ATLANTA — Georgia Tech tried its best Tuesday night to give the final home game of the season to the visiting Duke Blue Devils.
The Yellow Jackets blew an eight-point lead with 3:23 left in regulation as Duke’s leading scorer, sophomore Matthew Hurt, watched from the sideline with five fouls. They were even gracious enough to give the Blue Devils the final shot before overtime after Jose Alvarado’s head-scratching shot attempt from near mid-court with 5.7 seconds left in the game.
Freshman Jaemyn Brakefield had a chance to win the game with a wide-open, last-second corner three. The shot bounced off the front of the rim.
In overtime, Georgia Tech led by six points with 16 seconds left — a traditionally insurmountable lead — and turned the ball over twice. DJ Steward cut the lead to 79-76 with a 3-point shot on the first Yellow Jacket mishap, but missed a second attempt with 2.6 remaining to force the game into a second overtime.
Georgia Tech (14-8, 10-6 ACC) held on to win 81-77 at McCamish Pavilion, snapping a 14-game losing streak to Duke (11-10, 9-8 ACC), which lost its second straight overtime game and is on the verge of missing its first NCAA Tournament since 1995.
Georgia Tech’s Moses Wright scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including six points in overtime, as the Yellow Jackets likely secured their first March Madness berth since 2010 – the last year they beat the Blue Devils.
“It’s been a year of almost,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said postgame. “That’s about the fifth or sixth one-possession game that we’ve lost. You’re almost having a really good year, and instead, you’re having a .500 year.”
The loss drops the Blue Devils to 3-9 this season in games decided by 10 points or fewer. All eight of their ACC losses have been by seven points or less.
“Over the years we’ve been very fortunate,” Coach K said. “So I don’t know if the basketball gods are evening things up a little bit.”
This latest misfortune may hurt the most, particularly when it comes to Duke’s NCAA Tournament chances.
“We knew the stakes of the game. We were aware of the situation,” said freshman Mark Williams, who scored 20 points and hit all nine of his shot attempts. “We had the mentality to win, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Duke, currently ranked No. 58 in the NET, could’ve bolstered its tournament resume with a win over Georgia Tech, but instead dropped to 1-4 in games against Quad 1 opponents.
Opinion:ESPN has been looking the other way on Dan Dakich’s bullying for years
It was another tough night for freshman guards Steward and Jeremy Roach, who combined for 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including hitting 2-of-9 on 3-pointers.
“We’re just not getting any production from our perimeter, from our guards,” Coach K said. “It’s the second game in a row where they’ve had a tough time against veteran guards.”
The Blue Devils could pick up a Quad 1 win to end the regular season against North Carolina on Saturday but will likely need a deep ACC Tournament run to have a chance at participating in March Madness.
“There is no other alternative except work and play hard to win,” Coach K said. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We feel down, but we have to keep working. Our program is about that.”
Here’s the Blue Devils’ NCAA Tournament resume as of March 1:
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.