McCormick helps Georgia Tech rally past NC A&T 59-52 (Dec 28, 2016)
ATLANTA (AP) With the exception of rarely-used sub Kellen McCormick scoring 12 points, all on 3-pointers in the second half, there wasn't a lot of good to say about Georgia Tech Wednesday night after the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat North Carolina A&T, 59-52 -- other than disaster averted.
The Aggies (1-12) have never beaten an ACC team in 29 tries, and lost their 33rd consecutive non-conference road game, yet Georgia Tech led for just 10:36.
If not for the surprising heat from McCormick, a graduate transfer from Western Michigan who'd scored just five points in Tech's first 11 games, the Yellow Jackets (8-4) might be heading into Saturday's ACC opener against No. 9 North Carolina with scorch marks.
They're smarting anyway after missing their first seven shots and 13 of their first 15, only to have to steal the lead late in each half.
''We avoided disasters,'' said first-year Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. ''Kellen McCormick saved us tonight, bottom line.''
Tech made five of its last eight shots in the first half for a 26-23 lead, but North Carolina A&T junior guard Sam Hunt scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. Davaris McGowens added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies.
Hunt gave A&T a 30-28 lead on a 3-pointer with 15:10 remaining.
The Jackets were in trouble as their deficit grew, and center Ben Lammers - their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker - was in foul trouble.
McCormick stayed hot, and Tadric Jackson scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half - including seven in a 9-0 run that gave Tech a 50-45 lead when he was good on a 3-point play with 2:46 left.
North Carolina A&T wasn't finished.
The Aggies cut that lead to a single point before McCormick's final trey gave the Jackets breathing room with 1:29 to go.
''For 36 minutes, we went toe-to-toe with an ACC program,'' said North Carolina A&T coach Jay Joyner. ''We're a much better team than our record suggests.''
North Carolina A&T: Perhaps there are moral victories after all. The Aggies ought to be pleased with the fight they put up against an ACC opponent. They shot just 32 percent (17 of 53), but they matched the bigger Jackets in the paint, 22-22, and outrebounded Tech 35-33.
Georgia Tech: It's probably going to be ugly at the next practice or two for the Jackets, who played much of this game as if they'd never practiced or played together. With 18 ACC games looming, Tech did not look ready to play.
The Aggies played without junior guard Eliel Gonzalez, their second-leading scorer (10.5 points per game) and leading assist man (32 in 11 games). ''He was late the last two days to the bus and practice,'' Joyner said. ''I'm big on discipline, and that's why he didn't play.''
Fed up with his starters, Pastner swapped in subs Josh Heath, Corey Heyward, Sylvester Ogbonda, McCormick and Christian Matthews just 2:51 into the game, with the Jackets trailing 4-0. That didn't help. The starters returned 2:32 later and Tech still trailed 4-0.
Lammers, who finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, said the Jackets brought a poor attitude into the game. ''We had some open shots, but we just couldn't make them. We also made some poor plays,'' he said. ''I think we just didn't have the same energy that we usually do.''
North Carolina A&T will move into MEAC action when the Aggies play at Hampton on Jan. 4.
Georgia Tech will dive into the ACC with a brutal start, hosting No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday.