Nov. 12, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– It’s only one game, but Georgia Tech looked right at home in establishing home court dominance in their digs at the Arena at Gwinnett.
So what if the men’s 92-59 rout of Florida A&M and the women’s 97-37 rout of Alabama State do little for either’s place in the Sagarin Ratings? A win is a win, 1-0 is 1-0, and both teams can say they not only survived but took something good out of debuts on their home floor for the season. More than just lopsided victories.
The men learned how to handle adversity, as their leading returning scorer, Glen Rice, Jr. was suspended for three games by head coach Brian Gregory for a violation of team rules. Brandon Reed started in Rice’s place.
The Jackets, however, showed they could get contributions from everyone, as four different players hit for double-figures, including redshirt sophomore and recent transfer Brandon Reed, who had a game-high 16 points. Reed started in place of Glen Rice, Jr., who served the first game of a three-game suspension, for breaking a team rule. Mfon Udofia added 15 and was 7-for-10 from the foul line and had six assists to only one turnover. Center Daniel Miller added 10, and freshman Julian Royal added 10, hitting 7-of-8 from the foul line.
“I’m excited to get that first win. It’s something you always remember,” said Gregory, who won his seventh straight season opener, raised his record to 8-1 on Opening night and is 7-1 in home openers — Most important he’s 1-0 in season- and home-openers at Georgia Tech. “I’m asking a lot of these guys, and they’re doing a good job of trying to respond to it and they’re making some improvements, which is the most important thing.
“I always say I want our guys when the game’s over, for the people to look and say, ‘That team wanted to win’ and ‘That team wanted to play.’ I think that happened tonight. If we do that, good things will happen for this program.”
Miller (6-10), Holsey (6-8) and Hicks (6-11) shared game-high honors with seven rebounds each, while Miller and Hicks each had two blocked shots. Tech dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Rattlers, 46-21, 14-6 on the offensive glass. They also dominated inside against the smaller Rattlers, holding decisive margins in points in the paint (30-16), second-chance points (20-4, 11-1 at the half), rebounds and offensive rebounds. Freshman Julian Royal, a 6-7, 230-pound wide-body added six rebounds and a blocked shot.
Defensively, the Jackets limited A&M to 37.7 percent shooting, only 34.6 percent in the second half, also holding them to 12.5 percent from three in the final 20 minutes and 27.8 percent for the game.
“I thought Daniel (Miller) played really well. He was a monster on the offensive glass,” said Gregory. “I thought Kam (Holsey) gave us some minutes and I thought you saw the development and improvement of Julian, and Nate who had five defensive rebounds. The one thing I said too is we list every one of those guys as a sophomore or a freshman. They’ve got a lot of room to grow and time to do it. “
The Jackets jumped out to the early lead, extending it to 12, and were never headed. Tech, saw its lead cut to four with 6:13 left, by the stubborn Rattlers, but ended the half on a 17-7 run and took a 14-point lead into the half, 43-29. Udofia had nine points in the run and Foreman added six on a pair of threes. The Jackets shot 6-for-15 from three in the first half.
In the second half, Tech opened on a 14-5 run over the first 4:30 to open a 23-point bulge, 57-34. They’d extend the lead to 30 midway through the second and never led by fewer than 27 the rest of the way. The lead would max out at 37 with 2:25 to go.
In the opener of the opening night double-header, the women were as impressive.
They jumped all over Alabama State, winning, 97-37, extending their record to 27-10 all-time in season openers, 21-4 at home. Under head coach MaChelle Joseph they are 9-0, 6-0 in home openers.
The Jackets led wire-to-wire and were up by double-figures for the game’s final 35:14. A 15-5 run midway through the first half doubled the lead as Tech led 46-16 at the half, then blew the game open with a 13-1 run midway through the second half. They outscored the Hornets, 51-21 over the final 20 minutes and led by as much as 62 late in the game.
Freshman guard Sydney Wallace and sophomore guard Dawnn Maye led the Jackets with 13 points apiece, while Metra Walthour added 11, including 6-for-6 from the foul line and 1-for-1 from three, and had a game-high four assists. Ty Marshall added eight points in 15 minutes.
Joseph was pleased with the team’s effort and their ability to take the pounding of the physical Hornets.
“I thought Alabama State was very physical. They were scrappy and played hard and were very physical and bumping us a lot,” said Joseph, whose squad held a 50-8 edge in points in the paint. “We have to get used to playing that way again.
“It was a good way to remind me how physical it’s going to be in the NCAAs and the ACC,” agreed sophomore Ty Marshall, who added eight points in 15 minutes. “I also think it was a good way for Sydney to get adjusted, a good way to break her in to playing in the ACC.”
Wallace, a Duluth native, playing her first game in the Arena at Gwinnett, was happy with her collegiate debut.
“First game is always kind of nervous,” she said. “But you just settle down, be confident, go out there and play as hard as you can.”
Joseph wasn’t all smiles, as the Jackets managed only a 49-47 edge in rebounding, and were beaten 25-20 on the offensive glass.
“It’s our Achillies’ Heel right now and is something we’re going to really have to work on and drill over the next couple of months,” she said.
Joseph’s squad will be in action again on Sunday, in a revenge game against Old Dominion at the Arena at Gwinnett. The Lady Monarchs edged the Yellow Jackets, 65-63, last year in Norfolk, Va. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
Gregory’s squad will try to go to 2-0 on Monday night when it hosts Delaware State in a 7 p.m. start before heading to Charleston, S.C., for the Charleston Classic.
For posterity, here are a few firsts of the Brian Gregory Era:
Possession: Turnover by Jason Morris, :18 Shot: Jason Morris, :58 (three-pointer, missed) Basket: Yannick Crowder, Florida A&M, :42 Tech Basket: Kammeon Holsey (a layup), 1:02 Three Pointer: Brandon Reed, 1:49 Rebound: Kammeon Holsey (offensive), :58 Assist: Mfon Udofia, 1:49 Free throw: Isaac Brown, Florida A&M, 1:30 Tech Free Throw: Mfon Udofia (missed), 2:44 Free Throw Made: Mfon Udofia, 2:44 First Lead: 5-2, at 1:49 via Reed three-pointer Blocked Shot: Daniel Miller, 2:58 Steal: Jason Morris, 4:40 First Halftime: 43-29 First Final Score: 92-59