ATLANTA (AP) — Nick Jacobs agonized from the bench while watching Georgia Tech lose almost every close game last season.
After sitting out a season following his transfer from Alabama, Jacobs now can make a difference.
Jacobs matched his career-high with 23 points and Georgia Tech rallied after trailing by nine points early in second half to beat Tennessee 69-67 on Monday night.
Jacobs also had nine rebounds as Georgia Tech (2-0) overcame abysmal outside shooting. The Yellow Jackets made only 2 of 19 3-pointers.
It was the kind of game Georgia Tech usually lost last season while finishing 12-19 overall and 3-15 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including 13 conference losses by no more than seven points.
“Last year was tough, just sitting there watching all the close games,” Jacobs said. “I feel like today we took a step forward.”
With Georgia Tech leading 69-67, Tennessee’s Kevin Punter missed two free throws with 1:19 remaining.
Following a missed long 3-pointer by Yellow Jackets guard Adam Smith, the Vols grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 6 seconds remaining. Devon Baulkman missed a last-second fallaway 3-pointer following a pass from Armani Moore.
First-year coach Rick Barnes wanted Moore, who led Tennessee (1-1) with 17 points, to drive to the basket.
“We wanted to take the ball to the basket and didn’t do it,” Barnes said. “They’re not going to foul.”
Moore said he “did what my instincts told me” in making the pass.
“I mean, he’s hit the shot,” Moore said of Baulkman. “He missed it. That’s part of it.”
Georgia Tech’s defense forced Baulkman to attempt a difficult shot.
“We ran our defense like it was designed,” said Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had 17 points for Georgia Tech. “If he hit it, it would have been a great shot.”
Moore scored 17 and Robert Hubbs III had 13 for the Vols.
Jacobs’ career high at Alabama was 23 points against Drexel on Nov. 29, 2013.
The Vols opened the second half with a 15-4 run for a 53-44 lead. Tennessee’s continued strong work on the offensive boards set up second-chance points that were a key to the run.
Following a Georgia Tech timeout, Jacobs scored to launch a 14-2 run that gave the Yellow Jackets a 58-55 lead. The Vols went more than 4 minutes without scoring before Jabari McGhee’s basket ended the drought.
McGhee had 10 points.
Georges-Hunt’s 3-pointer stretched the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 65-58.
Tennessee: Barnes’ eight career games against Georgia Tech before Monday night came as Clemson’s coach. ... Junior college transfer forward Ray Kasongo of Toronto made his debut with two rebounds.
The NCAA ruled Kasongo had to sit out the Vols’ opening win over UNC Asheville and pay $300 in restitution due to what athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said was an amateurism issue.
Georgia Tech: Gregory went to his bench early, using 10 players in the first 10 minutes. ... Charles Mitchell had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Georgia Tech forward James White, a graduate transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock, soared to block an attempted dunk by McGhee, setting up Adam Smith’s jumper late in the first half. “Those are plays really good teams make,” Gregory said.
White had four of the team’s 12 blocks, which matched the seventh-highest total in school history.
Mitchell had three blocks.
Despite being outsized, Tennessee claimed a 24-19 advantage in offensive rebounds and a 53-47 overall edge on the boards. Derek Reese had 10 rebounds. The Vols had six team offensive rebounds.
Tennessee plays Marshall on Thursday.
Georgia Tech plays Green Bay on Thursday.