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#STINGDAILY: Staying Focused

Dec. 8, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

If there was any hangover from the other night’s rousing rally and win over Illinois, the Yellow Jackets sure didn’t show it Saturday afternoon in routing East Tennessee State 87-57 at McCamish Pavilion.

Head coach Brian Gregory was a tad concerned that the Jackets might puff their chests a little bit after outscoring the Illini 19-4 down the stretch to win 67-64.

Didn’t happen. Tech was on pretty much the entire game, taking a 44-23 halftime lead and building a 43-point margin in the second half on once of Stacey Poole’s three second-half 3-pointers.

Marcus Georges-Hunt led the way with 18 points. He had plenty of help.

“We may have played as well as we’ve played all year,” Gregory said. “Our guys were really dialed in and focused. Sometimes, after a big win like Tuesday you can lose that a bit. I thought maturity-wise we took a big step.”

The Jackets had 26 assists on 33 made baskets (33-for-65), the most they’ve had since Gregory took over three seasons ago.

Fourteen players saw the floor, 11 scored, and there seemed to be no effect after Gregory’s decision to start guards Solomon Poole and Corey Heyward as would-be starters Chris Bolden and Trae Golden came off the bench as punishment for being late to the team’s pre-game breakfast.

Heyward had three assists, two rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in 21 minutes. Poole scored five points with four assists and three rebounds in 18 minutes.

“Those guys responded well to being told they were starting,” Gregory said. “Corey was a big part of that initial push that had us leading 10-2. He managed the game, and that’s what we need from that position.”

Tech outscored ETSU 22-4 in the paint in the first half.

That was by design, a Gregory preaching point.

“Coach kept emphasizing [getting the ball inside] because that makes it much easier for me and the perimeter players if we get the ball inside,” Georges-Hunt said. “When the ball goes inside . . . it leaves perimeter players open.”

The second half was a rout, and when Stacey Poole Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 4:59 left in the game, the Jackets led 83-40.

“We moved the ball well. We shared it well, passed up maybe OK shots to get good ones,” Gregory said. “They made a run in the first half [to pull within 24-19], and our guys in the past would’ve tried to make plays on their own . . . out of desire to make something happen.

“But today, we just stuck with what we were trying to do and I thought that was a positive.”

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