Boy, this one was a ride. I thought about leaving the game....twice. But in a hard fought game for Tech's portion of the 2013 Big Ten-ACC challenge, the Yellow Jackets came out on top 67-64.
Marcus Georges-Hunt had a big night for Tech along with Robert Carter, scoring 20 and 21 points respectively. Illinois got a big lift out of their star guard Rayvonte Rice, who came through with 24 points of his own. It wasn't enough to get the Illini over the hump, however, and a stout Tech team proved there was reason to think that this team is still (to quote Dennis Green) who we thought they were.
This was the most up and down game I've ever seen in McCamish Pavilion. It started relatively even, with Tech and Illinois trading shots to take the game to 15-18 in favor of the Illini. The men from the Midwest then went on a small but deflating 9-2 run and seemed poised to go into the half with a big lead with 5:35 remaining. But then Marcus hit Tech's first three of the game and turned things around, following that up with four more. Robert Carter added five of his own to help Tech close out the half up 36-33 off a 19-6 run.
The second half was a replica of the first. The teams traded blows until the Ilini went on a run to get up 60-48 off 9 straight Tech possessions without points. The turnover bug was partly to blame here, but much of it was Tech's shots not falling and Illinois making the tough gets. But Marcus Georges-Hunt sparked the team again with five straight points to bring us to the thrilling conclusion. Illinois' Egwu Nnanna fouled which gave Marcus the opportunity to hit two FTs to make it 60 all. After a crushing three by Nnanna to make it; Robert found one of his two treys to bring Tech within one. A foul gave Illinois the opportunity to pull away, but Tracy Abrams only hit one and gave Tech the chance to win it. Trae got a steal with 28 seconds left and Daniel Miller put in a bucket after a close non-call on a travel. Tech played excellent D and Carter picked up a foul; making his foul shots to seal the win for Tech.
Illini fans might complain about the non-call that let Tech go ahead with 23 second remaining in the game. However, the refs either legitimately didn't see it (hard to believe) or were making up for their litany of blown calls that went the Illini way earlier in the game. Other than that though, there wasn't really much controversy to this game. Tech showed the resilience I've been waiting to see all year long from them, fighting back from two huge Illinois runs. This was completely due to the leadership displayed by MGH and RCJ, who never let the team give up. The team defense was very impressive most of the night, the guys rotated to their assignments well and really didn't get clammed up by Illinois (moving) screens.
All in all, this game showed us that it's going to be hard to replace Jorgenson and confirmed what we already knew about Marcus Georges-Hunt. We also finally saw RCJ's first big outbreak, hopefully of many more to come.
What about you guys? What did you love/hate from this game? Let us know in the comments!