Georgia Tech throttles Houston in NIT opener

Before a modest but enthusiastic crowd, Georgia Tech gained win No. 20 Wednesday night, defeating Houston in a first-round NIT game, 81-62.

The Yellow Jackets will move on to play at South Carolina in a second-round game Monday at 9 p.m.

Liberated from its diet of ACC competition for the past 20 games, Tech (20-14) asserted its superiority over the Cougars with a 15-6 run in the second half that made the score 56-38 with 13:58 left and began to put the game out of reach. The 19-point margin of victory was Tech’s largest since November.

In what will be the team’s final home game of the season, and the last ever at McCamish Pavilion for the team’s five seniors, the Jackets played like a boulder rolling down a hill, gathering momentum with each succeeding possession. Guard Tadric Jackson drained a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt emphatically rejected a Houston fast-break layup attempt. Centers Ben Lammers delighted the crowd with dunks off deft passes from forward James White and Georges-Hunt. Forward Charles Mitchell attempted a behind-the-back pass out of the post to Georges-Hunt. Little-used guard Corey Heyward tossed in the final points of the night, a 3-pointer, his first points since the third game of the season.

Playing before a crowd of 2,932, Tech (20-14) has its first 20-win season of coach Brian Gregory’s tenure and the Jackets’ first since the 2009-10 season.

Houston (22-10) entered the game as one of the more effective teams at defending 3-pointers in Division I, at 29.8 percent, but the Jackets shot 8-for-16 from beyond the arc, their best rate in the past 11 games.

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