ATLANTA (AP) — A strong second-half combination of defense and rebounding was more than enough to make up for Georgia Tech's sluggish start against VCU.
Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20 points, Quinton Stephens sank two 3-pointers in a 14-2 second-half run that gave Georgia Tech the lead, and the Yellow Jackets beat VCU 77-64 on Tuesday night.
Charles Mitchell had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Georgia Tech (7-2). Josh Heath had 12 points.
Following a 27-27 halftime tie, the Yellow Jackets outscored the Rams 50-37 in the second half.
"I thought that second half was the best basketball we've played," said Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory.
VCU (5-4) led 34-31 early in the second half before a powerful follow jam by James White launched Georgia Tech's run. White had another basket in the run, which left the Yellow Jackets with a 45-36 lead they would not lose.
A 3-pointer by Doug Brooks helped VCU close the deficit to 49-48 before Georgia Tech scored eight unanswered points to again stretch the lead to nine points.
Justin Tillman led VCU with a career-high 18 points. Melvin Johnson had 17. The Rams made only 6 of 27 3-pointers.
Johnson, who was averaging 19.9 points, was coming off a career-high 36 points against Florida State. He ranks second in the nation with 4.13 3-pointers per game but made only 3 of 10 3s against Georgia Tech.
"I thought Georgia Tech guarded us well," said VCU coach Will Wade. "They did a good job on Melvin. They made him take some shots he doesn't normally take."
Georgia Tech rotated players, including Georges-Hunt, on Johnson.
"We just had a lot of different guys switch off on him, keeping guys fresh," said Georges-Hunt. "We knew he's a great shooter, making big-time shots."
Tillman tried to fill the scoring void.
"When they dropped it off to me, my main goal was to finish," Tillman said.
Wade said he hoped the strong game from Tillman will be "a positive going forward."
"Teams are going to force other folks to beat them," Wade said. "Melvin is our best player."
Mitchell's offensive rebound and basket stretched Georgia Tech's lead to double figures for the first time at 61-50.
There were five ties in a low-scoring first half. VCU overcame poor shooting, especially on 3-pointers, by outscoring the Yellow Jackets 18-12 in the paint in the opening 20 minutes. Georgia Tech regrouped to finish with a 32-26 edge in the paint.
VCU: Wade gave 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Michael Gilmore his third start this season. Gilmore scored the first points of the game with an inside basket, but it was his only points of the game. ... The Rams made only 1 of 10 3-pointers in the first half.
Georgia Tech: Mitchell pulled down two late rebounds to extend his streak of double-doubles to nine games — every game this season. ... Adam Smith, the Virginia Tech transfer, had nine points. ... Georges-Hunt made 11 of 12 free throws. Overall, the Yellow Jackets made 24 of 26 free throws. ... Travis Jorgenson was held out with an ankle injury.
The Rams were playing their third Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, following losses to Duke and Florida State by a combined 13 points. VCU also lost 74-73 to Wisconsin.
"They're probably the best 5-4 team in the nation right now," said Gregory of VCU.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
VCU was playing its second straight game in Atlanta, following the 76-71 loss to Florida State at Philips Arena on Dec. 6.
VCU hosts Cincinnati on Saturday.
Georgia Tech plays at Georgia on Saturday.