In a season that was widely expected to be a major bounce-back year after a rough 2008-09 campaign, the Tech men’s basketball team struggled to live up to lofty expectations during the 2009-10 season but finished strong. Tech encountered highs and lows throughout the year, beating eventual national champion Duke but losing to Miami, finishing strong with a 4-2 mark in postseason play. Several of the highlights from the season are recalled in this article.
Beating the Blue Devils
GT vs. Duke, 1/9/2010
After losing to rival Georgia in Athens, the Jackets bounced back to topple then-No. 5 Duke 71-67 at home. Duke led for much of the game, but Tech rallied behind junior forward Gani Lawal, who had 21 points and nine rebounds.
After a first half in which Duke pulled out to a big early lead before allowing Tech to go on a 14-2 run of its own, the second half proved to be much closer. Duke led by six going into halftime, and the teams remained within six points of each other throughout the final 20 minutes.
The score was tied at 60 with just under three minutes remaining, but the Jackets forged ahead and closed the game out to pick up their first conference win.
After the final whistle, Tech students stormed the court to celebrate the win over the eventual ACC and National Champions. It marked the second straight year the Jackets had defeated a top-10 opponent after last season’s upset victory over No. 6 Wake Forest.
GT at Maryland, 2/20/2010
Maryland guard Grievis Vasquez hit a jumper with 13 seconds left to put the Terrapins up 73-72. Freshman forward Derrick Favors responded by grabbing an offensive board after a missed jumper and laying it in to put Tech on top with two seconds remaining.
A quick timeout gave Maryland the ball at half-court with just over one second on the clock, and in that short span, Cliff Tucker handed the Jackets their sixth road loss in conference play.
After taking the inbound pass near the wing, Tucker turned and launched a three with freshman guard Glen Rice Jr. in his face. As time ticked away, the ball dropped through the net, dashing Tech’s hopes for a key road win over a top ACC foe.
NCAA Tournament, First Round
GT vs. Oklahoma State, 3/19/2010
Tech was predicted by many to defeat No. 7 seed Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the way the Jackets won that was a surprise.
The Jackets shot an uncharacteristic 96 percent from the foul line against the Cowboys, missing just one of their 25 opportunities on the night and nearly setting an NCAA Tournament single-game record. They also shut down Oklahoma State star James Anderson, who shot just three-for-12 in his 11-point effort.
Despite being outdone in field-goal percentage and three-point percentage, Tech’s free throw shooting lifted them over the Cowboys and into the second round of the tournament.
#41 Glen Rice Jr.
After coming off of the bench for most of the season, Rice joined the starting lineup for Tech’s last 11 games. Over these 11 games he averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds, also snatching 1.6 steals per game.
After reaching double figures in scoring just once through the end of January, Rice did it five times the rest of the way, including a career-high 17 points in the loss to Clemson on March 2. He also led the team in three-point percentage, closing the year shooting 46.7 percent from beyond the arc.
#11 Brian Oliver
In Oliver’s collegiate debut, the freshman from New Jersey shot 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the final 10 minutes of play, notching his first double-figures scoring effort of nine on the year. His best game came in the road loss to Florida State, when he shot 46 percent from long range and finished with a career-high 20 points.
Oliver was third in the ACC in three-point percentage for the season, shooting 38.1 percent in conference games. He also averaged 8.3 points per game in conference play.
#14 Derrick Favors
Favors had a solid offensive season for the Jackets, shooting just over 61 percent from the field and averaging 12.4 points per game. He shot 65 percent from the field in the ACC tourney, averaging close to a double-double with 17 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
His best performance of the year came against Maryland in the regular season, where he scored 21 points and recorded 18 rebounds, nine on the offensive end. Even though Tech barely lost that game, Favors’ offensive display remains a highlight.
#1 Iman Shumpert
After struggling defensively early in the season, Shumpert emerged as a staunch defender, leading the team with 58 steals while averaging 1.9 per game.
In the postseason Shumpert was charged with defending the ACC Player of the Year (Vasquez), the Big XII Player of the Year (Anderson), the Naismith Award winner (Ohio State’s Evan Turner) and the leading scorer on the National Champions (Duke’s Jon Scheyer). He proved up to the task, forcing Turner into nine turnovers and holding the rest to low field goal percentages.