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Dec. 3, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

– In basketball jargon, three consecutive defensive stops is known as “a kill.”

The term makes sense, as three consecutive stops usually so disrupts a team’s offensive flow that the team making those kills has the opportunity to pull away.

Georgia Tech (5-2) did just that In the second half Tuesday night, using “the kill,” actually several of them, to take control of its game against Wofford (2-4), and pull away, turning a game that was 32-30 at the half into a 77-61 runaway.

“We track kills,” said guard Adam Smith, who scored a game-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three. “We popped the second half off with a kill. That was a really good sign. That’s the thing with us. We have so many offensive weapons that we know it’s going to come sooner or later. We just have to get stops and get the rebounds, don’t give up offensive rebounds. We were finishing the defensive possessions in the second half as well. That was really big for us.”

That first kill resulted in a 5-0 run to push the lead to seven. The lead would never get lower than three the rest of the game, as the Jackets recorded four more kills in the second 20 minutes, holding the Terriers to 33.3 percent shooting (down from 50 percent in the first half), and only 10 percent shooting from three — 1-of-10 from behind the arc, down from the already poor 28.6 percent (2-of-7) in the first half.

“We held that team to 1 of 10 from three in the second half and then 33 percent, and we rebounded,” said Jacket’ coach Brian Gregory. “We finished the play with the rebounding. It was probably the best we’ve played defensively.”

The inaugural kill to begin the second half set the tone and is part of the Jackets strategy this season.

“We always focus on the first four minutes of the second half, hitting them right in the mouth,” said forward Charles Mitchell, who grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds to go with his 10 points. “That helped us a lot.”

While Tech’s defense held Wofford to an 0-for-4 to and 3-for-7 over the first four minutes, 0-for-2 from three, the offense began to find the range. They hit eight of their first nine shots to open the second half, including going 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Smith begin the three-point deluge, followed by one from Quinton Stephens then a third from point Travis Jorgenson. That pushed the lead to double-digits, where the game would remain.

“Adam [Smith], he’s a game-changer. Quinton [Stephens] hit two big ones for us, Travis [Jorgenson] hit a big one in the first half and hit a big one in the second half as well,” said Gregory. “We were 8-of-18 from 3. Anytime you want to give me 44 percent from the 3, I’ll take that thing and run.”

Smith tied Tech’s running away from Wofford with its long-range shooting to the defense shutting them down.

“It was huge because while we were hitting threes we got stops as well,” he said. “So that really helped us. That gave us more energy, more momentum. I don’t think they really made an adjustment until the second half. That’s why we kept running different stuff trying to get good looks and we got good looks and we knocked them down.”

The Jackets finished 8-for-18 from three, led by Smith, who was 4-for-5 to raise his three-point field goal percentage to 44.4 percent on the season. Their final percentage and their 4-for-11 in the second half actually were quite misleading, as they missed their final five three-point attempts. By then, however, the damage was done, as the lead stood at 23.

Their finish mirrored their start Tuesday, when the Jackets started shooting 1-for-14.

But, again, the defense kept the team in the game, holding Wofford to 3-for-14, including 0-for-8 for nearly 4:30 until the team could heat up, which they did, finishing the half making nine of 14 shots.

A key defensively in the second half slowing forward Justin Gordon. Gordon, who had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the first half, finished 14 on 7-for-14. Gregory credited James White and the collective effort inside for putting the brakes on.

“We were having a hard time guarding Gordon in the first half,” said Gregory. “I thought James gave us a huge lift tonight, defensively, activity around the glass. I thought Ben [Lammers] played really well today as well. We were able to rotate fresh bodies on Gordon. I thought that was effective in the second half.”

The wave of big, long bodies impressed Wofford Coach Mike Young, who saw his team out-rebounded 40-22 for the game and 17-5 in the second hal (14-5 for the game off the offensive glass).

“They absolutely destroyed us [in the second half],” said Young. “They pose a lot of problems. [Ben] Lammers comes off the bench with good length as does James White. They’re just enormous. They’ve got a big front line and [Quinton] Stephens is a long small forward and [Marcus] Georges-Hunt at 6-5 is a really good looking small forward.”

Tech proved bigger inside and just fast enough on the perimeter to mess with and ultimately dismiss Wofford.

“I thought a big key for us was the pressure Josh and Travis put on their point guard,” said Gregory. “I thought even when they got a clean shot we sped them up a little bit without over-playing. We sped them up a little bit. So even when they had some good shots they were just a little bit off. So that was part of our game plan. Guys did a good job with that.”

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