This game was incredible. Games like this are the reason I love college basketball. Two teams fighting for their post-season hopes. Revenge is on the line. Both teams are clearly playing their hearts. One team refusing to give up. A crowd that spent almost the entire second half on their feet. A last second shot for the win. This game was fantastic in every way, but coming away with this win felt especially nice. After this team has lost so many close games all season, they have now won three games in a row that came down to the final seconds. The Jackets have fought all season and it is showing with the way this team has come together.
The game did not start great for the Jackets. The Tigers seemed to be hitting everything from deep and were destroying the Jackets on the pick and roll. They kept ending up with big men wide open under the basket. Jaron Blossomgame was fantastic in the first half and ended up with 17 points in just the first half. The Yellow Jackets were playing decently on offense, but they just could not keep up. It looked like GT was going to be down 12 going into half, but Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a nearly half court shot with no time left that would become hugely important. In the second half, Gregory made some changes on defense. He had the bigs stop hedging so far out on the pick and roll and moved MGH onto Blossomgame. This dared the Tigers to keep shooting threes as well as they had in the first half. In the early part of the second half, it looked like that was not working. Clemson was red-hot from 3 and at one point made it up to 60% from deep while extending their lead to 13. But Georgia Tech just kept chipping away at the lead. They did not go on a huge run, but over the course of 8 minutes, they managed to cut the lead to just 2. Every time it seemed like the Jackets were just about to surpass the Tigers, Clemson made a big shot to hold onto the lead. Finally, Adam Smith made two straight three pointers to take a 1 point lead, including one immediately following an ankle-breaking crossover and just over the fingertips of the help defense. The teams traded misses before a huge Ben Lammers block with less than thirty seconds forced Clemson to foul. After Adam Smith made two clutch free throws, Donte Grantham hit a clutch three to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining. Georges-Hunt took his time getting the ball up the floor before driving the ball straight to the hoop and drawing a foul with just three seconds left. He hit both free throws and then it was time for the nerves as Clemson had one shot left. The Jackets nearly got a steal on the inbound, but Blossomgame was able to get an open runner at the three point line but it wasn't close and the Jackets escaped with their third win in a row.
On offense it was all about the perimeter players. MGH scored 25 points on 8-10 from the field and 8-9 on free throws. He carries this team through stagnant stretches and he absolutely did that today. Adam Smith broke out of his slump in fashion with 20 points on 7-14 shooting and 4-7 from deep. Without his shooting, the comeback would have fallen short. Quinton Stephens had a solid game with 11 points on 4-9 from the field as well as being a force on the boards. For the first time all year, the Jackets played significant minutes with only one big man in the game, so none of them had huge stat lines, but they still contributed. Ben Lammers in particular played great defense and ended up with four blocks, several of which were late in the game including the aforementioned block on Grantham to preserve the 1 point lead.
Once again, Blossomgame poured it on in the first half, with 17 points, but struggled to score in the second as Georgia Tech focused more on him. He ended up with only 22 points on 9-19 shooting. Donte Grantham came on strong in the second half where he scored all of his 16 points, mostly from the perimeter hitting 4-8 threes. Avry Holmes contributed 9 points, while the freshman Ty Hudson put in 8. The big man Sidy Djitte also had 8 points and was a force on defense and did a fantastic job of keeping Tech off the offensive glass.
This team did not look like a Tech team for much of the game. They shot 45% from three and 14 of 15 from the line with the one miss rebounded by the Jackets. They were hitting their shots and were able to tough out a game where the opposing team was draining threes (Clemson ended up at 46.2% from three).
Next, the team looks to continue their first bonafide hot streak in years as they head up the coast to face a struggling Boston College team on Saturday at noon. Now with 4 out of 5 wins, the season is looking as bright as ever. Go Jackets!