CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Hurricanes are running out of chances to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title outright.
They came up short for the second game in a row on Wednesday night, when Marcus Georges-Hunt followed his own miss with a tip-in at the buzzer, and Georgia Tech rallied past the Hurricanes 71-69.
The No. 6-ranked Hurricanes (23-6, 14-3 ACC) have one more shot at their first outright men’s basketball conference championship when they play Clemson in the regular-season finale Saturday. Miami also could back into the outright title if second-place Duke loses Saturday at North Carolina.
The Hurricanes didn’t envision things going down to the wire, not when they won their first 13 league games. Now they’ve lost three of their past four, and flagging defense is the biggest problem.
“This loss definitely hurts,” senior Julian Gamble said. “Hopefully it hurts us enough to realize we have to get back to defending at our very best. I know we’re going to fix the problem.”
Already assured of a share of the title, the Hurricanes went into the game against Tech with championship T-shirts ready to unveil, and scissors on hand for cutting down the nets.
Then they squandered a 13-point lead in the second half.
“They deserve a celebration,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. “I’m just glad it wasn’t against us.”
Georgia Tech (16-13, 6-11) beat a Top 25 team for the first time since March 2010. The Yellow Jackets became the first team to win at Miami this season.
“It’s tough,” Gamble said. “You expect to win. But when you let a team get confidence and they start making shots, it’s tougher and tougher to guard them down the stretch. You have to give them credit, because they hit some really tough shots.”
The near-sellout crowd, subdued for much of the night, came alive late in the game. As the Hurricanes’ lead dissipated, coach Jim Larranaga waved his arms and screamed “Let’s go,” desperate for defensive stops.
“We’ve told the guys, all you have to do is let up a little bit, and guys start making shots against you,” Larranaga said. “Our defense needs to be much better. When you take your foot off the pedal, it’s hard to get it back.”
Miami led 45-32 early in the second half. Gamble’s three-point play with 12 minutes to go made it 56-45 before the Yellow Jackets rallied, taking the lead on Chris Bolden’s fast-break layup following a steal with 3:38 remaining.
After a basket by Tech’s Daniel Miller’s made it 69-all with 2:14 left, each team misfired. Robert Carter Jr. intercepted a pass by Durand Scott to set up the final possession with 35 seconds left.
Georges-Hunt drove into the lane with 5 seconds to go and threw up a one-hander over Kenny Kadji that bounced off the rim. Georges-Hunt and Carter both appeared to get a hand on the rebound, but the tip-in was credited to Georges-Hunt for only his second basket of the game.
“He just put a shot up there, and then the ball just gets tipped around,” Gamble said. “Honestly I don’t even think one of their players tipped it in. I think it was one of our guys.
“It was kind of like being in disbelief, seeing the ball go in the basket and see the red light like that.”
Bolden scored 21 points for Tech and went 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Miller added 17 points and five rebounds.
“I don’t think many people thought we had a chance to win this game,” Gregory said.
Tech stayed close by shooting 8 for 18 from 3-point range, including 6 for 10 in the second half. The narrow victory was a big turnaround for the Yellow Jackets, who had lost four league games by five points or less.
“We executed very well down the stretch,” Bolden said. “We lost some games we could have won this season, but the lessons we’ve learned paid off tonight.”
Kadji had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Hurricanes. Scott had 17 points. But the Hurricanes went 5 minutes without a basket down the stretch and shot 36 percent in the second half, and as a result they fell to 13-1 at home.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.