Georgia Tech shows its stuff

Bynum's 35 carry fifth seed over No. 1 seed UNC, 78-75

`This was no upset,' Hewitt says

Set for another NCAA run, Yellow Jackets to face Duke

ACC Tournament

March 13, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Georgia Tech's 78-75 victory over top-seeded North Carolina yesterday in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals was a lot of things to Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt, but an upset it was not.

"This is not a statement of disrespect to North Carolina," Hewitt said after the game at MCI Center. "I think they are great - they very well could win the national championship - but this was no upset. Let me make that point clear.

"This was two great teams, and our team, being a team that I think has accomplished a lot at big moments ... to be written off was kind of amusing to me. This team has played in big games, won big games and showed again that we could win big games."

The message "No Upsets" was still scrawled on the dry erase board in the Yellow Jackets' locker room after the game, as fifth-seeded Georgia Tech (19-10), thanks to a dominant 35-point performance by senior guard Will Bynum, celebrated its first trip to the ACC final since 1996 and a win that almost certainly clinched an NCAA berth.

When Rashad McCants' three-point try to tie the game caught the front rim just before time expired, North Carolina fell to 27-4, but the second-ranked Tar Heels likely will be a No. 1 seed when the tournament brackets are released tonight.

The Yellow Jackets will play third-seeded Duke, a 76-69 winner over North Carolina State in the other semifinal, in the final at 1 p.m. today, looking to gather even more momentum for another postseason run.

Georgia Tech won nine of 10 games last season before falling to Connecticut in the NCAA championship game. Yesterday marked the Yellow Jackets' third straight win - their first three-game winning streak since mid-December.

When Georgia Tech, hamstrung by injuries all season, played the Tar Heels on Jan. 12, the Yellow Jackets were beaten by 22 points, an outcome that started a three-game losing streak and brought about the low point of the season, according to junior point guard Jarrett Jack.

"I think making a run at the end of last season probably geared us knowing how to play for the postseason," said Jack, a Fort Washington native. "We all know that you want to play your best basketball going into this time of year. Hopefully, we'll continue the momentum [today]."

Georgia Tech won yesterday because of its defense, which held North Carolina to 36.1 percent shooting, and because of the quick first step and seemingly unlimited range of Bynum. The generously-listed 6-foot senior hit 10 of 21 shots, including five of 10 three-pointers, en route to his 35 points, the highest total ever for a Yellow Jacket in the ACC tournament.

The 35-point total, matched by Duke's J.J. Redick in yesterday's other semifinal, was the highest in a tournament semifinal since Maryland's Albert King scored 38 in a victory over Clemson in 1980.

"Once I made my first three, I pretty much felt good the rest of the way," Bynum said. "It was my day."

Bynum, who had hit just 11 of his past 36 shots coming into the game, took over in the second half when the Tar Heels, who got 17 points each from McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May, made a run.

May scored 12 points in the first six minutes of the second half to give North Carolina a 53-52 lead, but Bynum answered with a three. Then down the stretch, Bynum scored seven of the Yellow Jackets' last nine points, with the only other basket coming from center Luke Schenscher (15 points, 10 rebounds).

Bynum's two free throws with 9.6 seconds left gave Georgia Tech a three-point lead and forced the Tar Heels to attempt a late three-pointer, but McCants came up short.

"It's not just what ol' North Carolina does," said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. "You got to give some credit to the other team, and that other team today played better than we did."

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