As Georgia Tech prepares to face a third straight ranked opponent to begin ACC play, it'll be returning home with some renewed hope.
Though Georgia Tech hasn't come close in recent matchups with the Cavaliers, this Virginia team appears considerably more vulnerable than the ones that combined to go 32-4 in the ACC the previous two seasons. That was evident Monday when the Cavaliers couldn't overcome a host of uncharacteristic mistakes in a 70-68 defeat to the Hokies.
Virginia Tech pulled off the upset by going 9 of 17 from 3-point range and scoring 26 points off 16 Cavaliers turnovers, a stunning amount for a Virginia squad averaging a Division I-low 9.1 giveaways.
Also among the national leaders in scoring defense, Virginia (12-2, 1-1 ACC) allowed the Hokies to post 44 second-half points and shoot 57.7 percent.
"We know at some point we're going to get a stop, and we didn't (Monday) when we needed to," guard Malcolm Brogdon told the school's athletics website. "What we pride ourselves on the most really let us down."
The Cavaliers got plenty of stops in their last meeting with Georgia Tech (10-5, 0-2), setting an ACC regular-season record for points allowed in a 57-28 home rout Jan. 22.
That Yellow Jackets team finished 14th in the ACC in scoring. The current one has displayed far more firepower after adding Virginia Tech graduate transfer Adam Smith to an improved senior duo of Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell.
Smith leads the ACC with 52 made 3s and has shot 56.8 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 20.6 points in a five-game stretch. He went 8 of 13 on 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points in Wednesday's 89-84 loss at No. 24 Pittsburgh, which followed an 86-78 defeat at then-No. 7 North Carolina last Saturday.
"I feel like he's the best shooter in the country," Mitchell said. "Whether he has a hand in his face or not, shooting 3-pointers is like shooting a layup to him."
Mitchell tops the conference in rebounding at 11.6 per game and grabbed 17 with 20 points against the Panthers, while Georges-Hunt (15.2 points per game) matched a career high with 25 points against the Tar Heels.
The Yellow Jackets still have work to do on defense. UNC and Pitt combined to shoot 50.0 percent and Georgia Tech forced a mere four turnovers Wednesday.
"That's an area we need to dramatically improve in, because we have improved on the offensive end," coach Brian Gregory said. "We couldn't grind out some key possessions there, and the stops we did get were fouls."
Georgia Tech will need to key on Cavaliers forward Anthony Gill (15.4 ppg), who's gone 14 of 19 from the field and scored 38 points in Virginia's two ACC games, as well as London Perrantes. The point guard went 7 of 9 from 3-point range while scoring 22 points Monday.
The Yellow Jackets have dropped eight straight to ranked teams at home and seven in a row overall to Top 25 opponents.
Virginia has won three straight against Georgia Tech, each by at least 19 points.