CHICAGO - Will Bynum might have had to find his own way home if No. 3 Georgia Tech had let this one get away.
Luke Schenscher made a pair of free throws with 25.9 seconds left, B.J. Elder made three 3-pointers in the final nine minutes and the Yellow Jackets survived a scare from Illinois-Chicago with a 60-59 victory Monday night.
"If we don't have Will Bynum on our team, I'm not sitting in Chicago, trust me," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "But it was worth it. Obviously, I knew what we were walking into. But this is also the type of experience that can really boost your basketball team.
"To go on the road this early in the year against a very well-coached team and come out with a win, it can only help in the long run."
Bynum grew up in Chicago and was the Public League player of the year in 2001, and the Yellow Jackets (2-0) scheduled this game so his friends and family could see him play. Though he's played only one season at Georgia Tech - he transferred from Arizona - he's already made an impact, playing well throughout the NCAA tournament and hitting the shot that got the Yellow Jackets into the title game.
"I felt I owed it to Will," Hewitt said of why he was willing to play at Illinois-Chicago, where the Flames had a 15-game winning streak against non-conference foes. "I did tell him if we would have lost, I would have thrown him down in the locker room."
But Flames freshman Kevin Bond missed a free throw with six seconds left, and Justin Bowen's last-second jumper sailed wide of the basket to preserve Georgia Tech's win.
"I was worried," said Bynum, who finished with seven points, four assists and one steal. "I knew I couldn't go into the locker room if we would've lost. I wouldn't have been able to look coach in the eye. I'm glad we got the win."
Elder led the Yellow Jackets (2-0) with 17 points, and Jarret Jack and Isma'il Muhammad added 10 each.
Cedrick Banks led all players with 23 points, including five 3-pointers.
"I think we showed people in the city and around the country that we can compete against a top-ranked team," said Elliott Poole, who had nine points before fouling out with 25.9 seconds left.
The Flames (0-1) have won at least 20 games the last three seasons, and they've made the NCAA tournament out of the Horizon Conference two of the last three years. But Georgia Tech is in a different league, and we're not talking the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets are bigger, stronger and more skilled, and despite a rough first half, outshot, outrebounded and had the edge over the Flames in just about every other statistical category.
But for everything the Flames lack, they more than make up for it with spunk. When Georgia Tech rallied from a 33-29 halftime deficit to take a 47-39 lead, Illinois-Chicago came sprinting back.
The Yellow Jackets struggled offensively for a second straight game, but Bowen's alley-oop to open the second half seemed to finally spark something in them. Schenscher scored on a layup to start a 16-2 run, and the Yellow Jackets' fearsome defense kicked into high gear.
They held the Flames without a basket for almost four minutes, and Jack stole the ball twice in a 15-second span, taking it in for a bank shot each time.
"We didn't play well offensively," Bynum said. "But defensively we were consistent."
The Flames refused to go away, though. Bowen hit a baseline jumper, and White made a 3-pointer from NBA range to pull Illinois-Chicago within 50-49 with 7:52 left. It brought the screaming crowd to its feet, but Elder quickly quieted them with his own 3.
Banks made a jumper from the corner and Jovan Stefanov scored on a layup to tie the game at 53. But there again was Elder, knocking down another 3 from the left corner to put Georgia Tech ahead 56-53 with 5:58 left.
Banks then hit back-to-back 3s gave Illinois-Chicago a 59-58 lead with 1:59 left to play. But Poole hammered Schenscher on a layup attempt with 25.9 seconds left, and Schenscher made both shots to give Georgia Tech the lead for good.
Banks thought he was fouled on a jumper with about six seconds left, but there was no call. Bond then drew a foul and, despite a pep talk from Banks, missed the shot.
"I'm really not into moral victories," Flames coach Jimmy Collins said. "If the team is, and they come out tomorrow in practice and compete in the next games, then it's all worth it."
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