NEW YORK — Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said he did not envision his Yellow Jackets in a national postseason tournament before the season began.
With another win, though, his team will be a champion of one.
Josh Okogie scored a game-high 22 points to lead Georgia Tech to a 76-61 win over Cal State Bakersfield in a NIT semifinal Tuesday night.
“It’s been a remarkable year,” Pastner said.
Ben Lammers finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds for Georgia Tech, which will take on Texas Christian in the championship game Thursday night.
“It’s a great win for us,” Pastner said, flanked by Okogie and Quinton Stephens, who added 13 points.
Tadric Jackson added 12.
“Playing in the NIT, we were excited,” Pastner said. “We wanted to keep playing. This is important for our program.”
The Yellow Jackets used a strong defensive effort and excellent ball management. Georgia Tech forced 15 turnovers while only committing seven. Eighteen of the Yellow Jackets’ 76 points came off Cal State Bakersfield turnovers.
“They just played well. We can’t take anything from what they have done. They spread us out. They took care of the basketball,” Cal State Bakersfield coach Rod Barnes. “They are a good basketball team.
“The pace was their game. The flow was their game. They are a good enough team that we couldn’t turn it around.”
Sharp shooting aided the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech connected on 43.3 percent of its shots (26 for 60) while limiting the Roadrunners to 35 percent shooting (21 for 60).
At halftime, the Yellow Jackets (21-15) had a 36-26 lead highlighted by Jackson’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Georgia Tech put away the game midway through the second half. Following Dedrick Basile’s 3 which sliced the lead to 40-31, Georgia Tech outscored Cal State Bakersfield 15-6 over a 4:53 span to push the advantage to 55-37.
“We definitely had great preparation prior to this game. We had a couple great practices and a great shoot around on being ball tough,” Okogie said. “I think we did a good job of transitioning that into the game.
Basile led Cal State Bakersfield (25-10) with 18 points. Jaylin Airington chipped in with 12, and Damiyne Durham and Shon Briggs had 10 points apiece.
“We had a sluggish start,” Airington said. “Give credit to Georgia Tech. They (made) shots and they (were) just the better team.”
Okogie’s soaring two-handed dunk along the baseline with 2:38 left punctuated the rout.
CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD: A season that saw the Roadrunners win the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship came to an end. After the game, Barnes expressed his pride for the program. “On a national level, people are starting to realize we have a pretty good program,” Barnes said. “We feel like the next step is just for us to keep going. We were anticipating this year being a great year, but I think we’re getting to the point where we expect a great year every year.”
GEORGIA TECH: North Carolina isn’t the only Atlantic Coast Conference program that has a chance to win a postseason championship. With the win, the Yellow Jackets advanced to the NIT title game.
CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD: The loss concluded the longest season in school history. The Roadrunners played 35 games in 2016-17, breaking the record of 34 set in 1989-90.
GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets improved to 14-9 all-time in the NIT, despite qualifying for the tournament’s semifinal for the first time since 1971.
CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD: Season is over.
GEORGIA TECH: Will play Texas Christian in the NIT title game Thursday night.