Georgia Tech is back in the Top 25, but faces a difficult week as it tries to avoid dropping out for a third time.
The No. 20 Yellow Jackets look to end a 12-game road losing streak to Georgia on Tuesday night in the first of two challenging games in five days.
Georgia Tech (11-2) is making its third appearance in the poll this season. The Yellow Jackets were ranked 22nd in the preseason but fell out after a 63-59 loss to then-No. 18 Dayton on Nov. 19.
They re-entered the rankings at No. 24 on Dec. 7, but dropped out following a 66-59 overtime loss to Florida State in their ACC opener Dec. 20.
The Yellow Jackets may have to play some of their best basketball this week to avoid a similar fate. They host No. 5 Duke on Saturday.
First, Georgia Tech will try to defeat Georgia (7-5) in Athens for the first time since Nov. 26, 1976. The home team won each of the last eight meetings, with the Yellow Jackets posting a 67-62 victory Jan. 6 after rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit.
Gani Lawal had 15 points and 14 rebounds in that win for Georgia Tech, and could be a key factor again. He totaled four baskets in three games before scoring a season-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 76-67 victory at Charlotte on Saturday.
“Obviously I want to score more but I wasn’t down,” he said. “I just came back to the drawing board and worked hard these two days in practice and bounced back. Just being real mature and professional about it.”
The Yellow Jackets closed the game on an 11-1 run after blowing a 12-point lead with 8 minutes left.
“Again I think it was a function of what we’ve done the last week in practice,” Hewitt said. “I mean really competing, challenging each other.”
Georgia Tech received a boost from the return of Iman Shumpert, who missed the previous six games following surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee. Shumpert came off the bench to score nine points in 27 minutes, about 15 more than Hewitt had planned on giving him.
Georgia, 6-1 at home, return to Athens after an 89-61 loss at Missouri on Saturday. The Bulldogs committed a season-high 23 turnovers and leading scorer Trey Thompkins logged a season-low 15 minutes before fouling out with nine points.
“Some things you have to learn the hard way,” first-year Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We lost our poise a little bit and we got routed.”
Thompkins is a sophomore forward from Lithonia, Georgia who averages 15.9 points and took the Jan. 6 loss to Georgia Tech hard. The Yellow Jackets beat the Bulldogs in football and basketball last season, but Georgia has the chance to return the favor.
“We can’t lose to Tech in football and basketball,” Thompkins said.