UPDATED, 10:45 p.m. Georgia Tech guard Mfon Udofia reversed direction on Georgia guard Vincent Williams and, eschewing caution, drove hard to the basket. On his path, he was tripped by Georgia center Donte’ Williams and flipped the ball off the backboard.
The shot was followed by an official whistling the foul and then the roar of the sellout crowd at McCamish Pavilion as the ball, to Udofia’s surprise, dropped through the basket. Ahead at the time by five points with just under a minute remaining, the play buffeted Georgia’s late comeback attempt as the Yellow Jackets prevailed 62-54 over the Bulldogs Tuesday night.
“Mfon made some senior plays,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said.
The win gave Tech its second consecutive win over Georgia since winning three in a row 1992-94. The Jackets improved to 5-2 while Georgia dropped to 2-6. Tech coach Brian Gregory, who last season led Tech to its first win in Athens after 13 consecutive losses, singled out Udofia and fellow senior Pierre Jordan in the locker room regarding the accomplishment.
“I told those guys that will never be taken away from them,” Gregory said.
Udofia played 31 minutes on a sprained ankle that hobbled him and caused him pain when he made cuts. He finished with 12 points, his fourth consecutive game in double figures, two assists against two turnovers and impact beyond the numbers.
“I think he’s really the difference maker for them,” Fox said. “I think he’s a much better player than he was a year ago, and in previous years.”
For Udofia, who had his lower leg encased in a walking boot after the game, there was little chance of keeping him out of his final Georgia game.
“It’s the Georgia game, so my adrenaline was running,” he said.
The biggest difference between the two teams Tuesday was from the perimeter. Tech shot 33.3 percent from the field and Georgia shot 31.6 percent, but the Bulldogs were 2-for-17 from 3-point range while Tech was 9-for-21. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt and Udofia were both 3-for-6, while guard Chris Bolden was 2-for-2.
Udofia and Georges-Hunt dropped critical bombs with under seven minutes to play. Georgia had rallied from as far back as 15 points early in the second half to draw to 48-42 with 7:08 remaining on a jumper by Brandon Morris. On the next possession, Udofia took a pass from guard Brandon Reed near the top of the key and nailed the jumper to push the lead to 51-42. After Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a three on the other end, Tech gained four points on a possession that included three offensive rebounds, a made free throw by forward Robert Carter and then a three from Georges-Hunt.
Hunt’s three was made possible by center Daniel Miller’s rebound of a missed Carter free throw.
“We made a couple of big-time hustle plays,” Gregory said.
The cushion provided by the two 3-pointers helped Tech withstand a last Georgia rally. Tech led 55-42 with just under four minutes to go, but an 8-0 run closed the gap to 55-50 with 2:07 remaining. That set the stage for Udofia’s drive at the basket with 58 seconds to go.
Said Udofia, “I was surprised it went in.”
Caldwell-Pope again led Georgia with 16 points, but shot 5-for-18, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Reed was Tech’s principal defender on Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer in each game they’ve played.
“I thought Kentavious started the game very emotionally, and I don’t think we got him calmed down until about halfway through the first half,” Fox said. “I thought he was wound up and therefore took a couple shots that just show his inexperience as a player.”
Besides Caldwell-Pope, Georgia had no other players in double figures in scoring. Forward Marcus Thornton (seven points, three rebounds) was not able to provide much help, playing 16 minutes due to foul trouble in both halves.
“Our scoring has worried me for quite some time,” Fox said. “We’re not scoring the ball at an efficient enough rate to win. We need some more guys to step up and finish plays.”