CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – February is more than halfway over, which means that March is just around the corner.
In a conference that likely will receive at least eight bids to the NCAA Tournament, games like Wednesday’s ACC meeting between host Miami and Georgia Tech can have major consequences on Selection Sunday.
While the Yellow Jackets overcame a poor start Saturday to defeat Boston College 65-54 and end a two-game losing streak, the Hurricanes saw a 14-point, first-half lead against Louisville disappear to turn what would have been a resume-building victory into a frustrating 71-66 defeat.
The Yellow Jackets, who lost Quinton Stephens (10.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) to a sprained ankle early against Boston College, managed only 15 points in the first half but then turned into a different team, exploding for 50 over the final 20 minutes to win by 11.
“To be able to win the game without Quinton, we rely on him so much, and for him to go down early shows you this group of guys here have become a good basketball team,” coach Josh Pastner told reporters. “Their fight, their resolve and their grit, any time they’ve been knocked down, they’ve always found a way to keep coming back and not let it avalanche.”
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes led for nearly 34 minutes before a 13-0 run by the Cardinals gave them an eight-point advantage at 61-53, setting the stage for a brief Miami rally and a final 10-5 surge by Rick Pitino’s squad.
While both teams upset No. 9 North Carolina, and Georgia Tech also has notched victories over No. 18 Florida State and No. 20 Notre Dame, it would seem that a 9-9 finish in conference play – at the very least – will be needed to get either or both of these them into the Tournament.
TV: 8 p.m., ET, ACC Network
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (15-10, 6-6 ACC): Dynamic freshman guard Josh Okogie (15.3 points, five rebounds) is a big reason the Yellow Jackets have exceeded expectations, as he not only leads the team in scoring but also is a force both on the boards and on defense, where he tops the squad in steals with 32.
Another huge boost has come from the 6-10 Ben Lammers (14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds), who averaged only 3.6 points in limited minutes as a sophomore last season but has turned into a monster in the paint – ranking second in the ACC in rebounds and second in the nation in blocked shots (3.2).
Tadric Jackson (11.2 points), who is coming off a career-high 29-point effort against the Eagles, is instant offense off the bench while freshman Justin Moore (5.2, 3.2 assists) provides more backcourt depth.
ABOUT MIAMI (16-8, 6-6): Davon Reed (15.5 points) had been at his best in conference play, averaging 16.8 points and 3.3 3-pointers, but had a difficult time in the narrow loss to Louisville as he was 3-of-12 overall and 1-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Ja’Quan Newton (15 points, 3.6 assists) and freshman Bruce Brown (11.7, 6.4 rebounds) complete the starting backcourt, with the trio accounting for 63.1 percent of the team’s scoring in ACC games.
The Hurricanes have outrebounded their foes by six per game, with Kamari Murphy (6.4 points, 7.5 rebounds) leading the way, while Ebuka Izundu (4.6, 3.2) leads the team in blocked shots (22) in limited minutes and has averaged 10.6 points over his last three contests.
- Miami has won 11 of the last 15 meetings, including a 75-58 victory last season in Atlanta.
- A win for Georgia Tech would put it over .500 in ACC play after 13 games for the first time since 2000-01.
- Miami is 15-1 when scoring 70 or more points while the Yellow Jackets are averaging 68.1.
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