GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defeated the 2nd seed Florida State Seminoles 80-75 to win their first ACC Championship since 1993, emphatically punching their NCAA Tournament ticket fir the first time in eleven years. The Yellow Jackets finished the season 17-8 overall with two of their wins coming from the postseason. Michael Devoe was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament in the process. The Yellow Jackets secured their first NCAA Tournament berth in eleven years.

“To get this from where we started — not only how it started this year, how it started five years ago, holy Toledo. Goodness gracious,” Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Paster said. “Thank the good Lord, God bless everybody for sticking with us. And these young men to be able to do what we’ve done, to do this is just darned special. To put Georgia Tech etched back in the forefront of the ACC.”

Georgia Tech started the game playing some of their most aggressive defense of the season. Forward Jordan Usher and guard Jose Alvarado forced turnovers against Florida State’s first two offensive possessions. Moses Wright began the game playing the five but then transitioned to power forward with Rodney Howard subbing in at center. This adjustment came early in the first half after Florida State’s big men Balsa Koprivica and RaiQuan Gray made it hard for Georgia Tech to find an open look. Georgia Tech would make big defensive plays but struggle to convert on the other end. They began the game with Usher or Devoe driving to the lane quickly on a fast break but this scheme resulted in a lot of sloppy plays.

Florida State also applied a full-court press to begin the half that made it hard for the Yellow Jackets to bring the ball up consistently. There were even possessions here and there, but Wright seemed to run the point instead of a guard because they were able to inbound to him easily. The Yellow Jackets played soft offensively in the first half and appeared to shy away from going right to the rack. They would settle for pop-up threes and bad shots instead of being aggressive. Jordan Usher put up a few missed threes with plenty of time left on the shot clock to make a more strategic play. As a whole, Tech shot 21.7% from the three due to the forced shots. After a series of continuously passing around the perimeter, Bubba Parham changed the pace by attacking the lane. This positively changed the Yellow Jackets’ offensive momentum.

The Yellow Jackets were a terror on defense the whole night. Jose Alvarado swarmed the Seminoles RayQuan Evans and Scottie Barnes. He caused several pass breakups and travels that won’t show up on the stat sheet. Alverado finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds. The problem with their defense was their inability to defend the lane. Moses Wright would find himself outside the lane and leave it open for the Seminoles Koprivica to get easy layups in a mismatch. Koprivica finished the night with an 11 point and 10 rebounds.

This pattern dug the Yellow Jackets into a nine-point hole in the middle of the second half. Jordan Usher and Michael Devoe put up some quick points by driving right to the basket. Usher and Devoe certainly led the offensive efforts for the Jackets while a team effort was applied on defense. The team forced a season-high 25 turnovers against the Seminoles with Alvarado leading the way with five swipes. Usher finished the night with 15 points and three rebounds and Devoe ended with 20 points and three rebounds.

“For us, it was just coming out with tons of energy. This is a championship game. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so for us, we came out with everything,” Georgia Tech’s Michael Devoe exclaimed. “We wanted to force them for turnovers, we wanted them to play like the way we wanted them to play, so for us, it was a great team that we beat. We give credit to them, as well.”

The game went back and forth in the final minutes with the final plays happening as so. A lay-up from Alvarado and a pair of free throws from Usher put Tech up by six with four minutes remaining. State’s M.J. Walker drained a three on the following possession to cut that lead to three. Moses Wright knocked down a free throw after a controversial foul to extend the lead to four with three minutes remaining. The ACC Player of the Year then crashed the board for a quick two points following a Seminoles turnover forced by Kyle Sturdivant, extending their lead to six.

That was cut short by a quick layup from the Seminoles’ Scottie Barnes. Jordan Usher pushed the tempo and split two Seminole defenders for a one-handed dunk to extend Tech’s lead back to six. Anthony Polite got a quick two points for the Seminoles to cut Tech’s lead back down to four. Kyle Sturdivant knocked down one of his two free throws to extend the lead to five with a minute and a half remaining.

“We did turn the ball over a couple of times ourselves, what we call self-inflicted turnovers,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “But for the most part, I think that they forced us into turnovers. … I want to give them credit because they did an unbelievable job of just stripping us from the ball, and their defense created a mindset with us where we were unsure as to what we were supposed to do.”

The game began to get out of Florida State’s grasp as they fouled Jordan Usher in transition on the next possession. Usher knocked down both of his shots to put Tech up 69-62 with one minute remaining. State’s Anthony Polite battled under the rim for a layup to cut Tech’s lead to five with a little less than a minute remaining. Kyle Sturdivant knocked down both of his free throws after being fouled with less than fifty seconds remaining. This extended Tech’s lead 71-64.

Barnes was fouled on the next possession and brought the score to 71-66. Jose Alvarado was then fouled by Barnes in desperation as the clock wound down to half a minute. Alvarado knocked down both to raise the lead 73-66. Scottie Barnes drove for a quick two on the next possession to cut Tech’s lead by two. Moses Wright then knocked down two free throws after being quickly fouled on the next play. This extended Tech’s lead 75-68.

Again, Barnes grabs a quick lay-up to bring the score to 75-70. Alvarado gets fouled on the next play and knocks down one shot to raise the lead 76-70. Scottie Barnes then knocks down a three to bring the Seminoles within one bucket as the score changed to 76-73. Alvarado was fouled on the next play and knocked down both shots with nine seconds remaining to go and this sealed the deal on Georgia Tech’s ACC Championship.

“You know, guys made tough shots when we needed them, and we just played good defense,” Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado stated. “It was just a team effort, and I’m glad because my team deserved it.”

Photo: Georgia Tech Athletics

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