ATLANTA — Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-0 ACC) played their fifth game of the season on Sunday night against the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman (5-2). It was the first game of three that will take place within the next seven days.
It took an and-one layup from Michael Devoe with 7 seconds remaining, but the Jackets squeaked out winners by a final score of 68-65.
The evening began with some strange news, as senior center James Banks was not a part of the starting five for the Jackets. A little foreshadowing, perhaps, as things would continue to get weird for the Jackets, who found themselves down 36-34 at the half.
“We didn’t have the same energy to start, and there is no excuse for that,” said Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner. “We had practices, I don’t know if it was just part of coming off of a tough loss and trying to get our energy back, but that is something we have to be better at. Nobody needs to generate energy for us, we have to generate it for ourselves.”
Despite shooting 54% in the first 20 minutes, the Jackets were unable to stop Bethune-Cookman who just purely seemed to want it more. The wildcats had 7 turnovers in the first half, but made their money off of second-chance opportunities thanks to a 17-10 rebounding advantage that included 9 offensive rebounds.
Things looked to be turning around for the Jackets to start the second half as a couple powerful slams by junior forward Moses Wright gave the team some much-needed momentum, but the game would stay tight until the buzzer thanks to missed free throws (14-25) from Tech and multiple second-chance scoring chances (20) for the Wildcats.
It was all generated by junior forward Cletrell Pope, who single-handedly dominated the paint by scoring 20 points and adding 19 rebounds (11 offensive) for Bethune-Cookman.
“I have never coached somebody like him” said Bethune-Cookman head coach Ryan Ridder. “He has a great motor and plays really strong. Although he is thin, he is really wiry and strong. He has a great second bounce, and he is just relentless. When a shot goes up, it is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.”
It was the 29th double-double of Pope’s career, and helped Bethune-Cookman out-rebound Georgia Tech 40-32.
For Tech, the offense continued to turn to sophomore guard Michael Devoe, who efficiently scored 27 points on 16 shots, including the game-winner.
Two double-doubles were also recorded for the Jackets as senior center James Banks posted 12 points and 10 rebounds. Joining him for the very first time was junior forward Moses Wright, who added 12 points of his own and 12 rebounds.
“It should have happened before,” joked Moses Wright following the game. “I have played a lot of games, but it feels great.”
Though it was not their best overall performance, the Jackets turned the ball over just 13 times against Bethune-Cookman, five less than their average heading into the contest.
Ball security has been an emphasis for the Jackets, who will need to continue improving and putting all the pieces together before facing Nebraska on Wednesday at McCamish Pavilion.