A loss to an opponent as underwhelming as Grambling would be humbling under any circumstances for an ACC team with NCAA tournament aspirations.
The way it happened to Georgia Tech made it even worse.
When Grambling guard Ivy Smith Jr. missed a heavily contested off-balance runner that would have given his team the lead in the closing seconds on Friday night, Georgia Tech merely needed to secure the rebound to gain control of the game. Forward Ben Lammers and guard Curtis Haywood II instead combined to accidentally tip the rebound into the wrong basket with 6.5 seconds to go, providing the winning margin in Grambling’s 64-63 upset victory.
Grambling State's winner tonight. Huge road win for that program against an ACC team with tournament aspirations. pic.twitter.com/UqCPzxrMgW
— Alan (@AlanCole01) December 2, 2017
Georgia Tech’s loss will weigh down its computer numbers all season compared to other potential NCAA tournament teams. This is a Grambling program that went 17-127 during a five-year period from 2011 to 2016, a stretch that included an 0-28 season in 2012-13. The Tigers entered play Friday night with a 1-5 record and a No. 338 KenPom ranking out of 351 Division I teams.
The absence of suspended guard Josh Okogie surely contributed to Georgia Tech’s poor performance, as did the sprained ankle that has kept leading scorer Ben Lammers from practicing much recently. Lammers missed all six of his shots before halftime and finished 1-for-7 from the field to go with nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Grambling actually built a 16-point lead midway through the second half before Georgia Tech stormed back behind guards Tadric Jackson and Jose Alvarado. Twenty of Alavarado’s 22 points came after halftime including a 3-pointer that gave the Yellow Jackets the lead with just over a minute remaining and a pair of free throws that extended the advantage to three.
Two free throws from Smith trimmed the deficit to one and a Grambling defensive stop gave the Tigers the chance to take the lead on their final possession.
That they did it was a surprise. How they did it was even more unfathomable.
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