For the first time in 27 years, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are ACC tournament champions after their 80-75 win over the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night.
Georgia Tech secured a spot in Saturday's game after Virginia had to withdraw from the tournament because of a positive COVID-19 test within the program. This marked the Yellow Jackets' first appearance in the ACC title game since 2010.
Florida State advanced to the title game by holding off North Carolina in the semifinal. Head coach Leonard Hamilton's squad finished the regular season with a 16-6 overall record and will likely secure an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
The difference in the game was Florida State's inability to hold on to the basketball. The team committed 25 turnovers. M.J. Walker had eight of them on his own. Scottie Barnes had six, but he also finished with a game-high 21 points off the bench.
Four of Georgia Tech's five starters scored at least 13 points in the win. Michael Devoe led the way with 20 on 8-of-12 shooting.
Notable Game Stats
- Michael Devoe (GT): 20 points (8-12 FG), 3 assists, 2 steals
- Jose Alvarado (GT): 13 points (4-11 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists
- Moses Wright (GT): 15 points (5-13 FG), 8 rebounds
- Scottie Barnes (FSU): 21 points (8-10 FG), 6 turnovers, 4 rebounds
- M.J. Walker (FSU): 15 points (6-10 FG), 8 turnovers, 4 rebounds
Cinderella Yellow Jackets Peaking at Right Time
Rather than leave their tournament fate up to the selection committee, the Yellow Jackets took care of business on their own.
Had they lost on Saturday, there was no guarantee they would have been included in the 68-team NCAA tournament field. ESPN's Joe Lunardi had them among his last four byes in his most recent bracketology update before Saturday's games tipped off.
Taking on a Florida State squad that was the second-best team in the ACC during the regular season, Georgia Tech made the group look out of sorts all game long. The Yellow Jackets could have collapsed after falling behind early in the second half, but they instead used a 13-2 run to go back on top with 10 minutes remaining.
While the turnovers were the big story of the game, Devoe did provide a spark for Georgia Tech on the offensive end.
When Georgia Tech needed a basket down the stretch, Moses Wright was there to provide it. The ACC Player of the Year scored three straight points after Florida State cut the deficit to 61-58. Jordan Usher put an exclamation point on things with a monster dunk in the final minutes of regulation.
Georgia Tech entered the conference title game playing as well as anyone in the ACC. After falling to 9-8 on Feb. 12 with a 74-72 loss to Clemson, the Yellow Jackets rattled off seven straight wins to get to this point.
If they continue on this trajectory going forward, the Yellow Jackets' first tournament appearance since 2010 could be a long run.
Sloppy Play, Turnovers Cost Seminoles ACC Title
Florida State was shooting over 50 percent at halftime but found itself trailing 31-30 because of 14 turnovers.
The Seminoles' offensive success is predicated on efficiency. They entered the ACC Championship Game ranked 26th in the nation in offensive rating.
That efficiency was there early, but it was negated because of how sloppy they were with the ball. Georgia Tech was doing a good job of creating pressure, resulting in eight steals in the first 20 minutes.
Once Leonard Hamilton finally got his team to settle down, the game started to tip in Florida State's favor. RaiQuan Gray put his team on top with a massive dunk early in the second half.
Malik Osborne, who scored nine points in the first half off the bench against North Carolina in the semifinals, helped ignite Saturday's second-half run with a three that put the Seminoles up 42-35.
While it seemed like Florida State was going to start pulling away at that point, those mental mistakes did occasionally pop up. Barnes threw a bad pass that was stolen by Wright, who was fouled on a layup attempt as he was trying to tie the score at 46.
One potential explanation for the turnover issues is Georgia Tech simply knows how to play Hamilton's offense.
Another, more logical answer is Florida State isn't particularly good at protecting the basketball. It entered this game tied with Hawaii for 213th in the nation with 13.9 turnovers per game.
Even by that standard, though, the Seminoles had 20 turnovers in the first 30 minutes of the game that led to 29 points for Georgia Tech.
Eliminating those mistakes likely would have turned this game from a nail-biter into a blowout for Florida State. The Yellow Jackets only shot 43.5 percent from the field and made just five of 23 three-point attempts.
If there's any good news for the Seminoles, their 16-6 record and second-place finish in the ACC during the regular season will likely be good enough to get them a good seed in the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday.
Georgia Tech has clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Florida State will be watching on Selection Sunday to see if it has made the 68-team field.