Georgia Tech opened the inaugural season in McCamish Pavilion in "storybook" fashion Friday night, using a strong rebounding performance and a balanced offensive attack to knock off a record-setting performance by the Tulane Green Wave 79-61 in front of a sellout crowd.
Green Wave junior forward Josh Davis scored a career-high 27 points for Tulane, which turned the ball over only four times the entire game, eclipsing the previous school record. Despite the strong performance, Tulane could never quite catch up to a Georgia Tech team that would simply not be denied a season-opening win.
"Tech came out with great energy," affirmed Tulane head coach Ed Conroy. "I thought they sustained that energy throughout the game, and ultimately it won-out."
Junior Kammeon Holsey led all Yellow Jacket scorers with 18 points on a night that saw six Georgia Tech players score at least eight. According to head coach Brian Gregory, Tech's performance Friday night was the epitome of what Georgia Tech basketball will look like going forward.
"When you talk about Georgia Tech basketball, you talk about defending and rebounding and sharing the ball and that's exactly what we did," said Gregory, whose team had 18 assists on 32 made baskets and outrebounded Tulane 47-23.
"We need a collective effort every single night," Gregory asserted, reiterating that tough, physical defense is key to his team's transition game. "When we defend and then rebound well, that creates fast break opportunities which we're trying to get better at."
Even before tipoff, it was apparent that Friday night was not simply another game. "You realize that you're in a special place and all we needed to do was make sure we played well," commented Gregory on playing in McCamish Pavilion for the first time in front of dozens of Georgia Tech basketball legends, including John Salley and Matt Harpring. "I thought to myself, what a special chance we have to have a special night tonight."
"The one piece that you don't have great control over was how we would perform," added Gregory. Luckily, for Coach Gregory and the 8,600 other Tech fans, the Yellow Jackets eclipsed the level of simply playing well. In fact, Georgia Tech was impressive.
"It's just one game and we took some steps, but you saw glimpses of what the program needs to look like," said Gregory, who constantly emphasized there will always be room for improvement. "We're going to keep trying to build towards that."
Despite the atmosphere created by playing in front of a sellout crowd on a new home floor, Georgia Tech still needed to win to make Friday night a "storybook" evening. From the opening tip and for the duration of the contest, Georgia Tech freshmen contributed significant efforts on both sides of the ball.
Tech freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt, Robert Carter, and Chris Bolden combined for 35 of the Yellow Jackets 79 points, further emphasizing the fact that the Yellow Jackets will be a deep team moving forward, possibly with a nine or even ten man rotation. "The freshmen inject a little energy into the program, there's no question about it," continued Gregory.
Despite the important contribution by the Georgia Tech freshmen, Yellow Jacket center Daniel Miller had perhaps the most impressive performance of the night. Miller recorded a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds, and finished just four assists shy of a triple-double.
The Yellow Jackets opened up a 10-point lead less than nine minutes into the contest and, despite a bad stretch that spanned seven minutes at the end of the first half and beginning of the second, seemed to keep Tulane at a considerable distance the duration of the game.
"The only time I thought we were out of sorts on offense was the last three minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half and that's something we have to work on because we need to close out the half better."
Nonetheless, Georgia Tech displayed an effort and contributed a performance Friday night that was worthy of the new palace in which they played. "It was a storybook day," concluded Gregory. "It was a hell of a day."