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Georgia Tech, UMass clash in first round of Diamond Head Classic


Entering their first-round matchup in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday, Georgia Tech and UMass picked up marquee, but dicey, nonconference wins over the weekend — with each head coach knowing the victories could have been much smoother.

Georgia Tech (6-3) squeaked out an 82-81 overtime win over Penn State in Madison Square Garden on Saturday, a game that saw the Yellow Jackets lose a 10-point lead with five minutes left.

Thankfully for coach Damon Stoudamire, junior Miles Kelly knocked down a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Yellow Jackets their first win away from home this season.

“I felt like we had control of the game in the second half, and then Penn State, they do such a great job with their pressure defense, turned it up a bit,” Stoudamire said. “We lost our composure for a second. But the biggest thing was that we didn’t lose our connectivity. … To get a win like this on the road, even though it’s a neutral-site game, we hadn’t played well on the road all season. It was really big for us.”

Kelly, who leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game, shot just 3-for-13 from the field before making the two biggest shots of the day at the foul line. The story of the game for the Yellow Jackets was UMass transfer Tafara Gapare, who scored a career-high 20 points.

Similarly, UMass (6-2) had to rally in an 87-79 win over West Virginia on Saturday, a game in which the Minutemen squandered an 18-point second-half lead.

After holding a 50-32 advantage, coach Frank Martin’s team saw West Virginia go on a 30-12 run to tie the game before UMass pulled away late.

“In the second half, we got a little tentative,” Martin said. “We had that big lead, and then it was mistake, mistake, mistake. … But this team finds a way to stay connected and figures out how to believe in each other.”

UMass’ leading scorer on the season at 18.1 points per game, Josh Cohen led the way with 19 points, while Robert Davis Jr. added 18.

Thursday will be UMass’ debut in the Diamond Head Classic, while the Yellow Jackets return for the first time since 2019.

–Field Level Media

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