ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech won’t get a lot of style points for its win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. But it has to be one of the most beautiful non-conference victories in head coach Brian Gregory’s four-year tenure at the school.
The Yellow Jackets trailed by eight points at halftime, but they battled back to take the lead and dug deep to hold off the Commodores 65-60 at McCamish Pavilion.
Georgia Tech (8-2) has won two straight and five of its past six games.
“We played better defense and better offense in the second half,” Gregory said. “We got a lot of good basketball from a lot of different guys, which is what we need.”
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Center Charles Mitchell led Georgia Tech with 19 points, and many of those were vital. It was Mitchell’s tip-in that tied the game at 37 with 14:27 remaining and put the teams on even footing for the rest of the afternoon.
But in the end, the difference makers were point guard Travis Jorgenson and forward Robert Sampson, who each came up big in the final three minutes when the game was on the line.
Jorgenson played his best game since having ACL surgery a year ago and finished with eight points, six assists, one steal and no turnovers. Sampson continued his progression as a big player off the bench with six points and five rebounds.
The game was tied at 53 with 3:44 left when Georgia Tech took over.
Jorgenson put the Yellow Jackets ahead on a jumper with 2:39 left and gave them a four-point lead after a steal and pass to Sampson that he slammed home.
Vanderbilt cut the lead back to one point, but Jorgenson got the ball inside to Mitchell, who turned it into a three-point play and a 60-56 lead. Sampson then forced a steal to Marcus Georges-Hunt, who missed a dunk, only to have Sampson fly in to dunk the offensive rebound and make it a 62-56 game. Vanderbilt never got closer than two points.
“I think Robert probably made the hustle play of the season,” Gregory said.
It was typical of the way Georgia Tech was able to attack the basket all game.
“Georgia Tech played much more physical than we played,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said. “They played more aggressive than we did. We didn’t play particularly well on either end of the floor.”
Vanderbilt (7-3) failed to give Stallings his 300th career win. The Commodores were led by Damian Jones and reserve Josh Henderson with 12 points each. Riley LaChance, who had scored 26 in the past two games, was limited to 10 points.
Georgia Tech’s toughness showed on the inside. The Yellow Jackets scored 38 points in the paint, had 18 points off turnovers and 16 points on second-chance baskets.
“I think we were banging harder,” Mitchell said.
The inside production allowed the Yellow Jackets to overcome their lack of outside scoring. Vanderbilt played a tough zone for most of the game and Georgia Tech was unable to break it, making just 4-of-22 of its 3-point shots. But Gregory’s team showed patience while in its offense and was content to move the ball around and try to get a better shot.
“Our toughness and grit in the second half were key,” Gregory said.
Georgia Tech plays again Tuesday at Dayton, where Gregory coached before coming to Georgia Tech. Dayton won their meeting last season.