ATLANTA — Josh Okogie isn’t concerned with how poorly Georgia Tech started the season.
Now with a signature victory over a ranked team, Okogie believes the Yellow Jackets are just getting started.
“I think this is a big momentum changer for our season,” Okogie said. “It’s a great building block of what we know we can do. We’re still in this. Nobody can count us out no more, just like last season.”
Okogie scored a season-high 30 points, Jose Alvarado added 12 points and Georgia Tech upset No. 15 Miami 64-54 on Wednesday night.
Dewan Huell, with 13 points, was the only player to score in double figures for Miami (12-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Anthony Lawrence and Bruce Brown each had nine points as the Hurricanes snapped a two-game winning streak.
It’s been a tough start to the season for Georgia Tech, which was without its best player, Okogie, for the first eight games because of an NCAA suspension and a finger injury.
The Jackets (7-7, 1-1) lost to Grambling State, Wofford and Wright State and were blown out at Georgia before falling short in their ACC opener against Notre Dame, but they held tough against a Miami defense that ranked in the top five nationally in several defensive categories.
It helped, too, that Okogie looked like the most talented player on the court, scoring at the rim and from the perimeter as he took 23 of his team’s 59 shots.
“If we can put two halves together and make the first half look just like the second half, we can be a really dangerous team,” he said.
Though the Hurricanes seemed to contest nearly every pass and shot throughout the game, Georgia Tech never trailed in the second half after Okogie hit a pair of free throws and Ben Lammers followed by stealing the ball from Lonnie Walker IV and hitting a 14-footer to make it 36-32.
“We play great defense. We just didn’t show it tonight,” Walker said. “We’re not playing with passion.”
A 14-2 run by the Jackets made it 46-34 as Miami began the second half missing 11 of its first 13 shots. The Hurricanes nearly recovered, pulling within two on Chris Lykes’ two free throws with 3:47 remaining, but that was a close as they got.
Miami committed a season-high 18 turnovers.
“Some of the decisions we made were things we talked about in practice that we didn’t want to do,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said. “And yet we forced the ball several times. We never found a good offensive rhythm and a good way to attack them.”
Miami: The Hurricanes are heading back to play a game at Coral Gables, finally, after playing six straight away from home. Miami had just one home game in 42 days, but regardless of the game site, the Hurricanes can’t afford to let this loss linger. Their next three games are against ranked opponents, and they’ll need to tighten up their defense even more. With a deeper, more athletic roster, Miami let what could’ve been an easy win slip away against a team that hit just 1 of 10 3-point attempts. Georgia Tech got to the rim too often and hit 17 of 23 free throws. Miami was just 8 for 11 from the line.
Georgia Tech: Injuries, suspensions and other absences have forced players to miss 30 games this season, and the Jackets have yet to play a game with all 11 scholarship players healthy. Coach Josh Pastner used just six players, not including a 2-minute appearance from Moses Wright. G Curtis Haywood, a freshman who averaged 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in the first eight games, has missed six straight games with a shin injury. C Sylvester Ogbonda was sidelined a second straight game with an ankle injury. G Justin Moore didn’t play after missing the last two games because of a death in the family. Lammers, with 51 straight starts, Alvarado, with starts in all 14 games, and Okogie each played 39 minutes.
Miami: Hosts No. 24 Florida State on Sunday, visits No. 25 Clemson on Jan. 13 and hosts No. 2 Duke on Jan. 15.
Georgia Tech: Hosts Yale on Saturday and Notre Dame next Wednesday.