ATLANTA, GA - Once is chance. Twice is coincidence. Third time is a trend.
That's what we have now, after the Yellow Jackets (13-8, 5-4) knocked off their third top 15 opponent at home in three tries. This time, Georgia Tech went toe-to-toe with #14 Notre Dame and dropped the Irish 62-60 via last second dramatics.
Tied at 60 all with under 30 seconds remaining, Notre Dame held the ball with 4 seconds separating the game and shot clock. A chance for last shot or, worst case, overtime was almost within grasp. With one timeout remaining, Irish coach Mike Brey chose to let it ride and handed the keys to the game to his energizer bunny, point guard Matt Farrell.
Farrell, maestro of many pick and rolls throughout the game, tried once more. Like many times before, Farrell's attempt was met by hawkish Georgia Tech defense, this time from point guard Josh Heath. Needing to make a play with 7 seconds to go, Farrell forced up a tough one-handed leaner that hit the back iron and slid off the rim.
The rest will find its way into Georgia Tech highlights for years to come.
Jackets' shooting guard Tadric Jackson hauled in the weak side rebound, turned up court and hit freshman phenom Josh Okogie in stride down the right sideline with 2.3 seconds to go.
"I looked up at the clock and saw that I had time, saw 4 seconds on the clock," said Jackson. "The last thing I remembered I saw Josh [Okogie] just sprinting so hard, and I had no choice but to give it to him."
Upon catching the ball just over mid-court, Okogie took just one dribble and two steps en route to the game-winning layup as time expired. McCamish Pavilion roared. And Okogie, shut down and in foul trouble for much of the game, proved one play can make up for the rest.
"I knew what time was on the clock before I caught it, so when I caught the ball, I just knew I had to get going fast," said Okogie. "As soon as I laid it up, I knew it was going in."
Make no mistake about it, the outcome was no fluke. Tech led 35-31 at the half. The Jackets made a normally efficient Notre Dame offense look ordinary to the tune of 40% shooting for the game. Irish captain Steve Vasturia was held to 5 points, 10 points short of his season average, on 1 for 7 shooting.
"It was hard for us to get into any offensive rhythm," said Brey. "The guards that [Pastner] plays can all play defense. You got the shot blockers in the back. We worked like heck to get to 60 points today."
As the wins continue to mount for Georgia Tech, including those of resume-boosting variety, expectations are burgeoning in parallel. Eyes around the program are refocusing toward the NCAA tournament, a sight almost inconceivable prior to ACC play.
Joining the increasing expectations is one more unmistakable rise; that is the enthusiasm around the Georgia Tech basketball program. McCamish Pavilion was a sight to behold, game highlights aside. An oft late arriving crowd was near capacity by tip. The student section was full 30 minutes prior. Those unable to enter due to max capacity waited outside thru halftime for a chance to get in.
The excitement is back. The "Thrill" has come back to the "Thrillerdome". And the 2016-2017 Yellow Jackets have earned every bit of it.