Kyle Sturdivant told his Georgia Tech teammates a visit from No. 3 North Carolina meant it was time to pull out the “big boy drawers.”
Naithan George responded with the biggest play of the game.
George scored a go-ahead, left-handed layup with 7.7 seconds remaining, and Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 74-73 on Tuesday night to end the Tar Heels’ 10-game winning streak.
“They were able to make one more play than us,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “It was a really good shot by George.”
Georgia Tech (10-11, 3-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost three straight and eight of its past nine to fall close to the bottom of the conference standings. Even so, there have been highlights for the Yellow Jackets, who claimed their third home win over a Top 25 team after beating No. 21 Mississippi State 67-59 on Nov. 28 and No. 7 Duke 72-68 on Dec. 2 to open the ACC schedule.
“I told the guys whenever we play a Top 25 team it feels like we put on our big boy drawers, so let’s do that,” Sturdivant said.
The last time Georgia Tech beat a team ranked as high as No. 3 was a win over third-ranked North Carolina in the 2005 ACC tournament. The Yellow Jackets had not beaten North Carolina and Duke in the same season since 2020-21.
RJ Davis, who scored a game-high 28 points for North Carolina (17-4, 9-1), won the race to a loose ball following a missed jumper by George and scored on a layup with 34 seconds remaining for a 73-72 lead.
Following a Georgia Tech timeout, George drove for the go-ahead layup.
“If I could get downhill, I could at least get a shot up and let my teammates crash the glass,” George said.
North Carolina called a timeout with 4.6 seconds remaining, but RJ Davis missed a last-second jumper, prompting Georgia Tech fans to celebrate by rushing onto the court.
There was contact from Georgia Tech’s Ebenezer Dowuona on the last shot by Davis, who pleaded to the officials — without success — for a foul. Hubert Davis said he could not see if there was a foul.
“We felt like [Davis] was in position where he had an angle on a guy and had a couple steps on him,” Hubert Davis said. “I couldn’t see any more than that. The last thing I saw, RJ was on the ground.”
North Carolina suffered its first conference loss following its best ACC start since winning its first 11 ACC games in the 2000-01 season.
Sturdivant led Georgia Tech with 18 points. George had 16 points and Miles Kelly added 15.
The Tar Heels led 36-25 following a 3-pointer by Cormac Ryan. The Yellow Jackets closed the first half with a 12-1 run to pull even at 37 at halftime.
There was a strong showing by North Carolina fans in the sellout crowd of 8,600. Georgia Tech called for a white-out, but Carolina blue commanded approximately half of the crowd.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.