ATHENS -- Georgia Tech snapped a five-game losing streak to Georgia with an 88-78 win at Stegeman Coliseum late Friday night.
The Yellow Jackets had senior Michael Devoe to thank for it, mainly. The 6-foot-5 senior from Orlando came in averaging 18 points per game and more than doubled that against the Bulldogs. His career-high 37 points came on 14-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
“I don’t know if he’s played a better one,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “He was special tonight.”
The Yellow Jackets, who were 8-of-15 from behind the arc for the game, outscored Georgia 13-5 over the final 3:21. That broke a 73-all tie in a game that featured 10 lead changes and three ties.
Rodney Howard was also a factor for the Yellow Jackets. A second-year transfer from Georgia, the 6-foot-10, 246-pound junior forward had eight points and seven rebounds before fouling out at the 2:11 mark. That was not long after blocking Cook’s shot with the Bulldogs trailing by two with just over three minutes to play. The Jackets scored six unanswered points in that stretch and Howard finished with two blocks.
Cook led Georgia with 18 points and Jailyn Ingram scored 17. Jabri Abdur-Rahim added 10 points, his best outing since transferring from Virginia.
The Bulldogs were good on offense, shooting 50.9% from the field and 47.1 from 3-point range. Where they lost the game was in ball-handling with 14 turnovers, and at the foul line, where they were 12-of-24.
But Cook and Georgia were most upset with their defense. Devoe obviously was on the top line of their scouting report. The Bulldogs didn’t do what they were directed to do, or couldn’t.
“Getting on his left hand consistently,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “He can shoot with his right hand, but he doesn’t dribble well. We just never made him uncomfortable for extended periods of time.
Said Cook: “It’s unacceptable to let somebody score 37 in a college basketball game. This shows us we really need to improve our defense.”
The Yellow Jackets (3-1) play host to Charleston Southern on Tuesday. They returned much of the team that won the ACC Tournament championship last season.
The loss denied Crean his 400th career victory as a coach. The Bulldogs fall to 2-2 and head to New Jersey this weekend for to the Roman Legends Classic tournament. There they will face Virginia Monday night and then either Providence or Northwestern on Tuesday.
“A lot of stuff we had problems with correctable,” Crean said. “Free-throw shooting is shooting, we can work on it. We’ve got to communicate a lot better on defense.”
Georgia couldn’t get out of its own way in the first half. The Bulldogs committed 11 turnovers and were 9-of-15 from the foul line to fall behind 41-26 at intermission. Georgia led most of the time, but was outscored 21-10 over the final eight minutes of a first half in which there were eight lead changes and two ties.
The Bulldogs led by five, 24-19, at the 8:00 mark. They would stay ahead despite having three turnovers and seven empty possessions over the next three minutes.
Tech finally took advantage and went ahead 27-26 with a 6-0 run. The teams traded leads three more times, then another Devoe 3-pointer pushed the Yellow Jackets ahead 35-34 at the 1:50 mark. Devoe led his team with 19 first-half points on 7-of-8 shooting, 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
Coming off a sharp-shooting night in a win over Lamar in Atlanta on Monday, Tech went 6-of-10 behind the arc in the first half. Georgia was 4-of-9.
The Bulldogs finally stopped wasting possessions in the second half, and that helped wipe out a 10-point Tech advantage. They finally tied the game at 69-all on Cook’s 3 with 5:49 to play. Ingram put Georgia ahead 71-69 off a feed from Cook just 39 seconds later and Stegeman Coliseum erupted.
But Tech would answer quickly. And with the game tied at 73, they’d score six in a row, taking advantage of a pair of Georgia turnovers. Devoe scored four of the six.
“This rivalry has been going on for hundreds of years,” Devoe said. “For us to get this win tonight is huge. All of the attributes and stats, none of that means anything. It’s about the wins and losses. For me, I’m glad we got the win tonight.”
Cook, the Bulldogs’ point guard, finished with four turnovers and Ingram had five.
“We should have take a lot better care of the ball and that’s on me,” Cook said. “That’s something we need to work on going forward, and we definitely well.”