DULUTH -- With one game to go, Georgia Tech is perfect at its temporary home away from home.
At least record wise, that is.
The Yellow Jackets showed the negative effects of nine days off around semester exams, but still were able to defeat Alabama A&M on Monday night to go to 4-0 in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Glenn Rice Jr., who was 6-for-10 overall from the floor and 3-for-6 from behind the arc, had 21 points and added 10 rebounds as Georgia Tech (7-4) overcame a sub-par performance for a 65-54 victory before a crowd of 2,467.
Georgia Tech, which is playing most of its non-league schedule in Gwinnett while its rebuilds arena is under construction, will face Mercer at 7 p.m. on Thursday in its Arena finale. Two tough days of practice are sure to follow a game in which the Yellow Jackets committed 22 turnovers compared to just seven assists and allowed out-manned Alabama A&M (2-5) to stay close most of the way.
"We didn't play with the effort and concentration we need to have," coach Brian Gregory. "For the first time this year, I was really disappointed with our energy level."
The Yellow Jackets needed a strong game off the bench from freshman Julian Royal to get the victory. He had hit 5 of 8 shots from 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Georgia Tech dominated the boards 47-25.
"He saved our butts," Gregory said. "I had a couple of hustle plays and I know that coach was happy with that," Royal said.
The Yellow Jackets trailed 10-5 more than eight minutes into the game and didn't take the lead for good in the first half until two baskets by Royal put them up 15-14 with just over six minutes left before intermission. Georgia Tech led 25-16 after a 20-6 run, but Alabama A&M was within 25-21 at intermission despite shooting just 28 percent and going 2-for-14 on 3-point attempts. The Yellow Jackets had 11 first-half turnovers, five by point guard Mfon Udofia, and just two assists.
Rice had eight points and six rebounds in the first half, while Royal contributed six points and five rebounds.
Alabama A&M tied the game with two baskets to start the second half, but Rice then led a 13-2 run with a 3-point play and a 3-pointer to regain control at 38-27 with about 15 minutes to play. Georgia Tech led by as many as 13 points before the Bulldogs closed to within eight points three times in the final minute.
"They wouldn't go away," Rice said.
Udofia was 11-for-14 at the foul line and finished with 16 points, but he had seven turnovers to one assist. Daniel Miller had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
Georgia Tech's other victories in Gwinnett have come against Florida A&M, Delaware State and Siena like Alabama A&M hardly heavyweights. The Yellow Jackets lost to Northwestern in their first of two non-conference games at Philips Arena. They play Alabama there on Jan. 3.
The Yellow Jackets need contributions from more players than they got against Alabama A&M if they are going to finish 5-0 at the Arena. Mercer (7-3) plays at Georgia tonight.