SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Georgia Tech guard Trae Golden looked at the Carrier Dome rim from the foul line six crucial times in Tuesday night’s 67-62 Yellow Jackets’ win over the No. 7 Syracuse Orangemen and saw a place and time many miles and years away.
He locked in on how his dad, Robert, practiced pressure foul shooting situations with him in the family driveway in Atlanta when he was growing up.
So taking a half-dozen foul shots for the Yellow Jackets with a game against the Orangemen on the line was no big deal, at least not in his mind.
“I swear, that’s the first thing I thought about, practicing my whole life,” Golden said. “I didn’t feel necessarily any pressure, per se.”
The preparation showed.
Golden sank six free throws in the final 35 seconds to help his team stun Syracuse.
Golden paced the Yellow Jackets with 16 points while center Daniel Miller added 15.
Forward C.J. Fair led the cold-shooting Orangemen with 28 points and guard Tyler Ennis contributed 18. Syracuse made a mere 25 of 64 field-goal attempts, good for 39.1 percent.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 14-16 overall and 5-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference while SU dropped to 26-4, 13-4.
“Big might be an understatement,” Golden said of the win. “It’s a huge win for us.”
The struggling Orangemen, however, were left trying to regain their identity heading into the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse, once 25-0, lost four of its last five.
“I try to look at the whole picture, and not snapshots,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “We’re in good position. We’re in very good position. If you play well, seeding doesn’t matter.”
Golden hit two foul shots with 25 seconds remaining to send the Yellow Jackets up 65-59. Fair canned a 3-pointer with 19 ticks left, but Golden returned to the foul line three seconds later for a pair that set the final score.
Golden came into the contest shooting .762 from the line and was 8-for-8 on Tuesday.
“We were smart enough to get it in the hands of the guy who was going to make them,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. “He’s been pretty good down the stretch for us.”
The Orangemen looked like an uncomfortable group all game. While Ennis and Fair did their parts, the rest of the team combined for just 16 points. The loss of forward Jerami Grant, who sat out with a back injury, took away SU’s complementary inside game.
“For six or seven games, obviously, our offense has not been good enough. We’re getting in a hole. Our defense is reasonably good, but we’re struggling to score points,” Boeheim said. “We’re a team that needs all of our parts. When we have all of our parts, we’re a very good basketball team. When we don’t have all of our parts, obviously, we’re not.”
The Yellow Jackets meticulously built a 13-point lead well into the second half, and edge that Syracuse tried to chip at with a press. But using the outlets of Miller and forward Robert Carter Jr., Georgia Tech cut through the pressure for several easy baskets.
“There’s only so much pressure you can have,” Carter said. “As long as you get the ball in the middle of the press, it breaks down.”
The Yellow Jackets rolled out a balanced scoring attack that included points from seven players to take a 31-23 break at halftime. Forward Kammeon Holsey and Golden paced that output with seven points apiece.
Georgia Tech fattened its lead to 12 points as the second half approached the midway point. Holsey hit a pair of foul shots with 14:06 remaining, and Miller’s jumper made it 46-34 with 13:20 remaining.
Fair drained a jumper to make it a 10-point hole, but Yellow Jackets forward Robert Carter made the difference a dozen again on a jumper with 11:42 remaining.
The Orange sliced its deficit to single digits, 50-41, with 8:17 remaining. But Georgia Tech guard Chris Bolden converted a fast-break layup and guard Marcus Georges-Hunt sank a pair of foul shots to boost the team back up 54-41 with 7:38 remaining.
Ennis ignited the Orange’s late rally by pulling the team within seven points with 3:10 remaining.
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