A perfect start to the game, though, led to a perfect ending.
Kammeon Holsey scored all 13 of his points in the first half to lift Georgia Tech to a 64-54 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Marcus Georges-Hunt added 13 for the Yellow Jackets (13-9, 3-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won a true road game for the first time this season, ending a five-game losing skid. They also won in Blacksburg for the first time in eight attempts, and they snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hokies, avenging a 70-65 overtime loss on Jan. 12.
“We’re a much better team than when we played them,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “We’re a much different team. We’re better defensively. We’re better offensively … but I think they are, too. They’ve lost a gazillion close games, where they’ve been in the game, just like we have. Those are hard to bounce back from. That’s why I’m proud of our guys. I think we’ve played competitively in every game but one. We’re making progress.”
Behind Holsey, the Yellow Jackets opened a 22-point lead against the cold-shooting Hokies, who missed 12 of their first 13 shots and 20 of their first 23. The Yellow Jackets led 37-15 after a free throw by Daniel Miller with 1:24 left and led 37-18 at halftime.
Virginia Tech’s 18 first-half points marked its fewest in any half this season. The Hokies hit just six shots in the first half and shot 20.7 percent (6-of-29) from the floor.
“Our defense is usually pretty good, and I thought it was pretty good,” Gregory said. “I’m going to be honest. They (the Hokies) just played at 9 o’clock on Thursday (against Maryland). So you’ve got to try and take advantage of that. We had the same situation where we played a Sunday afternoon game and then played a Tuesday night game. So I think that had something to do with it as well.”
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson agreed.
“It (playing at 9 p.m. on Thursday) impacted us a little bit,” Johnson said. “It affected us. That’s not an excuse. Everyone in the league has to go through it. It is what it is, but it did affect us with our short bench.”
The Hokies (11-12, 2-8), who lost their sixth straight game, used a 15-1 run in the second half to climb back into it. Erick Green, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 25.2 points per game, scored nine of those 15 points, and his basket with 10:24 remaining cut the lead to 48-37.
Green, who scored 16 of his 28 points in the second half, got the Hokies even closer. Virginia Tech cut the lead to 60-52 on Green’s runner with 31.6 seconds left, but the Yellow Jackets held on down the stretch.
Georgia Tech came into the game as the ACC’s worst free-throw shooting team (64.3 percent), but senior guard Mfon Udofia made four straight in the final 31 seconds to seal the win for the Yellow Jackets.
“We just came out on the road and stayed positive,” Holsey said. “We were searching to get a win and make some noise in the ACC. We stayed mentally focused. In the second half, we didn’t make many shots, but our defense and our rebounding kept us in the game. Even though Virginia Tech made a run, we were able to keep our composure and put an ‘L’ on them.”
Green, who went 9-of-20 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, came out of the game with 31 seconds remaining because of dehydration and had to be helped to the locker room after the game. But Virginia Tech’s sports medicine staff said he was fine.
“He was really worn down. He wasn’t wearing down. He was worn down,” Johnson said. “He was out of gas. I’d say he was out of gas and out of fumes. He had nothing in the tank. He’s in unbelievable shape, but three or four games ago, I saw the wear down in him and I didn’t know if it would get to this point, but he’s having to do so much for this team. … It’s kind of caught up with him.”
The rest of the Hokies combined to shoot 10-of-42. Virginia Tech shot a season-low 30.6 percent (19-of-62).