Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie (5) and Ohio guard Gavin Block (22) fight for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Okogie’s effort sets tone in record-setting outing for Georgia Tech

Khadrice Rollins

It was Josh Okogie’s world Saturday in McCamish Pavilion.

The guard set a Georgia Tech record for most points scored by a freshman as he led Tech (4-1) past Tulane (1-5) 82-68 to cap off a quality day for Yellow Jackets fans everywhere.

After the first half, Okogie was only second on the team in scoring with 10 points, as forward Quinton Stephens led the Jackets with 11. Thanks to Stephens assisting Okogie on the last bucket of the first half, the freshman had an increase in confidence that allowed him to take over during the game’s final 20 minutes.

Okogie had 28 in the second half and was a menace from all over the floor. He shot seven-of-11 from the field, knocked down a three-pointer and went 13-of-15 from the foul line. His offense is what will be remembered from Saturday, but coach Josh Pastner said it all happened because of his effort on the other end of the floor.

“He didn’t take plays off,” Pastner said. “The reason he scored offensively was because he was at his best defensively as he’s been all year long. It translated to him being really locked in offensively. When he is not locked in defensively, he is not as effective offensively. (Saturday) he was his best defensively and it triggered and translated into him being great offensively.”

Energy is needed to execute Pastner’s offense, and once Okogie got his motor going, there was little Tulane defenders could do to slow him down.

In a scheme that is focused on good off-ball movement and strong drives to the rim, Okogie was able to get into a comfort zone that he could not fall out of.

“Every time I caught (the ball) I saw gaps,” Okogie said. “That’s what our whole offense is predicated on — on creating gaps. And since my teammates ran hard and cut hard, I was able to get through those gaps.”

Getting into a groove on offense and defense while the ball was live was big, but Okogie settling in while at the free throw line is what took his game over the top. He said he has struggled making his foul shots to start games, and he missed five of his first six attempts Saturday. Then he rattled off 12 straight makes to help cement his record-setting day.

For a Tech team that is still going through the growing pains of not only being a young team, but also adjusting to a new coach, a good start to the season can go a long way. As the Jackets now prepare to hit the road to take on Penn State (4-3) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, one of the key pieces to this young core has something to grow from to help set the tone for the season.

“This game helped me set the standard of where I have to hold myself,” Okogie said. “I’m not saying I’m going to try and score 30 every night, but I’m just saying I think most of these points didn’t come from me just attacking the rim. They came from second chance where the ball slipped, and I was able to get to the floor first and put it back up. And I feel like if I’m able to keep playing hard, I’ll be able to keep producing for my team.”