Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavillion is once becoming “The Thrillerdome” under Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets.
Since the turn of the decade, it’s safe to say there hasn’t been much life in the Georgia Tech basketball program. After all, entering this season, the Jackets have failed to make the NCAA Tournament since the 2009-10 season Paul Hewitt’s second to last season.
That being said, just 42 games into the Josh Pastner era of Georgia Tech basketball, it’s safe to say there is a buzz around the program. In what was supposed to be a six-year plan to get the Jackets back to the NCAA Tournament, is looking like it could happen as soon as this season. Even if it takes another season or two get back there, the Jackets and Pastner are once again making McCamish Pavillion “The Thrillerdome”.
Over Pastner’s first 42 games, the Jackets at home have been nearly unbeatable. The Jackets over the course of their first season and five games with Pastner are an outstanding 21-4 at home, a winning percentage of .840. It’s an unprecedented level of success for the Yellow Jackets under Paster which included a program record 17 home victories a season ago.
That being said, a few of those 21 games for the Jackets have been “thrillers” in one way or another. The first major “thriller” that comes to mind in the Pastner era was the Jackets upset victory last year on December 31st over then 9th ranked North Carolina.
In that game, the Jackets used a 26-point performance from true freshman Josh Okogie to take down the Tar Heels 75-63. For the Yellow Jackets, it would be just the first of three exciting upset victories to happen at McCamish Pavillion last season.
The second thriller and an upset victory at McCamish last season was the Jackets absolutely dominating performance against Florida State. The Jackets arguably played their best game of the entire season against the Seminoles last season, on January 25th. In that game, the Jackets allowed just 15 points in the first half to the Seminoles on their way to a 78-56 victory. It was a thrilling performance from start to finish that showed how good of a team the Jackets can truly be.
Just three days later, the Jackets would secure another upset victory and the most thrilling of them all. The Jackets were playing host to the 14th ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Irish and Jackets played a close game throughout that took all 60 minutes to decide. In the last ten seconds of the game, Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell missed a contested layup, just a few seconds later, Josh Okogie once again was the hero as he laid in the game-winning layup as time expired.
Which brings us to the Yellow Jacket’s recent thriller against Northwestern on Tuesday night. After taking a 28-22 lead into halftime, the Jackets allowed the Wildcats to climb back into the game and before they knew it, they were down one point with just seconds left. With Josh Okogie out due to his eight-game suspension, the Jackets needed a new hero. In steps, senior guard Tadric Jackson.
With just seconds remaining, Jackson made a run for the basket and was able to lay in the game-winning lay-up as time expired, giving the Jackets a 52-51 victory over a veteran Northwestern squad.
One of the common denominators among all the Jackets recent thrillers at McCamish was that their opponents were full of experienced players. The most recent example is Northwestern, the Wildcats are an extremely senior and junior led team but the Yellow Jackets who have a ton of young players including a young point guard in Jose Alvarado were able to do just enough to pull off the victory.
North Carolina last season is another example, the Jackets were able to consistently outplay the future national champions for 40 minutes that day despite being considered the worst team in the ACC, not to mention a rather inexperienced lineup. The Notre Dame and Florida State upsets are just two other examples.
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What has been proven over the course of the last 40+ games is the Jackets are quickly improving and are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. Josh Pastner and the Jackets are making what was supposed to be a six-year plan look a lot shorter. While doing so, they are developing a winning culture and are once again making McCamish Pavillion, “The Thrillerdome”.
The one thing for certain is, even if the Jackets are a few years from making a run at the NCAA Tournament, there is a new buzz surrounding the program and the thrill has returned to McCamish Pavillion.