- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Tech’s first win over a top-five team in six years could be evidence that this season’s team can win close games.

First, coach Brian Gregory wants to see how his Yellow Jackets follow up Saturday’s upset of then-No. 4 Virginia.

The Yellow Jackets (11-5, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Notre Dame on Wednesday.

The 68-64 win over Virginia was Georgia Tech’s first over a top-five ranked team since beating No. 5 Duke in January 2010.

Beating a highly ranked team was important. Winning a close game may have meant just as much considering the team’s struggles last season, when it finished 12-19 overall and 3-15 in the conference.

Georgia Tech was 0-13 last season in ACC games decided by no more than seven points.

“Obviously you can say last season is the past and all that but it’s still a reality we went through that last year,” Gregory said Monday.

“Our guys have constantly said that’s in the past, that’s not who we are, everything is different and we showed it on Saturday.”

No matter how much players talked about this being a new season, there was reason to worry the Yellow Jackets were headed in a similar direction after they opened their ACC schedule with losses to No. 5 North Carolina and No. 20 Pittsburgh by a combined 13 points.

Gregory says the first week of ACC scores proved there will be more close games to come across the league. Now the Yellow Jackets must show they can win other hard-fought games, including against Notre Dame.

“In this league, one game doesn’t break through,” Gregory said. “You’ve got to keep doing it. You’re going to have opportunities to do it. … You’ve got to be able to get the stops and get the rebounds and make the plays on offense in order to be successful and I think our guys understand that and have embraced that and know what’s coming and are preparing for it every day.”

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said Georgia Tech is “a better team” this season.

Guard Adam Smith, a transfer from Virginia Tech, is leading the Yellow Jackets with 14.8 points per game. He has made 56 3-pointers, the most in the ACC.

Gregory tweaked his starting lineup against Virginia. Quinton Stephens started for guard Josh Heath. Forward James White had a game-high nine rebounds while starting for Nick Jacobs.

Stephens made four of four 3-pointers and had 16 points. Jacobs scored 16 points off the bench.

Stephens gave Georgia Tech another outside scoring threat.

“They’re so much more balanced inside out this year and that was an issue,” Bennett said. “Whenever we got it close, they hit a couple big shots.”

Stephens, a 6-9 junior, made his first start of the season. He scored a career-high 22 points against Georgia in last season’s opening game. He started the first 11 games last season before returning to the bench until making one more start to replace the injured Marcus Georges-Hunt in the ACC tournament.

Gregory said Stephens “responded extremely well” to the start against Virginia but stopped short of saying the junior will keep his starting spot this week.

“Maybe our starting lineup will be fluid in some situations depending on offensive and defensive matchups and our guys have to be OK with that,” Gregory said.


AP college basketball site at https://collegebasketball.ap.org

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