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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Rebuilding or not, Georgia Tech did not want to head into a 10-day layoff for finals coming off a winless three-game road trip.
They won’t, thanks to Josh Heath, who hit a tie-breaking 12-foot jumper in overtime, and fellow guard Tadric Jackson, who bounced back from one of his worst games with one of his best as the Yellow Jackets beat VCU 76-73 in overtime Wednesday night.
“To get a win like this in a rebuilding situation when you’re starting from Ground Zero is a heck of a win,” first-year coach Josh Pastner said after his team, of the Atlantic Coast Conference, handed the Rams of the Atlantic 10 just their 13th loss in the last 87 home games.
“We’ve just got to make sure we take this win and build on it and continue to get better,” Pastner said.
Jackson scored 19 of his 24 points after halftime for the Yellow Jackets (5-3), who are heading into a break for finals. They won despite turning the ball over 20 times and getting just three points from freshman scoring sensation Josh
Okogie, who played 16 minutes.
“He didn’t play as well, but he’s a freshman and that’s part of the growth,” Pastner said.
Ben Lammers had 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Yellow Jackets.
Justin Tillman had 26 points and nine rebounds and JeQuan Lewis scored 16 for the Rams (6-3), who lost their second straight.
The Rams closed regulation with a 7-2 run, forcing overtime when Tillman scored with 54 seconds left and neither team could score again. In the overtime, Lewis scored for VCU, Jackson followed with a 3-pointer and Lewis hit one of two free throws with 1:50 remaining.
Heath’s jumper made it 75-73, and the Yellow Jackets missed 3 of 4 free throws in the closing minutes, but Doug Brooks missed a pair of 3-point tries for the Rams, and his shot at the buzzer hit off the backboard but wasn’t close to going in.
VCU coach Will Wade kept his team in the locker room for nearly 50 minutes after the final horn sounded.
“It felt like in spurts we played really hard and we fought, but the majority of the game we were on our heels,” said
Lewis, who had seven assists, but also seven of the Rams’ 21 turnovers. “It’s unacceptable. You can’t beat an ACC team like that.”
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets are one of the youngest teams in terms of experience in Division I, and should only get better as the season wears on. They led VCU 36-28 at halftime despite getting nothing but two quick fouls from Okogie (he arrived averaging 17 points) in the half, blocked four shots and altered countless others, taking away VCU’s willingness to drive for some lengthy stretches.
VCU: The Rams are at their best when they play fast, but under control, and that fine line is not one they have figured out how to navigate yet. Lewis can be dazzling at full throttle, but can only run himself into situations that lead to ill-advised passes or terrible shots, and the frenetic pace the Rams often rely on to create the havoc that was their hallmark can now hurt them as much as it helps them.
Georgia Tech’s Corey Heyward swished about a 65-foot shot at the buzzer of the first half, giving Tech the 36-28 lead. The shot came after the ball was inbounded with 00.6 showing on the clock. “We won by three points. That’s probably the difference,” Pastner said, noting that the team ends each practice by having to make a halfcourt shot, and that it took them about 8 minutes to do it Wednesday.
Georgia Tech takes a 10-day break before welcoming Alcorn State to start a five-game homestand on Dec. 18.
VCU goes on the road Saturday to play Old Dominion, its archrival from its days in the Colonial Athletic Association.