Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team started 3-0 for the first time under Josh Pastner with a 68-50 victory over Northern Illinois on Thursday at McCamish Pavilion.

“One awesome thing about our program is we have gotten better as the year has gone on but we haven’t started well,” Pastner said. “To start out 3-0 is a good way.”

With a tougher schedule about to begin with Utah next, some of the things that Pastner said he wanted to see, better defense, rebounding and 3-point shooting, were evident against the hapless Huskies.

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Using mostly man-to-man, the Jackets defended well in holding North Illinois to 27% shooting, but still need to improve their defensive rebounding. The Huskies (1-3) grabbed 20 offensive rebounds but converted them into just six points, including missing 18 of 27 layup attempts. Tech held the Huskies to .704 points per possession, below its goal of 0.95. Tech blocked 10 shots. Pastner said he was pleased that his players kept competing after giving up rebounds but that is an area that must be cleaned up.

“Rebounding just gives us coverage and insurance when things are not going well on both sides defensively, and offensively,” Pastner said. “It was really, even though we outrebounded them by one today, disappointing, our defensive rebounding.”

Tech took 18 3-pointers, hitting five. While the percentage wasn’t great, the attempts were nine more than the team it took in its previous game at Georgia State. The Jackets shot 39% on Thursday. Ja’von Franklin led Tech with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Nine different Jackets scored. Tech averaged .932 points per possession, below its goal of 1.05.

“We had some great looks today that missed and so we just got to keep cleaning some things up and we’ll continue to get better,” Pastner said.

Tech took control of the game with a 15-0 run in the first half that led to a 30-8 lead on a layup by Kyle Sturdivant with 6:58 remaining. It finished the half leading 43-20 with eight players contributing points, led by Miles Kelly’s nine.

A combination of strong Tech defense, and poor choices and shooting by Northern Illinois resulted in it hitting 20% of its field-goal attempts in the first half. That percentage dropped to as low as 14% (3 of 22) after it missed two more short shots with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half. Despite often getting into high-percentage positions near the basket, the Huskies couldn’t hit anything. They missed 13 of their 17 layup attempts, 11 of their 13 3-point attempts and seven of their 11 free throws.

“A lot of guys who can block shots and recover fast,” Franklin said. “It was pretty good defense.”

Northern Illinois increased its defensive intensity to start the second half. It made its first five shots to cut Tech’s lead to 44-31 with 16:26 remaining.

Pastner said he was very pleased with his team’s defense for the first 18 minutes of the first half and concerned about the defense in the final two minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half.

“We end up holding them to 26% from the field and 20 from three and we had eight three stops in a row but there was a stretch there where we just weren’t getting it done on the defensive end,” Pastner said.

David Coit of Northern Illinois hit a floating jumper and followed with a 3-pointer off the Jackets’ fourth turnover of the half to make it 44-37 with 14:29 remaining.

Georgia Tech 68, Northern Illinois 50

While Northern Illinois was making most of its shots, Tech started the half missing its first nine attempts. Franklin broke the streak with a layup to give the Jackets a 46-37 lead.

And then equilibrium was restored, sort of, because Northern Illinois again began missing as Tech increased its defensive intensity. The effort forced the Huskies into an 0-for-16 run that ended their attempted rally.

“Everybody is going to make a run,” Franklin said. “We bared down on defense.”

During its opponent’s scoreless streak, Tech’s offense was almost as inefficient but did enough to increase its lead to 53-37 on a three-point play by Deivon Smith with 8:12 remaining.

The lead increased to 60-43 on a dunk by Kelly with 4:19 remaining.

“Defense wins championships, and I feel like this year, even last year, we’re a real good defensive team from each and every position,” Smith said.