Stephens lifts Georgia Tech past Georgia, 80-73
ATLANTA (AP) — Quinton Stephens showed he’s ready for a bigger role in his second year at Georgia Tech.
Stephens scored a career-high 22 points while making six 3-pointers, and Georgia Tech beat Georgia 80-73 on Friday night for its first four-game winning streak in the state rivalry in 51 years.
Charles Mitchell, a transfer from Maryland, had 20 points and a game-high nine rebounds in his debut for Georgia Tech (1-0).
The slim Stephens (6-9, 187) was often overshadowed in his backup role last season as he averaged only 4.2 points in Atlantic Coast Conference games.
“We’ve got to forget about Quinton last year,” said coach Brian Gregory. “He’s a good shooter.”
Stephens made 7 of 11 shots from the field including six of eight 3-pointers.
“I guess it was one of those nights they were falling for me,” Stephens said.
Stephens even banked in a 3.
“I’m not sure he called backboard on that one,” said a smiling Gregory.
Nemanja Djurisic led Georgia (0-1) with 18 points. Marcus Thornton had 12.
A 3-pointer by Kenny Gaines and layup by J.J. Frazier allowed Georgia to pull to within 74-71 with 34.1 seconds remaining. Georgia Tech made six of eight free throws in the final 26 seconds to ice the win.
Georgia Tech is 4-0 against Georgia under Gregory, who said he doesn’t build the game up too much with his players. He acknowledged it’s important to have bragging rights in the state.
“For a year we get to say whatever we want to say, I guess,” Gregory said.
Georgia Tech’s last four-game winning streak in the series came in 1962-63, when the team played two times each season.
For Georgia seniors, the loss in their final opportunity to beat the Yellow Jackets was painful.
“It definitely hurts,” Thornton said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. But it’s only one game.”
Georgia Tech led by 16 points in the first half. Georgia cut the lead to four points at 50-46 early in the second half before Mitchell answered with two straight baskets, including a left-handed jam.
Georgia made only 11 of 35 shots (31.4 percent), including 4 of 16 3-pointers, in the half. The Yellow Jackets took a big lead of 16 points at 40-24 late in the half before settling for a 42-23 advantage at the break.
Georgia: Gaines, a returning starting guard who has been sidelined with an illness, played in a reserve role and had 11 points. His late 3-pointer was a rare success for the Bulldogs, who shot only 5 of 20 on 3s.
Georgia Tech: Stephens, who had a broken nose last season, continues to wear a plastic shield over his face. His previous career high was 13 points at North Carolina State as a freshman last season. Marcus Georges-Hunt had 11 points and five assists.
Georgia plays Stony Brook on Tuesday night in the first of three straight home games.
Georgia Tech plays Alabama A&M on Tuesday night.
Mitchell wasn’t the only transfer to make his debut for the Yellow Jackets. Demarco Cox, a 6-foot-8, 276-pound forward from Mississippi, took advantage of his bulk to score 10 points with eight rebounds. Former East Carolina forward Robert Sampson, a senior who is the son of Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson, had three points and eight rebounds.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said his players settled for too many 3-pointers in the first half. The Bulldogs made only 4 of 16 3s in the half. Fox noted his team shot 55.6 percent in the second half when it made a greater effort to score inside.
“Really the difference in the game was our inability to do anything but settle for 3-point shots early in the game,” Fox said.