Billy Humphrey scored 23 points, Corey Butler hit two big 3-pointers and the Bulldogs held on for an ugly win, 79-72 Wednesday night.
"It’s tough when you’ve got a lot of young guys," said Georgia’s Sundiata Gaines, a senior who chipped in with 16 points. "But every day they’re getting better."
Despite being down to 10 scholarship players after kicking two starters off the team and having another player quit, Georgia (9-4) maintained the home-court advantage that has prevailed in this rivalry with its 12th straight over the Yellow Jackets at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia Tech’s last win in Athens was Nov. 26, 1976.
"Just like football!" the fans chanted gleefully in the closing seconds, rubbing in Georgia’s sweep of the Yellow Jackets in the two major sports. The Bulldogs won 31-17 on the gridiron in late November.
"It’s great to beat anybody in a game like this," Humphrey said. "But Georgia Tech is our cross-state rival. This was for bragging rights. It doesn’t get any better than that."
Slipping back to .500, the Yellow Jackets (7-7) hardly look like a team ready for the rigors of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They play six of the next nine games on the road and host top-ranked North Carolina next week.
"Time is running out," coach Paul Hewitt said. "We’ve got to start correcting some of these things."
The Yellow Jackets trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, but fought back for a 51-51 tie on Lewis Clinch’s driving basket with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Georgia quickly regained control with seven straight points, sparked by the first of Butler’s 3-pointers. The Yellow Jackets got it back to 68-66 with 21/2 minutes left, but Jeremis Smith missed a couple of free throws that could have tied it.
"I let my team down," Smith said.
Dave Bliss made two foul shots at the other end, and Butler hit another big 3 to put it away. The junior guard finished with 11 points.
Smith, meanwhile, blamed himself for the loss.
"I made a lot of mistakes down the stretch," added Smith, a senior added. "Not knocking down those two free throws when we had a chance to tie the game, that was big. I’m a captain and a leader of this team. I shouldn’t be making those kind of mistakes this late in my career."
Freshman Maurice Miller led Georgia Tech with career-best 15 points, Anthony Morrow had 14 and Clinch 11.
But the Yellow Jackets couldn’t overcome 40 percent shooting (23-of-57) from the field and a 19-of-35 showing at the foul line. They also let Georgia have its way in the lane, losing the battle for numerous loose balls.
"We’ve got to learn to be stronger with the ball," Smith said.
The first half was downright forgettable for both teams. There were air balls, passes to no one, ragged-looking fouls and even a double-lane violation when Georgia’s Jeremy Price double-pumped at the line and sent everyone stumbling into the paint.
The most entertaining moment came when a Georgia student, wearing boxing gloves and star-spangled trunks, ran up an aisle to the "Rocky" theme and ripped off his robe.
Georgia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime, while the Bulldogs gave it up nine times. At the foul line, the teams combined to miss their first six attempts and both finished 7-of-15 at the stripe in the opening period.
Georgia was much better in the second half, making 13-of-16 free throws.
The Bulldogs began to pull away late in the first half, extending their lead to 35-23 in the final minute as the Yellow Jackets missed shot after shot.
Georgia Tech made only 33 percent (9 of 27) from the field in the opening period and trailed 36-27 at the break. The Yellow Jackets never got the lead back, sending Georgia into Southeastern Conference play on a bit of a roll.
"Coach (Dennis Felton) tells us that every game is going to have its ups and downs," Humphrey said. "As long as you get more runs than the opposing team, you’re going to come out on top every time."