In the end, though, it probably helped the image, not to mention the future recruiting efforts, of both schools. Neither the Bulldogs nor the Yellow Jackets covered themselves in glory in a game eventually won 79-72 by Georgia.
A Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,503 serenaded Georgia Tech with a chant of “Just like football” in the final moments, commemorating the Bulldogs’ major sports sweep of their rival.
Georgia got the victory by listening to head coach Dennis Felton, who spent the lead up to this game preaching toughness. At the many times when both team’s execution fell flat, the Bulldogs survived on guts.
“I thought it was a real battle of a game and one of the big factors of the game I thought in many instances was fatigue and endurance,” Felton said. “There were many times where we looked very tired, but I thought they looked tired, too. We just wanted to keep pressing the issue and see who would be tougher to make more plays through that fatigue.”
No one proved tougher than Georgia guard Billy Humphrey, who played on a sore left knee, but still led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
“It got real sore on me tonight,” Humphrey said, “but I was feeding off a lot of energy from my teammates and my coach and definitely the fans.”
Sundiata Gaines scored 16 points and had five assists versus one turnover, and walk-on Corey Butler added 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting for the Bulldogs.
Most of the remaining players in the gym will hope the coaches’ film gets lost before the next practice.
No shot was un-botchable, no fundamental safe as the team’s met for the 184th time in this rivalry. The two easiest shots in the game – layups and free throws – clanked off the iron again and again.
Georgia shot 64.5 percent from the free throw line, a horrid number but more impressive when compared to Tech’s 54.3 percent.
The Yellow Jackets, who lost their 12th straight game in Athens, missed-layup count neared double digits in the first half alone. Georgia Tech shot just 40 percent from the floor.
Conference play is next for both teams. Georgia (9-4) takes on Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., on Saturday, the same day Georgia Tech (7-7) travels to Miami to face the Hurricanes.
Both have some work to do if they want to have a satisfying conference season.
Foul trouble plagued both teams, and two players from each fouled out.
Georgia starting center Jeremy Price, a freshman, showed his youth when he picked up his third foul with 17:55 left in the game. The unforgivable part is he was 19 feet from the basket at the time, and he compounded that error by picking up foul No. 4 on the exact same spot on the floor with less than four minutes left.
Post players Dave Bliss and Albert Jackson had picked up their third fouls before the halftime break.
Nine players had more turnovers than assists as both teams gave the ball away 15 times.
Georgia led 36-27 at the break, which seemed like an insurmountable lead the way Georgia Tech was playing offense at the time, but the Yellow Jackets pulled even at 51-51 when Lewis Clinch hit a layup with 10:04 left in the game.
From that point, the Bulldogs kept trying to pull away only to be chased down.
Butler, last seen being ejected from Georgia’s loss to Gonzaga on Sunday due to a flagrant foul, hit a 3-pointer on the next trip down the floor that started a 7-0 Georgia run that culminated with a 58-51 lead on two Terrance Woodbury free throws with 8:11 left.
The Yellow Jackets got within two points on Anthony Morrow jumper with 6:34 left, but five straight points by Gaines thwarted that.
The defining moment of the game for Georgia Tech came when senior Jeremis Smith went to the free throw line with 2:33 left with a chance to tie the game but missed both shots. On the next trip down the floor, Clinch missed a layup.
The Bulldogs finally closed the game out from there, hitting four straight free throws sandwiched around another Butler 3-pointer.