familiar ACC rivals. The Jackets looked to do exactly that in a revenge bout against the No. 11 Boston College Eagles.
In the regular season, Boston College (BC) beat Tech in a December matchup that did not look particularly close. Four of the Eagles ended the game with double-digit scoring. They looked similarly dominant in the tournament, keeping a nine-point lead over Tech at halftime and extending the lead to 17 in the third quarter. Tech started to come back thanks to the efforts of Bianca Jackson in the fourth — she scored 11 of her 19 points to fuel a Jacket comeback and cut the lead to within three. However, BC sophomore guard Andrea Daley hit her teammate sophomore guard Maria Gakdeng on a cut to the rim and Gakdeng scored the layup to make it a five point lead with 28 seconds on the clock. Tech then intentionally fouled, but BC was able to hit their free throws and close out the disappointing sweep.
The Jackets fared a bit better on the men’s circuit. Drawing Florida State in the first round, this was another good matchup. The Seminoles only finished one spot above Tech in the rankings and closed the year on a three-game losing streak. Similar to the women’s squad, the men’s team came into this one looking to exact revenge for a disappointing regular season loss. Tech actually raced out to an early 6-2 lead, looking fast and decisive. However, FSU followed it up with an 8-0 run and took a lead that they did not relinquish for much of the game. Tech’s offense went cold for large parts of the first half, but somehow remained competitive and only down 10 points at the half. The three-pointers that have been crucial to Tech’s success just weren’t going in despite 14 attempts. FSU maintained a healthy lead for most of the third, but there was a difference in Tech’s second-half play. The defense started to look more cohesive, fueled in large part by senior forward Ja’von Franklin’s rebounding. He actually ended the game with a career high 19 rebounds and the Jackets needed every one. It kept them in the game until seven minutes into the second half, where the score hovered at 53-47. Thankfully, the run Tech so desperately needed finally came with senior guard Lance Terry shooting an and-one that made the game a two-point deficit. Sophomore guard Deebo Coleman then tied it and they were able to stave off some FSU scoring to remain in it with seconds left. FSU had a brutal miss from the arc, but Franklin was able to capitalize as he got fouled on his putback attempt. He then hit the game-winning free throw to send Tech to the second round.
In round two, the Jackets drew a tough slate with a talented Pittsburgh team. The Panthers finished sixth in the conference and swept the Jackets in the regular season. However, their last matchup with Pitt had been competitive, so there was reason to expect that the Jackets would not make it easy for the Panthers. Tech started out well once again, trading triples with the Panthers and staying within one point before a scoring barrage brought the Pittsburgh lead up to seven. However, the Jackets responded well and switched into a zone defense that gave the Panthers some problems. Unfortunately, the Panthers were able to respond — although they were held scoreless for four minutes — and opened up a 13-point lead before halftime.
In what was likely their last half of the season, the Jackets gave it their all. They made it 50-49 after some bad turnovers by Pitt and incredibly hot shooting, going eight for 12 to start the second half. Sophomore guard Miles Kelly then converted on a huge layup to punctuate a 21-6 run – and a two-point lead for Tech. Franklin again looked dominant against the opposing frontcourt, but the lead still seesawed between the two teams.
Ultimately, the Panthers were able to shake off their offensive woes and built a seven-point lead with six minutes left. Senior guard Kyle Sturdivant and Coleman stopped the run with five points of their own, but Pitt opened the lead once again. The back-and-forth nature of the game eventually started to swing in favor of the Panthers, largely due to the efforts of Pitt graduate guard Jamarius Burton. Still, the Jackets battled until the end and even pulled within four with 22 seconds. Yet, their full court press came up short and Pitt won the game at the free throw line, ending the Jackets’ season.