ATLANTA - The defense made just enough stops and Trae Golden had his finest game with his new team to help Georgia Tech avoid another home loss Sunday. Trae Golden had a game-high 20 points and Marcus Georges-Hunt added 16, 16 of the backcourt tandem’s points coming in the final eight minutes, as Tech defeated North Carolina A&T 78-71 at McCamish Pavilion.
A&T’s Jeremy Underwood hit a 3-pointer for his only points of the game that put the visitors up 64-63 with 5:44 left. But A&T (1-3) went the next 5:08 without a field goal and Tech took control.
Georges-Hunt’s three-point play tied the game at 66-66 at the five-minute mark and Tech (4-1) never trailed again. Khari Doby finally broke A&T’s drought with a 3-pointer to make it 75-70, but Golden, who struggled with six turnovers in Wednesday’s loss to Dayton, was 7-of-8 from the free throw line over the final four minutes and handed out seven assists Sunday to help seal the non-conference win.
“I didn’t really feel any different, I just made better decisions, to be honest,” said Golden, in his first season with Tech after transferring from Tennessee. “Coach BG (Brian Gregory) just looked at me in my face after the game Wednesday, told me, ‘you got to do better and I expect you to bounce back.’ I just came out, played my game, made better decisions and it went well for us.”
“I think he can play a lot better and we’re going to need him to play a lot better,” said Gregory. “My hope is that these next four or five weeks you see a big jump, not only in his play, but his grasp of everything we want to get done.”
Tech had erased an 11-point deficit when Robert Carter Jr. capped a 14-3 run with a three-point play that tied the game at 52-52.
The Aggies, defending champions in the MEAC, regained the advantage on Doby’s 3-pointer and led 58-55 on Richaud Pack’s free throw at the 8:52 mark.
The next six points belonged to Tech, which took its first lead since late in the opening half, at 60-58 on a steal and lay up by Golden.
Tech made six of its first 10 field goals and had a seven-point lead at the 12:28 mark. It was just an 8-6 game after Pack, who had a team-high 19 points off the bench, drained a 3-pointer, but Tech got some nice inside play to build the lead. Kammeon Holsey had a three-point play and Daniel Miller added a pretty jump hook for a bucket and a put back to give the Yellow Jackets a 15-8 lead.
Meanwhile, the visiting Aggies struggled shooting early on and went more than five minutes between field goals after Pack’s long ball.
Tech’s inability to take advantage at the free throw line - the Yellow Jackets missed seven of their first 10 tries from the line and were 8-for-18 during the opening half - and cold shooting from the field allowed A&T to go on a run and take its first lead.
The hosts went more than seven minutes without a bucket and the Aggies got to within 21-20 on two free throws by Bruce Beckford. Tech went up 25-20 on a 3-pointer from Georges-Hunt before watching Beckford and Doby each hit a 3-pointer during a 12-0 run that put A&T ahead 32-25 with 2:08 to play.
Tech stayed close, cutting the deficit to 34-33 as Golden took on two defenders for a lay up, then knocked down a 3-pointer. But Doby drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, part of the Aggies’ 55 percent shooting half behind the arc, to make it 37-33 at the break.
The Greensboro, North Carolina school built leads of 45-36 on Lamont Middleton, which capped an 11-3 run that started with the buzzer beater, and 49-38 after Denzel Keyes had a put back while falling to the floor. That forced Gregory to call a time out and the The Yellow Jackets scored 22 of the next 33 points to get the lead on Golden’s lay up.
“Let me commend Georgia Tech for having the resiliency to hang in there and bounce back after we took an 11 point lead,” said A&T coach Cy Alexander. “I thought it was a very well played game by both teams. These kind of games can’t do anything but enhance our growth.”