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Pastner has Georgia Tech in position to for elusive NCAA bid

March 1, 2021 GMT
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Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner speaks with Jordan Usher (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)
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Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner speaks with Jordan Usher (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP, Pool)

ATLANTA (AP) — On the list of Georgia Tech’s droughts targeted by coach Josh Pastner this season, a painful 14-game losing streak against Duke is only a subplot.

Pastner’s bigger motivation is to end the Yellow Jackets’ 11-year NCAA Tournament drought. His team is moving closer to reaching the goal.

Georgia Tech has boosted its NCAA hopes with four consecutive wins.

If Georgia Tech can extend the winning streak by beating Duke on Tuesday night, it would strengthen its case to land its first NCAA bid since 2010. The Yellow Jackets close their regular season at Wake Forest on Friday night.

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Pastner knows Georgia Tech (13-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) needs to finish strong, including in the March 9-13 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us,” Pastner said Monday. “The great thing is we can kind of control our own destiny. Both games we play this week are big, but so is the ACC Tournament. We’re right there but in order for us to finish the job we’ve got to win some games.”

This winning streak was perfectly timed to boost the postseason outlook in Pastner’s important fifth season. During the four-game streak, the Yellow Jackets have moved from No. 62 to No. 40 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) used by the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee.

The NCAA bid is important for Pastner, who is 78-75 overall and 40-49 in ACC games at Georgia Tech. That includes a 17-14 overall finish and 11-9 conference mark last season. His first Georgia Tech team advanced to the NIT championship game, and he knows athletic director Todd Stansbury would like to see the long-awaited NCAA Tournament bid come this year.

“Thank God I’ve had great bosses,” Pastner said. “... If I could bear hug Mr. Stansbury every day of my life I would, and I’ve told Mr. Stansbury this.”

Georgia Tech accepted a postseason ban last year, but on Friday the NCAA overturned scholarship and recruiting limitations placed on the program in 2019. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will reconsider the reduction of one scholarship per year for four years.

Friday’s NCAA decision followed a Georgia Tech appeal of the original sanctions after the NCAA found major recruiting violations were committed by former Georgia Tech assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie and Pastner’s former friend, Ron Bell. Pastner was not directly named in the findings.

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The Yellow Jackets have secured winning ACC records in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1989 and 1990. The long losing streak against Duke is a painful drought for Georgia Tech’s seniors, including center Moses Wright.

After Wright scored 31 points, matching his season high, in an 84-77 win over Syracuse on Saturday, he looked back the Yellow Jackets’ 75-68 loss at Duke on Jan. 26.

“We definitely hung our heads on the Duke loss because we felt like – well, we don’t feel like – we know that we’re a better team compared to Duke,” Wright said Saturday.

Georgia Tech’s last win over Duke came on Jan. 9, 2010.

Wright is a native of Raleigh, N.C., so the inability to win against his home-state Blue Devils has been frustrating.

He said Monday losing at Duke “left a knot in our stomachs. ... Now we’ve got to get it done at home.”

The last time the Yellow Jackets won five consecutive conference games was when they won their final seven in the 1995-96 season.

Duke (11-9, 9-7) had a four-game winning streak snapped with Saturday’s 80-73 loss to Louisville.

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