Georgia Tech stuns UNC in ACC hoop opener

Freshman Josh Okogie ascored 26 points to lead Georgia Tech to a 75-63 upset win over No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday at McCamish Pavilion

Adam Hagy—X02835
Dec 31

ATLANTA — After freshman Josh Okogie scored only five points in a near loss to North Carolina A&T in Georgia Tech’s previous game, Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner had a heart-to-heart talk with Okogie. The coach challenged him to play harder and with more consistency now that the ACC schedule was ready to start. Okogie answered the challenge in resounding fashion. The 6-foot-5 guard scored 26 points to lead Georgia Tech to a 75-63 upset win over No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. “He was told the truth on how he had been playing, and to his credit, he came back and was a big-time player today,” Pastner said. “He was a very high-level guy today. When he’s at that level we’re a different team.” Okogie shot 7 for 14 from the field and made 11 of 13 free throws to go with five rebounds and three assists for the Yellow Jackets, who snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels. It was the second-best performance of the season by Okogie, who set a freshman record with 38 points against Tulane. “Okogie was really big for them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It was a good day for Georgia Tech and not a good day for us.” Georgia Tech (9-4, 1-0 ACC) also got 15 points from Josh Heath and 11 points each from Quinton Stephens and Ben Lammers, who also had 11 rebounds. It was Georgia Tech’s first win over a ranked team since beating Notre Dame a year ago. It was the first time Georgia Tech won its ACC opener since 2005-06 against Virginia. Justin Jackson scored 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting to lead the Tar Heels (12-3, 0-1 ACC). Nate Britt added 13 points while Kennedy Meeks had a game-high 14 rebounds. Georgia Tech took the lead with 11:59 left in the second half on a pair of free throws by Okogie and never trailed again. There were several key moments, but none bigger than a long 3-pointer that Heath made with 7:48 left to give the Yellow Jackets a 53-49 lead. “Really the shot clock was running out and I was out of options,” Heath said. Georgia Tech was 25 of 28 at the foul line in the second half to help prevent any comeback. The Tar Heels came into the game averaging 89.6 points, but wound up with their lowest output of the season against a Georgia Tech team that is the most inexperienced in the country and picked to finish 14th in the conference Georgia Tech hung around through the first half and limited North Carolina to 33.3 percent shooting from the field, its worst first-half performance of the season. The Yellow Jackets led by three points four times in the first half, the final time at the 10:15 mark when they went ahead 23-20 on a Tadric Jackson layup. The Tar Heels went ahead when Luke Maye scored on a put-back with 8:03 left in the half. North Carolina led by as many as five, taking a 32-27 lead on Britt’s layup, but couldn’t shake the Yellow Jackets and led 32-29 at halftime. “I challenged them at halftime,” Williams said. “I’ve done that before. I don’t mind making them mad. Jumped our guys at halftime and challenged them, ‘If you’re going to be tough enough to shoot, be tough enough to make it. And it made them tighter. It didn’t work.” The Tar Heels wound up making just 24 of 72 from the field (33.3 percent) and only 5 for 26 on 3-pointers (19.2 percent). That’s far from the 48.6 percent from the field and 37.6 percent on 3-pointers the Tar Heels have shown this season. “We missed so many shots,” Williams said. “Joel Berry, as we said the other night, he’s been sick. But Joel 3 for 13, Justin 6 for 17 … those are not good numbers. But the numbers in my head are much worse for me as a head coach because I have to get things better than I did today.” NOTES: North Carolina plays at Clemson on Tuesday night. It will be only the 10th time that UNC has opened league play with consecutive road games, the last coming in 2003. … Georgia Tech is at Duke on Wednesday, the second of three consecutive top-10 teams it will face to open the ACC schedule. Georgia Tech has never played three straight games against teams in the top 10.Reuters contributed to this story