The former McEachern star’s persistence paid off Sunday when he scored a game-high 24 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds left, to lead the Yellow Jackets past Charlotte 58-55 on Sunday.
“The play kind of broke down. The coach wanted (Georgia Tech center) Dan (Miller) to come set a screen and attack. But I knew they were going to give me some space, so I just rose up and hit the shot,” said Golden, who came into the game shooting just 24 percent (9 for 37) from 3-point range.
A 3-point attempt by Charlotte’s Pierria Henry swished through the net and at first appeared to tie the game at the final buzzer, but it was ruled he did not get the shot off in time after a television replay review.
“It was a very hard-fought, very physical game,” Charlotte coach Alan Major said. “A lot of credit goes to Trae Golden. We actually recruited him a little bit when I was (an assistant coach) at Ohio State. He’s a veteran kid who has been in a lot of games.
“I thought (Charlotte defender) Denzel (Ingram) played him exactly how we asked him to on that last shot, as far as not giving up a layup or a foul but making him shoot a challenged shot. I thought (Golden) offensively put his team on his back and carried them.”
The victory improved Georgia Tech’s record to 9-4, while Charlotte fell to 8-4.
A 3-pointer from Charlotte’s Shawn Lester with 10 seconds left tied the game at 55 after Georgia Tech led virtually the entire second half, but never by more than eight points. Lester had missed 12 of his 14 field-goal tries overall and all six of his 3-point attempts in the game up until that point.
Marcus Georges-Hunt added 10 points for the Yellow Jackets, while Miller had nine points and nine rebounds.
Miller, a 6-foot-11 senior, also was responsible for playing solid defense on 49ers center Mike Thorne Jr., who came into the game shooting .515 from the field and averaging 11 points but was held to three points on 1-for-9 shooting.
“I feel good about the effort our guys played with,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “I thought our intensity level overall and especially our defensive intensity, our execution of our defensive game plan, was very good.”
Ingram led Charlotte with 20 points, hitting 8 of 10 field-goal attempts. But the only other Charlotte player to reach double figures in scoring was Willie Clayton with 11 points.
The 49ers were held to 33-percent shooting from the floor, making only 20 of 60 attempts.
Both teams struggled to make shots in the opening half, after which Georgia Tech led 27-24. Georgia Tech heated up in the second half, but Charlotte remained cold except for Ingram - until Lester hit the game-tying 3-pointer after the Yellow Jackets turned it over against the 49ers’ full-court press.
Golden hit the only four 3-pointers of the game for Georgia Tech, going 4 for 7 from behind the arc. The rest of his team was a combined 0 for 10.
Offensive rebounding kept Charlotte in the game, with half of its 32 boards coming on the offensive end. But every time the 49ers got close or tied it in the second half, Golden seemed to have the answer.
“I’ve been in the gym, working on my shot,” said Golden, who transferred to Georgia Tech for his final year of eligibility for family reasons after starting 58 of 96 career games at Tennessee.
“I’m not shooting it great on the year, but I have a lot of confidence in my shot and Coach Gregory does, too. They always tell me to keep shooting, so that’s something I do and that’s something I’m not going to stop doing.”