Despite a sluggish effort against winless Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Georgia Tech believes it’s ready for the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend.
Gani Lawal had 15 points and 15 rebounds and freshman Derrick Favors added 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the 22nd-ranked Yellow Jackets to a 65-53 victory Wednesday night.
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Freshman Mfon Udofia added eight key points and five assists for the Yellow Jackets (8-1), who won their seventh straight. Lawal and Favors each had three blocked shots.
Despite the rebounding totals for Lawal and Favors, the Yellow Jackets only outrebounded Pine Bluff 50-42 and the Golden Lions had 16 offensive boards.
“There’s no concern,” Lawal said of Sunday’s opener against Florida State. “We know what we have to do. We’re ready.”
Tech committed 14 turnovers.
“We’ve got a really good team. It’s a talented group but to use a cliche, we are not always on the same page,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said.
“I was just not pleased with our transition defense and the fact that we couldn’t secure a lot of loose balls. That’s why they ended up having 16 offensive rebounds,” Hewitt said. “We definitely could have done better on our defensive effort and our loose ball effort. They were clearly a lot more aggressive than us.”
Tavaris Washington and Lebaron Weathers each had 13 points for Pine Bluff (0-8), which has played all its games on the road.
The Golden Lions were down 48-43 after a 3-pointer by Dominic Moore with 9:41 remaining.
“I was a little surprised. It shouldn’t have been that close,” Lawal said.
Favors had no idea.
“I don’t look at the scoreboard during the game,” he said.
Tech then broke it open with a 14-3 run over a 4:18 span that made it 62-46. The final three points were a three-point play by Lawal. Udofia seven points and Favors added six in the run.
“We were playing a good team. We knew they would make runs,” Pine Bluff coach George Ivory said. “They’re tough. They bring a lot of pressure, both offensively and defensively.”
The lead was the largest of the game for Tech, which shot 38 percent (23 of 60) from the field, including 6 of 17 (35 percent) from 3-point range, and committed 14 turnovers. Pine Bluff shot 29 percent (20 of 68) and was 4 of 16 on 3s.
Tech led 35-27 at halftime behind eight points from Favors and seven from Glen Rice Jr..
Savalace Townsend, Pine Bluff’s leading scorer with a 13.7 average, had only four points on 1-of-10 shooting.
“That can be credited to the defense that Georgia Tech played,” Ivory said. “They did an outstanding job on him. I think he missed shots which can be attributed to good defense.”
The Yellow Jackets had an 11-point lead twice in the first half, the last at 30-19 on a basket by Brad Shehan with 4:41 left.
Tech upped its lead to 44-31 on a basket by Brian Oliver 4:16 into the second half before Pine Bluff went on an 8-0 run to get within five points on a basket by Townsend with 12:29 to play.