Georgia Tech 83, Texas A&M 58 Jacksonville 80, Southern Mississippi 66
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Danny Pearson scored 17 points and Ronnie Murphy added 16 Friday night to lead Jacksonville to an 80-66 victory over previously unbeaten Southern Mississippi and send the Dolphins into the championship game of the 35th Gator Bowl college basketball tournament.
Jacksonville, bouncing back from Tuesday’s four-point loss to top-ranked North Carolina, will meet No. 7 Georgia Tech for the title Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets advanced earlier Friday with an easy 83-58 triumph over Texas A&M.
Mark Price scored 19 points, had seven steals and handed out eight assists to become Georgia Tech’s career leader in that category as the Yellow Jackets improved their record to 6-1 with their fifth straight victory since a season- opening loss to Michigan.
Jacksonville, which led 42-34 at halftime, took charge of a close game five minutes into the second half and outscored Southern Mississippi 24-8 during a 10-minute stretch to bury the Golden Eagles.
Pearson canned a 20-foot jumper to give the Dolphins their biggest lead of the game, 71-50, with 4:41 to go. Southern Mississippi pulled to within 10 with just over a minute left against Jacksonville reserves.
Casey Fisher led Southern Mississippi with 20 points. Teammate John White scored 17 points before fouling out. Rod Kittles had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Jacksonville.
Price’s assists gave him 412 for his career, eclipsing the previous Georgia Tech school record of 411 set by Jim Thorne between 1969 and 1971. His seven steals equaled a personal high for the six-foot senior guard.
″Price shot the ball well and when he shoots the ball well, we are a good team,″ Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said, adding that he stills sees room for a lot of improvement in the 6-1 Yellow Jackets.
″I don’t think we are playing as well as we can play,″ Cremins said. ″We can play better and we’re going to have to play better.″
Texas A&M’s preparation time for Georgia Tech was limited by final exams, but Coach Shelby Metcalf refused to offer excuses for the 25-point loss.
″Considering the circumstances, we really played pretty well,″ Metcalf said. ″Georgia Tech came ready to play and did a good job.″
Price scored 15 of his team-high total in the first half and Craig Neal added 10 more as the Yellow Jackets raced to a 44-25 halftime lead and never looked back.
Duane Ferrell, who sat out the first half for Georgia Tech with a bruised wrist, scored 10 points after intermission when the Yellow Jackets led by as many as 27 points before Coach Bobby Cremins emptied his bench.
Don Marbury with 23 points, 18 of them in the second half. He was the only Aggie who finished in double figures.
Georgia Tech, which never trailed, scored the first six points of the game and blew the contest open with a 10-point burst that carried the Yellow Jackets to a 22-6 lead with 12:53 to go.
Price bombed away from the outside to key the spurt that featured a steal and slam dunk by freshman Tom Hammonds. Neal’s dunk and pair of free throws after an intentional foul completMd a four-point play that capped a 14-2 Georgia Tech surge.
Led by Marbury, who hit 10 of 15 shots from the field, Texas A&M cut its deficit to 15 points midway through the second half. Georgia Tech’s Antoine Ford and Ferrell answered with quick baskets, though, and the Yellow Jackets regained command.
Bruce Dalrymple scored 14 points for Georgia Tech on seven-of-13 shooting from the floor, while Neal finished with 12 points.
Jimmie Gilbert scored nine points and had 10 rebounds for Texas A&M.