LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—The face of Georgia Tech this season is its three freshman stars. The Yellow Jackets’ first big win was courtesy of their veteran big men.
Juniors Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey led a dominant second half on the boards and No. 19 Georgia Tech overcame a 16-point deficit for a 92-85 victory over No. 12 Memphis on Tuesday in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
“This game will be a great learning experience for our younger guys,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “We have big, strong guys and they played with toughness in the second half.”
That toughness led to a 29-9 rebound advantage over the final 20 minutes and the Yellow Jackets (5-0) moved on to Wednesday night’s championship game against No. 5 UCLA, which beat No. 20 Kentucky 73-68.
“This gave us confidence,” Smith said. “We can say we beat a good team and apply what we did in the second half to the next game.”
Memphis (2-1) took a 46-30 halftime lead using its speed and tenacious defense to go up by as many as 19 points. The 6-foot-8 Smith, who had 21 points and nine rebounds, and the 6-10 Dickey, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, then took over the boards in the second half, especially on the offensive end.
The Yellow Jackets held Memphis to one field goal during an 8 1/2 -minute stretch that started with 14 minutes to play. During that span, Georgia Tech had six field goals on offensive rebounds, two of which were part of three-point plays. Smith and Dickey each had two of the rebound baskets.
Georgia Tech went on an 11-0 run to take a 68-62 lead and the last points of it were a tip-in by Mouhammad Faye. Eight of the points in the spurt came on offensive rebounds.
“We got spanked,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “I can’t remember the last time a team of mine got outrebounded 29-9 or gave up 62 points in a half. I will watch the tape and look at 23 offensive rebounds and about 12 loose balls we didn’t get and let our guys know that’s how we lost the game.”
Chris Douglas-Roberts had 26 points for Memphis.
Smith and Dickey combined for two more rebounds than the Tigers managed in the second half.
“They didn’t box out and we took advantage of it,” Smith said. “We can take something like that and turn it into our benefit.”
The Yellow Jackets went on to lead by as many as 13 points, 83-70, on a three-point play by Smith with 2:22 to go. It wasn’t an offensive rebound, just a strong dunk ahead of the field with Memphis’ Jeremy Hunt draped over his back.
Georgia Tech’s heralded freshman trio of Thaddeus Young, Javaris Crittenton and Zach Peacock came into the game averaging a combined 42.1 points per game. They had a total of nine in the first half. Young finished with 11 against Memphis, while Crittenton had 10 and Peacock two.
“It wasn’t their young guys, it was their veteran guys,” Calipari said. “They know how you have to play and they got it done.”
Robert Dozier, Memphis’ leading scorer at 13 points per game, was in foul trouble throughout the game and didn’t score. He played eight minutes, fouling out with 10:09 to play.
“Robert would have had an impact on the glass, but he wasn’t going to get 23 rebounds,” Douglas-Roberts said. “The way we played we deserved this. We let up and they got back in the game.”
Memphis went ahead 22-9 halfway through the first half as Georgia Tech missed 10 of its first 11 shots from the field and 14 of its first 17.
Memphis, meanwhile, was hitting at a 60 percent clip (9-of-15) to take the 13-point lead. The Tigers led by as many as 19 points, the second time at 32-13 with 7:19 to go on a drive by Douglas-Roberts.
Whenever it seemed as though the Yellow Jackets could be ready to make some kind of run, Memphis had an answer, including two 3-pointers by freshman Doneal Mack in the final 2:09 of the half as the Tigers went up 46-30.