UPDATED, 10:30 p.m. Georgia Tech guard Mfon Udofia understood the situation a little better than most. While Chattanooga did not appear to be much of a threat to the Yellow Jackets, the Mocs were doing a fair impersonation of one.
“Pretty much me being a senior, me being through a lot, I just wanted to let these guys know that this is a game where we can be beat,” Udofia said, “so we have to pick it up or we will be beaten.”
The Jackets responded, shaking out of a first-half funk to take care of Chattanooga 74-58 on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. Tech finished its nonconference schedule at 10-2 and will play its ACC opener at home Saturday afternoon against Miami.
Tech sizzled on offense in the second half, making 17 of 28 shots while recording assists on 10 of the 17 baskets. The Jackets also out-rebounded the Mocs 21-6 in the second half.
Said Chattanooga coach John Shulman, “They kicked our tail on the glass.”
Tech won its sixth game in a row. Aside from the win over Georgia on Dec. 4, none of the other six wins constitute any considerable achievement. According to realtimerpi.com, the highest RPI ranking of any of the other five teams Wednesday was Fordham at No. 248.
Chattanooga, which fell to 5-9, was ranked 267th.
Still, in coach Brian Gregory’s second season, the fact that Tech did win all six, and the last four decisively, is noteworthy. Last season, against a non-conference schedule not so different than this season’s, Tech started ACC play with a 7-7 record.
“One of the key kind of markers for a team in the rebuilding phase is a team that does not lose games that they shouldn’t,” Gregory said. “And I think that over the first 12 games, we took care of the business that we were supposed to take care of. I think that is a big step for us.”
The Jackets dragged through the first half and trailed the Mocs for most of the first 20 minutes. They clanged jumpers, played loose possessions and gave up atypically easy baskets to Chattanooga. Unfocused play had Gregory yanking players to the bench.
Tech shot 10-for-29 in the first half, their most errant first half of shooting in their past seven games. Down 17-10 after a Mocs basket with 8:48 remaining in the half, the Jackets scored the next eight points to take their first lead since 6-5 at the game’s start. Tech later closed the half with five consecutive points on a jumper by Udofia and then a 3-pointer by Jason Morris with the clock running down to go into halftime up 28-23.
The Jackets then pushed the lead to nine in the first two minutes of the second half and led by as many as 18.
“I thought Mfon and (center) Daniel (Miller) in the first half were the two guys that did a great job,” Gregory said. “I think as we moved into the second half, maybe the younger guys realized, Hey, we’ve got a game tonight.”
Forward Robert Carter recorded the second double-double of his career with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt led with 16 points. Miller had seven points, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and no turnovers. Morris gave 17 valuable minutes off the bench, finishing with nine points.
“They weren’t real sharp and they still won, which is a complement to (Gregory),” Shulman said.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog