IPFW (2-1) may seem like a game that Georgia Tech (3-0) could've flown right by with an easy victory, but the Mastodons are a good basketball team that actually won 25 games last year and gave some real scares to teams like Dayton and Illinois.
"We talked about prior to the game that IPFW was a team that won 25 games last year," Head Coach Brian Gregory said. "They know how to win. They know what it takes to win, and those guys know their system extremely well. They played well, they do a lot of good things. It's a team that's going to have a very successful season."
Led by big man Steve Forbes, IPFW was able to stick with Tech for most of the game. They cut the lead to one multiple times in the second half but were unable to ever tie or take the lead. Quinton Stephens hit a couple of huge jump shots late in the second that expanded the Jackets lead to a comfortable margin as they got their third victory in as many tries with a 78-69 victory.
The Georgia Tech offense struggled heavily at times in the first half as the offensive movement was stagnant, and Brian Gregory seemed dissatisfied multiple times on the bench. The team still shot 45% for the half but shot 25% from the free throw line.
"We've gotten so much better at the ball not sticking, and we didn't in the first half. It stayed one side of the court so much," said Gregory about the first-half offensive performance. "We have to evolve into a better offensive team where we trust what we're doing, where we're moving the ball and just hit the next open man, that's where the defense isn't. We had four or five possessions where the ball stuck, and we can't play that way."
The second half saw an offensive surge from the Mastodons with a 43-point outbreak. Every time IPFW brought the lead to one or two, the Jackets offense answered with a big basket of their own. After a low scoring first half, Tech outscored the Mastodons 46-43 in a high paced game. The Jackets shot 61% in the half, while IPFW shot 56%.
A huge second half of rebounding gave Tech a 43-26 advantage on the boards including 13 offensive rebounds. It's become an identity for the Jackets early in the season.
"Coach preaches about it every day, about being tough on the glass," Cox said about the team's impressive rebounding so far. "He wants me and Charles Mitchell to be the two toughest players in our league in dominating the glass every game. When we get in the game, we always try to challenge each other that either I'm gonna out-rebound him or he's gonna out-rebound me."
Forbes was big for IPFW as he finished with 17 points, ten rebounds, and two blocks.
"With Forbes inside, you gotta be aware of his post-ups and post isolations," Gregory said.
Demarco Cox did a great job inside all night facing Forbes as he finished with 15 points on 5-7 shooting and seven rebounds.
"He was a pretty big boy down there, he's kinda heavy," Cox said. "I'm used to playing against players his size. I always play against the biggest player every game I play."
Quinton Stephens had another good game for the Jackets as he finished with 13 points and ten rebounds for an impressive double-double. Josh Heath was impressive as the starting point guard with seven assists and zero turnovers. He now has 18 assists compared to just one turnover on the season.
Marcus Georges-Hunt faced a tough challenge tonight by facing 6'0" guard Isaiah McCray who was averaging a double-double before facing Tech. He's a quick and strong guard who can rebound the ball well. Georges-Hunt finished with 13 points and was able to get McCray in foul trouble and limit him to only five points and zero rebounds after he started the game with two baskets.
"He scored the first four points on me, and I told myself I can't let him score anymore," said Georges-Hunt. "I also told myself he had to guard me on defense. McCray is a great player, coming in averaging a double-double at six feet. My job was to keep him off the glass, and he finished with zero rebounds, so we held to him to what we were supposed to hold him to."
Georgia Tech is now 3-0 after facing two good opponents and will head to the Orlando Classic to face Marquette in the first game of the tournament on Thursday.
"The alternative isn't as positive, so yeah, It's the best we can be right now, and I like that," said Gregory about his team starting 3-0. "We'll be able to get some practice time in prior to the game on Thursday night, but there are some areas where we need to tighten up."