Hoo boy. With 16:24 left in the second half Naithan George hit a three pointer for Georgia Tech to put them up 52-31. With 9:04 left in the second half Hawaii forward Harry Rouhliadeff hit a three pointer to bring the game to 52-50. That 19-0 run was the defining period of the game. But after that run GT was able to keep just enough going to get through this game.
This game was won because of the freshman. Both Baye Ndongo and Naithan George put up career point highs, but their impact was more than that. Ndongo put up 22 points on an insane 10-12 shooting with 12 rebounds (6 offensive) and as always a bunch of adjusted shots. Naithan put up 14 points on 4-12 shooting and 3 assists. But his impact was more than that. The offense moved much better with him. Ball movement isn’t just about moving the ball. It’s about moving the ball in productive ways and George is very good at getting in positions where he has those opportunities. He is key to this offense even if his efficiency isn’t always pristine. Miles Kelly started to get back on track tonight with 14 points on 5-11 shooting including two huge layups and a pair of free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
Hawaii was led by JoVon McClanahan. The diminutive point guard gave the GT defense fits when he could get even an inch of space. He finished with 19 points and 8 assists. Big men Bernardo de Silva (17 points and 5 rebounds) and Justin McKoy (formerly of UVA and UNC with 11 points and 7 rebounds) also made significant contributions.
Now GT heads to the final of the Diamond Head Classic. This already feels like a bit of a success with close victories over decent UMass and Hawaii squads. Now they look ahead to a game against a quite good Nevada Wolfpack team. They are kenpom #38 and have big wins at Washington and against TCU earlier today. Their only loss all season was against a solid Drake team on a neutral court. This GT team is capable of heights. They did beat Mississippi State and Duke at home. The Yellow Jackets would need that kind of effort tomorrow (at 9 pm eastern) to get the win.