If you were anything like most Tech fans, you probably prioritized watching Georgia Tech take on Kentucky in the Gator Bowl over watching a sure loss against UNC in basketball. I don’t blame you, just the other day this Jackets team struggled against NC A&T, one of the worst teams in the country. Now they were facing the daunted Tar Heels, one of the best in the nation. Nobody gave much of a chance. Just ask Jon Rothstein, who has repeatedly said that he expected the Jackets to go winless in the ACC this season. Now the Yellow Jackets are tied for first in the ACC. Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Now put your hands down you liars.
UNC has four players who have national name recognition (Josh Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, and Joel Berry II) and are loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans and five star recruits. Yet the best player on the floor today was no doubt a three star true freshman. Josh Okogie scored 26 points on 7-14 shooting from the floor and a fantastic 11-13 from the free throw line. Backing him up with possibly the best performance of his Yellow Jacket career, Josh Heath poured in 15 on 4-7 shooting and 6-6 from the line. Heath was the only scorer off the bench, and the rest of the starters were inefficient on offense, but it did not matter.
Why didn’t it matter? Because of defense. Because of the 15 steals that the Yellow Jackets took out of 20 total Tar Heel turnovers. Because of the Jackets forcing the Tar Heels to 19.2% shooting from 3 and 33.3% from the field. Because the Yellow Jackets shot 28-33 from the line which kept them in the game and iced it late. Because the Tar Heels looked like a high school playing the vaunted Syracuse zone defense. Yes, UNC missed plenty of decent shots, but Georgia Tech still played fantastic defense and gave themselves a chance on offense and they took it.
This was a fantastic win for a team that many have doubted and criticized. This was an entire team effort and the Jackets now easily topped the VCU for their best win of the season. So where does that leave GT? They are tied for first place, but only one game into the season. Most still expect them to finish near the bottom of the conference. And they cannot take time to celebrate with Duke and Louisville (both 0-1 in the ACC) coming up on the schedule. But, all of that is for later. Tonight is for celebration for all Tech fans. And you know what? Bring on Duke. Bring on Louisville. Maybe they’re next.