Last December, Georgia Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory led the Yellow Jackets to their first win over Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum after a run of 13 consecutive losses in Athens.
Tuesday evening at McCamish Pavilion, where a near sellout is expected, the Jackets can make an additional case that they are on the way up. They can beat Georgia two games in a row, which they have failed to do since a three-year winning streak 1992-94.
“For us to beat them two times in a row going out (as a senior), I’d be real excited,” guard Mfon Udofia said.
Gregory passed up on an opportunity to pontificate on the significance of back-to-back wins.
“They talk about all the different aspects of what happens if who wins or whatever the case might be,” he said. “What it would be for us and them, it would be a step in the right direction in terms of continuing the process of this season.”
Regardless of Tuesday’s result, Tech is showing signs of progress in Gregory’s second season. The Jackets are 4-2 with a win over Saint Mary’s, an NCAA tournament team two of the past three seasons. Last Wednesday, on the road against Illinois, now No. 13 in the country, the Jackets led with just over six minutes to go before giving way, in part due to Udofia spraining his ankle, in a 75-62 defeat.
Udofia returned to practice Monday for the first time since the loss, Tech’s most recent game. Gregory said he would probably be a game-time decision. Asked what Udofia would do if the game were Monday, Gregory replied, “Knowing Mfon, I’d say he’d make a go of it.”
Pierre Jordan, who has started one game in four seasons split between Florida State and Tech, would start in Udofia’s place.
“I think we have to have multiple players step up and help us out in terms of not only ball handling and offensive efficiency but also defensively,” Gregory said.
Udofia is probably Tech’s most indispensable player. The point guard leads the Jackets in minutes (30.7 per game) and has scored in double digits in each of the past three games. He is eager for a shot at Georgia.
“Every year, you mark that one game as a must win,” Udofia said.
Two consecutive wins would speak to the team’s growth and perhaps Gregory’s ability to coach in a rivalry game. Gregory’s predecessor, Paul Hewitt, was 4-7 against the Bulldogs.
Gregory discounted the game’s impact on recruiting, saying that relationships and other factors count more heavily than one game. Tech’s freshman class serves as evidence. Forwards Robert Carter and Marcus Georges-Hunt were both recruited by Georgia coach Mark Fox, but both gave their letters of intent to Tech along with guard Chris Bolden a month before Gregory beat the Bulldogs.
Gregory, though, does owe a debt of gratitude to Tech’s football team. Carter and Georges-Hunt made their official recruiting visits Oct. 2011 and attended Tech’s upset win over Clemson. Monday, Gregory remembered that weekend as significant in the recruitment of the two freshmen, which Georges-Hunt corroborated.
“I can remember going to the Clemson game that night and them winning and (the students) all rushed the field,” he said. “It just gave me chills.”
Georges-Hunt envisioned the same sort of support for the basketball team. If the Jackets defeat the Bulldogs Tuesday, Georges-Hunt and his teammates will most certainly experience it.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog