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November 8, 2009

Jackets win exhibition in OT

Georgia Tech played in an exhibition game against Indiana-PA in what was supposed to resemble the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals. Things did not go as scripted, however, and Tech was forced to play their starters for the majority of the second half in order to grind out an 84-76 overtime victory.

Head Coach Paul Hewitt gave his general thoughts on the game by saying, "It was a strange game. Last week I felt like we were going to have an effort like we did, especially when you have so many new guys. Last week I thought that we played much cleaner and much better. I was expecting us to play better today than we did last week, but we didn't do that."

Tech took a 36-30 lead into halftime behind the strong inside out combination of Gani Lawal and Iman Shumpert. Lawal led all scorers at halftime with 10 points on five of seven shooting and led the team with six rebounds. Shumpert heated up from behind the three-point line and had nine points at halftime to go along with three assists. Neither team shot the ball particularly well as Tech was 40 percent from the floor while Indiana-PA was only 32 percent from the field.

The second half was a different story. Shumpert sat out the second half and Tech came out cold, going scoreless in the first three and a half minutes. Indiana-PA went on an 8-0 run to take the lead by two points and it was a tight game from there on out. Indiana-PA executed well in their half court offense, while Tech struggled on defense to create turnovers in order to play the up-tempo style of play that they desire. Tech's guards also played sloppy at times and Maurice Miller, D'Andre Bell, and Mfon Udofia committed nine turnovers collectively.

According to Hewitt, "I thought that we didn't get off of the ball as much as we should have in transition. Defensively we definitely were a step slow. As the game wore on, we did not do some of the principals that we talked about such as jumping to the ball, being in help position, and seeing both ball and man. They shot 50 something percent in the second half and got 17 offensive rebounds, which is inexcusable. I thought that our transition defense was pretty good, but in the half court they just spread the floor and ran a five out motion and we weren't jumping to the ball as well as we could. This game will get our attention, that's for sure."

Tech gave their fans some tense moments in the final 40 seconds of regulation. The yellow jackets had the ball for the final possession, but were unable to get a good shot off as Lance Storrs was forced to shoot a desperation three that clanked off the rim. With only three seconds on the clock, Indiana took the ball out from under Tech's basket with the full length of the floor to go. They were able to pass the ball inbounds near mid court to a streaking Akida McClain, who saw his 30 footers clank harmlessly off the backboard. McClain single handily carried Indiana-PA, pouring in 31 points to go along with a game high 12 rebounds.

"We dribbled the ball too much in the second half. I wanted to work more guys in, but there came a point where we had to try to win the game. I thought that we did a decent job taking advantage of our height. Gani got 11 shots and a couple free throws, Derrick Favors got 11 shots and seven free throws. We did better in the second half, but they fouled us every time we threw it down low. I think that our perimeter guys need to be a little less tentative, especially when they collapse down on our big guys and they kick it out. We've just gotta put it up," said Hewitt.

Hewitt gave his thoughts on McClain by saying, "He took a lot of shots the last game and we knew that he was going to shoot a lot. We put Gani on him in the first half and tried Derrick on him in the second half, but he just had it going tonight."

Tech was finally able to take control in the overtime period by playing tenacious defense and feeding the post on offense. They held Indiana-PA to 1-11 shooting in the extra five minutes.

Hewitt explained the success in overtime by saying, "They went back to man defense and that gave us a better opportunity to go inside. We've gotta do a better job moving the ball against the zone defense and getting into the gaps and the soft spots of the zone."

Lawal was the leading scorer with 18 points to go along with eight rebounds. He scored in variety of ways including knocking down a jump shot from 16 feet, scoring on the low block with delicate hook shots, and throwing down ferocious put-back dunks off rebounds.

He describes his arsenal of moves by saying, "I try to do something quick and decisive down low. A hook shot, a turn around jumper, or I will try to drop step and dunk the ball. I take what the defense gives me."

The freshman phenom, Derrick Favors, also had a solid game. He finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots. His combination of size and athleticism will make him force to be reckoned with in the paint, especially on the defensive side of the ball. His offensive moves with his back to the basket are still a little bit raw, but that is something that will develop with time.

Lawal talked about playing with Favors by saying, "We played well. We were both just trying to go out there and play hard and do whatever it takes to help our team win. We are working out the kinks; some of our play was a little off and some of our rhythm was a little off, but we will get better. Derrick is a warrior. He is a good kid that just wants to play basketball."

Shumpert sat out the entire second half, which was Coach Hewitt's plan from the start, in order to rest his tender hamstring. Tech missed his presence in the second half, especially in the clutch when they needed a guard who desired to have the ball in their hands to take the game over.

Shumpert spoke a little bit about the game and Mfon's performance and looked ahead to their season opener. He said, "It was a little bit frustrating sitting on the bench in the second half, but with all of the timeouts I was able to get my two cents in with everybody. I was able to talk to everybody and stay in everybody's ear, so it is almost like I was out there. Mfon did a good job, he plays hard, and he is going to go after loose balls. He is going to make some mistakes because he is aggressive, but I like playing with aggressive guys so we are going to get along fine. I think that we should have done a way better job as a team, but it's an exhibition game and we'll be ready for Florida A&M."


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