Late basket helps Georgia Tech survive scare from Georgia State

The Georgia Tech basketball team tried all night to shoo away Georgia State, their annoying cousin from three miles down the road. The Yellow Jackets played from behind much of the night and nearly blew a seven-point lead inside of three minutes.

It wasn’t until sophomore Miles Kelly drove the right side and dropped in a layup with 4.1 seconds left that they took the lead for keeps. Georgia State rushed down the court, but could not get off a final shot, leaving Tech with a 59-57 win Saturday in what is expected to be the last meeting between the schools in the foreseeable future.

“If my boss forced me to play Georgia State again, we will. Otherwise, I’m done,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “My heart can’t take it anymore. It’s a great game for the fans. They’ve been some great battles.”

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The three-game series, put together to save money and lessen travel during the pandemic, produced a four-overtime game, a one-overtime game and a last-minute decision. Tech won two of the three games, and the last dance drew a rowdy crowd of 4,083 at the new GSU Convocation Center. Tech now leads the series 19-3.

Tech (2-0) led 55-47 with 2:50 left, only to have Georgia State (1-1) go on a 10-2 run to tie the score at 57-57. Brenden Tucker scored the game-tying three-point play with 26.2 seconds left. Tucker, one of the team’s highly touted transfers, played only two minutes in the first half after requiring stitches over his eye after being conked in a scrum for the ball.

The Jackets decided to play for one shot and run an isolation play for Kelly, who had 15 points. Kelly looked confident as he dribbled and drove for the go-ahead basket.

“We knew we wanted to get the last shot, so we took the clock down a bit,” Kelly said. “And we wanted to get me going to my strong hand downhill so we could get something at the basket, and that’s what we did.”

The play was the latest step in the development of Kelly, who played in all but one game last season and started in the ACC tournament.

“Miles has come a long way,” Pastner said. “The No. 1 thing of our program is about player development, getting guys better. He’s only going to continue to get better as the season progresses.”

Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes was disappointed with the outcome, but not with the effort.

“I saw some good things, and I saw some things we need to work on,” Hayes said. “We do not believe in moral victories, and we’ve got to keep marching forward. We’re going to get better.”

Georgia Tech 59, Georgia State 57

Georgia State got a double-double from sophomore Ja’Heim Hudson for the second consecutive game. A Wheeler High product, Hudson had 34 points and 11 rebounds and scored 12 of the team’s 14 points during a stretch that saw the Panthers build a seven-point lead.

“It was great to play in front the crowd. The fans showed up, and there was a lot of energy,” Hudson said. “But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win.”

Tech also got 16 points and five rebounds from Deebo Coleman. Jalon Moore led the Jackets with seven rebounds. Tech finished with 13 turnovers, but only four in the second half.

Georgia State also got 13 points from Jamaine Mann and 10 points from Dwon Odom.

Georgia State will host Mercer on Tuesday. Tech is off until Thursday, when it hosts Northern Illinois.