Georgia Tech opened McCamish Pavilion on Friday night with a warm recognition of its past. The Yellow Jackets’ future grabbed its share of the spotlight, as well.
Before a sellout crowd of 8,600 that included about 150 former players, coaches and staff, including former coach Bobby Cremins, the Yellow Jackets christened their new $50 million home with a 79-61 rout of Tulane in the season opener for both teams.
“I love this place,” said coach Brian Gregory, who grabbed a microphone at game’s end to thank fans, particularly the students, for their support. “I’m excited about what we’re going to build.”
The building, which bears almost no resemblance to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum structure that it replaced, crackled with energy. Hundreds of Tech students lined the court and stood behind one basket. At the opening tip, senior guard Mfon Udofia absorbed the surroundings and marveled. After a season of home games at Gwinnett Arena and Philips Arena, he nearly cried.
“It was crazy,” he said.
Gregory started two freshmen — forwards Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt — along with center Daniel Miller and guards Brandon Reed and Udofia. The last time Tech opened a season with two freshmen in the starting five was in 2009-10, when Udofia took the court with Derrick Favors.
Carter, Georges-Hunt and fellow freshman Chris Bolden fit into the team’s flow. Carter, judged by ESPN as the No. 33 player in the 2012 senior class, showed speed in transition, a back-to-the-basket game and a rebounding knack. The three scored 35 points and turned the ball over once.
“I thought they responded extremely well,” Gregory said.
The star of the night was Holsey, who came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points. Holsey showed no effect of the high ankle sprain that he suffered in the preseason as he ran the floor and leapt for rebounds.
Often working a high-low game with Miller, Holsey banged in the post for high-percentage shots. In a stretch midway through the second half, he scored seven consecutive points that expanded Tech’s lead from 46-40 to 53-40. Tulane did not get any closer than 10 points after the Holsey fusillade.
“Huge lift,” Gregory said. “I’ll take 10 Kam’s. We won’t be able to get the ball over half court, but I’ll take ’em.”
Holsey was part of a withering assault on the backboards. Tech out-rebounded Tulane 47-23, including 16 offensive rebounds. Miller led with 10, adding 10 points, six assists and three blocks in a deft all-around performance.
It was only one game, but an impressive one. A year ago, Tech went to New Orleans and lost 57-52.
“They have more bodies, (and are) bigger, stronger,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “And at least tonight, we’ll see what happens over the course of the year, I know Coach will do a great job with them, they were a lot more physical, and I think that showed in their emphasis on the boards.”
The highlight of the evening took place at halftime, when about 150 former players, coaches, managers and staff lined the perimeter of the court and were announced by play-by-play man Wes Durham at near-auctioneer pace. The loudest applause was offered to “Lethal Weapon 3” — Kenny Anderson, Brian Oliver and Dennis Scott — and Cremins.
The building made an obvious impression. Before the game, Tech legend Tom Hammonds stood in a tunnel as he waited to take the court for a pregame ceremony with Matt Harpring, Roger Kaiser, John Salley and Rich Yunkus. He looked around at the arena — the theatrical lighting, the high-definition scoreboard, the packed house.
“Man alive,” he said, “this is beautiful.”
By Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog