ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech forward Charles Mitchell didn’t feel the least bit intimidated by Vanderbilt’s physical front line.
”I think we were banging harder,” he said. ”You always go into a game focused on who you’re going to play and you have to go out there and play harder than the next person. All three of our bigs – me, Demarco (Cox) and (Robert) Sampson – we played harder than them.”
Mitchell scored 19 points and Marcus Georges-Hunt added 14 points to help Georgia Tech beat Vanderbilt 65-60 on Saturday.
Damian Jones and Josh Henderson each finished with 12 points for Vanderbilt (7-3), which was coming off consecutive wins over Purdue and Western Kentucky.
Georgia Tech (8-2), which has won five of six, pulled down 20 offensive rebounds.
”We’ve got to keep getting better execution and be a little more disciplined on defense in terms of some coverages and communication,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. ”But you can’t question our energy level and effort.”
The Yellow Jackets made the right adjustments at halftime with the Commodores leading by eight, getting back on defense quicker and getting more production from their fast-break offense.
”I thought Georgia Tech played the game much more physically than we did,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ”I thought our guys got a little rattled in the second half. (The Jackets) just played much more physically and much more aggressively, and they deserved to win.”
Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech’s leading scorer this season, was just 4 for 15 from the field, but in the final minute he hit a pair of free throws to make it 64-60 and grabbed a key defensive rebound when Wade Baldwin missed a 3 on Vanderbilt’s ensuing possession.
Georgia Tech struggled against to get the ball inside against the Commodores’ zone defense in the first half and struggled from the field at 27.8 percent.
But the Jackets began the second half on a 13-6 run to take their first lead since midway through the first half on Georges-Hunt’s short jumper with 12:44 remaining.
Georgia Tech went up 47-43 on Mitchell’s fast-break dunk about four minutes later.
If the teams didn’t like each other, it was evident in the second half when James Siakam and Jones – Vanderbilt’s biggest, strongest front-line players – blocked the ball hard out of bounds and celebrated on consecutive Georgia Tech possessions with the Jackets leading 51-49.
A few minutes later, Georgia Tech guard Chris Bolden knocked Siakam down hard at the Vanderbilt baseline on a Commodores fast break and quickly turned his back to walk to the team huddle.
The foul wasn’t hard enough to be called flagrant and Siakam hit two ensuing free throws to make it 53-all with 3:44 remaining.
After Mitchell’s three-point play put the Jackets by four, Sampson stole the ball from Shelton Mitchell and followed with a fast-break putback that gave Georgia Tech a six-point lead, its biggest of the game, with 1:16 remaining.
”That’s the first time our guys have seen some adversity,” Stallings said. ”First time our guys have seen a hostile crowd. We didn’t respond to it well.”
Vanderbilt: With the Commodores leading 20-18 in the first half, Josh Henderson had 10 points and three rebounds in six minutes.
Georgia Tech: Charles Mitchell threw the ball out of bounds with a bounce pass that coach Brian Gregory caught in front of the Tech bench and slammed on the floor in frustration with 16:38 remaining.
Vanderbilt: Hosts Pennsylvania on Monday.
Georgia Tech: Visits Dayton on Tuesday.