Tech trailed 49-38 after Denzel Keys put back an offensive rebound with 13:43 left in the game, and the Aggies looked to be in great position to become the second MEAC team in less than a week to upset an ACC squad.
After a Tech timeout, Golden took over and took to heart the message that coach Brian Gregory delivered after the Tennessee transfer committed six turnovers in the first half of Wednesday’s 82-72 home loss to Dayton.
“Coach B.G. looked me in the face after the game and told me, ‘You got to do better. We expect better out of you and you’ve got to bounce back,’” Golden said.
The former McEachern High School star delivered.
The Yellow Jackets (4-1) went on a 14-3 run out of the timeout to tie the game at 52 on sophomore Robert Carter Jr.’s three-point play with 11:50 remaining. Golden drove deep, and assisted across the lane beneath the backboard on that play to finish a possession that he began at the other end with a defensive rebound.
From that timeout, Golden scored nine points with four of his seven assists, a rebound and a steal.
Tech needed everything he offered, nine points and 13 rebounds from Carter, 10 points and six rebounds from senior sub Kam Holsey, and 21-for-28 free-throw shooting in the second half of a game where the teams combined for 77 free throws and 57 fouls.
Georgia Tech trailed 37-33 at halftime after missing 10 of 18 free throws, and then stumbled early in the second half as North Carolina A&T’s Richaud Pack scored 19 points. Bruce Beckford added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Aggies (1-3) with freshman Khary Doby adding 17 points off the bench.
The Aggies last year won the MEAC tournament under first-year coach Cy Alexander, and beat Liberty in a first-round NCAA tournament game before being trounced by eventual champion Louisville.
They have seven freshman now, however, and six played Sunday.
“Let me commend Georgia Tech for having the resiliency and bounce-back after we took an 11-point lead,” Alexander said. “They made some shots, but we tried to force some things and they got turnovers and got in transition.”
Gregory jumped his team during that timeout.
“Yeah, I was one of them who got busted,” said Marcus Georges-Hunt. “I deserved it because I wasn’t playing so well. … He had a lot of energy, and that energy picked me up and made me play better.”
Tech guard Solomon Poole and Georges-Hunt each hit 3s in that 14-3 stretch.
The Aggies built another four-point lead before the Jackets rallied again to tie on Holsey’s three-point play, and then took a 60-58 lead on Golden’s steal and layup with 8:06 remaining in the game.
There were two more ties before the Jackets pulled away with a 17-5 run to end the game.
North Carolina A&T made 10 of 22 3-point shots to just five 3s for the Jackets, as Doby hit 4-of-6 from distance. Ultimately, after a miserable first half at the free-throw line the Jackets won there by hitting 21 of 28 in the second half and 29 of 46 in the game.
The Aggies were 21-of-31 for the game while missing a monumental upset.
“It would have been huge for our program,” said Alexander, whose team will next play at Ole Miss. “These kinds of games can’t do anything but enhance our growth.”
Golden was 9-of-10 from the line in the second half of the foul-marred contest. His coach still thinks there’s more where that came from.
“His stat line was good and at the same time I think he can play a lot better, and we’re going to need him to play a lot better,” Gregory said. “He can be a really good player for us. He can really help us. It’s just not ingrained in him. There are some different things that we do in certain situations, but he wants to learn.”