5 observations about Georgia Tech’s victory

Here are five observations from Georgia Tech’s 116-81 win over Cornell on Friday night at McCamish Pavilion:

Tech scorched the nets. Georgia Tech scored at an incendiary rate. The Yellow Jackets reached 100 points with 7:07 to play, their first game in triple digits since the 2009-10 season, the last time that Tech made the NCAA tournament. Their 116-point total was the fifth highest in school history, high altitude for a team for coach Brian Gregory's team. Under his watch, the Jackets have either been the least efficient or second-least efficient offensive team in the ACC in each of his first four seasons, according to kenpom.com.

“I said on the radio, ‘I guarantee there ain’t one person who was at the game or listening on the radio that ever thought they’d hear the Georgia Tech team coached by Brian Gregory just scored 116 points,’” Gregory said. “That’s a guarantee.”

Tech didn't play much defense early. Cornell scored with alarming facility in the first half. The Big Red, which last year was one of the least efficient offensive teams in the country and lost three of its top four scorers, scored more points in the first half (49) than any Tech opponent did in a half last season. That includes national champion Duke and ACC champion Notre Dame, among others. The Jackets were particularly vulnerable on slashes to the basket by Cornell guard Robert Hatter.

“I would say the driving game really opened up for them because it made us scramble,” said guard Adam Smith, playing his first game as a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech. “When they put the defense in a rotation, that’s wehre the offense comes from.”

Jacobs looks like he can contribute on offense. Nick Jacobs, a transfer from Alabama, showed a soft touch around the post, finishing with 12 points on nine shots. Jacobs established position for feeds and scored on turnarounds. Midway through the second half, he scored on back-to-back possessions on a lay-in off a lob pass from guard Travis Jorgenson and then off a post move following forward Quinton Stephens' feed.

The Jackets pushed the pace. Gregory's mandate to play at a faster tempo, at least for one game, looked for real. The Jackets consistently looked to run after both Cornell misses and makes. Even when it didn't result in clean fast-break opportunities, Tech was able to score before Cornell could set its defense. With just under 14 minutes to play in the first half, Cornell's JoJo Fallas made a 3-pointer. Tech quickly inbounded and center Ben Lammers hustled down the court for a post-up, scoring on a feed from Stephens just nine seconds after Fallas' basket.

“If you’ll watch the film, we’ve always tried to push the ball, on makes or misses,” Gregory said. “We actually make some baskets at the end of it now. So it just looks better.”

Tech's improvement looked real. It's only one game, but it would appear that there is basis for the optimism that has surrounded the team in the preseason. The Jackets are deeper, more athletic and more experienced than they have ever been in Gregory's tenure. Forward Charles Mitchell (10-for-11 shooting, 11 rebounds, 21 points) combined his rebounding ferocity with improved conditioning. Transfers James White and Smith add elements of frontcourt athletic ability and perimeter shooting that Gregory hasn't had.

“Offensively, we’re much improved,” Gregory said, “and we’re goign to keep getting better because I think some guys are just starting to kind of feel their way on that.”

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