ATLANTA -- Miles Kelly scored on a drive with 4.1 seconds left and Georgia Tech defeated Georgia State 59-57 on Saturday night to ruin the christening of their city rival's new arena.
The Panthers (1-1) began the season with a 17-point win over NAIA school Coastal Georgia, but this was the de facto opening game of the new 7,500-seat Georgia State Convocation Center.
It was certainly the contest that first-year coach Jonas Hayes and his rebuilding squad had been pointing to throughout the offseason.
But Kelly and the Yellow Jackets (2-0) spoiled the occasion before a crowd of 4,083, taking the rubber match in the third straight thrilling finish between the teams.
Georgia State wiped out an eight-point deficit with under 3 minutes left, tying the game on Brenden Tucker's three-point play with 26 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Georgia Tech put the ball in Kelly's hands. Isolating near halfcourt as the clock wound down, he burst toward the hoop and banked in a shot that won it for the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia State failed to get off a shot on its final possession, fumbling the ball away in a fitting end to a sloppy performance by both teams, filled with turnovers, air balls and erratic play.
“It wasn't a pretty game in a lot of areas," Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “But we found a way to win.”
Kelly finished with 15 points, also knocking down a pair of big 3-pointers in a 19-5 run that seemed to put the Atlantic Coast Conference school in control.
When his team needed him at the end, Kelly came through.
“We knew we wanted to get the last shot,” he said. “So we took the clock down a little bit, and we wanted to get me going to my strong (right) hand, downhill, so we could get something at the basket. That's what we did.”
Dallan Coleman led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points. Ja'Heim Hudson paced Georgia State with 23, but the Panthers couldn't overcome 15 turnovers and 2-of-14 shooting from beyond the 3-point stripe.
The Atlanta schools, located less than three miles apart, split a pair of overtime games the last two years at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion, just up the Downtown Connector.
After another down-to-the-wire finish, Pastner quipped that he has no desire to play the Panthers again unless his bosses make him.
“Otherwise, I'm done,” he said, smiling. “My heart can't take it anymore.”
Despite their proximity, the Yellow Jackets were playing at Georgia State for only the third time in 22 meetings between the teams.
One of those road games came in 1973, when Georgia Tech helped break in a then-new GSU Sports Arena, the Panthers' previous home.
Georgia Tech has dominated the series, improving to 19-3 against the Panthers.
“Obviously, there's some things we've got to work on,” said Hayes, who took over a Sun Belt Conference program that made the NCAA Tournament four of the last eight years under Ron Hunter and Rob Lanier.
“But I do think we have the guys in that locker room that are gonna continue to fight for it. We can take a licking, but we're gonna keep on ticking.”
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