After a disappointing run through non-conference play adn a road loss to Notre Dame in the ACC opener, Georgia Tech surprised No. 15 Miami Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion, giving the Hurricanes a 64-54 defeat.
Tech guard Josh Okogie led the way with a game-high 30 points and a team-high nine rebounds as the Jackets improved to 7-7 overall and 1-1 in the ACC. Tech and Miami (12-2, 1-1) labored through a defensive struggle in which neither team shot above 40 percent from the field.
Five observations from the game
Another big win at McCamish
In 10 ACC home games in Pastner’s tenure, the Jackets are 8-2. Four of those wins have been over teams ranked in the top 15 of the A.P. poll. – No. 9 North Carolina, No. 6 Florida State and No. 14 Notre Dame last year and the No. 15 Hurricanes Wednesday. The announced attendance was 5,568 for a game that tipped off at 9 p.m. with school not back in session.
The crowd came to the Jackets’ aid when necessary.
“That’s a great credit to the crowd,” Pastner said. “I thought the crowd was really good again (Wednesday), and we had great energy in the building.”
In recent years, the Hurricanes have stumbled over the Jackets multiple times when ranked. Tech beat Miami twice in Coral Gables, Fla., during the Brian Gregory era, once when the Hurricanes were ranked sixth, in March 2013, and in January 2015 when they were 23rd.
Starry night for Okogie
Guard Josh Okogie recorded the third 30-point game of his career, hitting his season high with 10-for-23 shooting from the field and 9-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, “Okogie had how many? He had 30 points. Yeah, we did a hell of a job on him.”
Okogie came through with two of the biggest baskets of the game. After Tech had pushed out to a 46-34 lead with 9:18 to play, Miami answered with a 10-0 run and gained possession when Bruce Brown intercepted Jose Alvarado’s lob pass on the break but then threw it right to Okogie as he was going out of bounds. Okogie made the easy basket to return the lead to four.
At 48-46, Miami pressed and nearly stole guard Tadric Jackson’s inbounds pass to Ben Lammers, but Lammers was able to find Okogie on the sideline. Okogie raced downcourt and beat Miami’s defense for a transition dunk.
“We, as a team, we’re good, but he’s also a great leader,” Alvarado said. “He leads us on defense and on offense and he just tries to keep us all energized with him.”
Pastner said that Okogie was “getting back to his old self” as he played his sixth game of the season since coming back from a six-game NCAA suspension and a dislocated finger.
“He was aggressive and he was in attack mode,” Pastner said.
Jackets had some help
It was an ungainly win, one in which Miami made generous contributions. The Hurricanes turned the ball over a season-high 18 times and shot 37.5 percent from the field, more than 11 percentage points under their season average.
“We didn’t handle the ball very well, very careless,” Larranaga said. “Some of the decisions we made are exactly what we talked about in practice on stuff we didn’t want to do, and yet we forced the ball several times.”
Tech also benefited from a second-half technical foul assessed to the Miami bench, one that left Larranaga stupefied.
“It wasn’t on me, it wasn’t on my assistants,” he said. “(The referee) was pointing to somebody down at the end of the bench who jumped up. You’ll have to ask him. To me, that’s ridiculous.”
Larranaga was further agitated by Tech’s advantage at the free-throw line, 23 foul shots to the Hurricanes’ 11.
“I would say that’s pretty lopsided,” he said.
Alvarado turned the ball over a career-high seven times and had no assists for just the second time in his young career. But, Alvarado came up with a number of difference-making plays, such as a steal that led to two points and a block of a 3-point try by 5-foot-7 Chris Lykes late in the game. He had 12 points.
“It was the best zero-assist and seven-turnover game that I’ve ever seen,” Pastner said. “He just makes winning plays.”
Perhaps a corner turned
After two months in which they’ve have encountered tough bounces, injuries and other calamities on the way to a 6-7 record, the Jackets got one back. While Miami was off its game, Tech still defended with urgency and resolve, winning loose balls, getting on the floor and, aside from easy baskets enabled by so-so transition defense, generally made Miami work for its points.
Tech lost to Notre Dame on Saturday in no small part because it was 7-for-18 from the free-throw line. The Jackets lost to Wofford on a night when they shot 57.1 percent from the field because they turned the ball over 16 times and were victimized by a career night by a Wofford sniper.
The pieces got put together Wednesday. The Jackets had just three turnovers in the second half, made their free throws (17-for-23) and won even though Lammers contributed eight points.
“I think this is a big momentum changer for our season, a great building block of what we know what we can do,” Okogie said. “Obviously, we haven’t had too many big, big wins this season, so our confidence wasn’t at an extremely high level.”
To the Jackets, it was evidence that a young team that is gaining in health and experience can do some damage in the ACC schedule.
“I can see that we’re getting better,” Pastner said. “We just needed a win to show it, a good win against a good team like Miami, and so that was good for us and for our confidence.”
How the game was won
It was not exactly a show of offensive force, but the Jackets put together a 10-0 run on Miami that extended the Jackets’ lead from 36-34 to 46-34 with 9:18 to play, giving themselves enough margin to withstand a charge from the Hurricanes. The run was powered by scrappy play, a string of errant 3-point tries by Miami and a superior play by Okogie.
He started the run when Miami was inbounding from the baseline on its offensive end and Okogie baited Bruce Brown into passing to the opposite corner. Okogie intercepted the ball and, falling out of bounds, whipped the ball behind his back to Brandon Alston, who double pumped a putback after Alvarado’s fast-break layup was blocked.
“I didn’t know who I was throwing it to, actually,” Okogie said.
Okogie scored six points in the run, including his only successful 3-point try of the night. Tech capped the run when Tadric Jackson found Alvarado alone cutting the baseline for a layup and the 46-34 lead. In those eight Tech possessions in the 10-0 run, the Jackets were 3-for-7, had two shots blocked and turned the ball over once. Miami, meanwhile, was 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
For a team that has often lapsed in the second halves of games, it was an encouraging development.