Men’s basketball loses two of three non-ACC games

On Nov. 26, the Tech men’s basketball team traveled to Atlantic City, N.J. for two games in the Legends Classic at Boardwalk Hall. Tech beat UTEP, 71-61, but fell to No. 9 ranked Syracuse, 80-76. On the following Tuesday, the Jackets traveled to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Northwestern used its 63 percent shooting from behind the arc to dominate the Jackets, 91-71.
Tech’s first opponent of the week was against the Miners of UTEP. Tech started the game off slow and trailed the Miners, 6-2. Sophomore guard Mfon Udofia then hit a three to cut UTEP’s lead down to one before UTEP hit a three of its own to spark a 7-0 run for the Miners.
Sophomore Kammeon Holsey got an offensive rebound following a missed three from sophomore guard Glen Rice Jr. Holsey then passed the ball to junior guard Iman Shumpert, who layed the ball in. The hustle play led to an 8-0 run for the Jackets that Rice capped off with a dunk.
The two teams traded baskets and the lead for the next few minutes, but then UTEP broke open the game with a 10-0 run.
More traded buckets throughout the half saw the Jackets down by eight with two minutes left to go in the half. The Miners got into foul trouble for the remainder of the half, and Tech made the free throws allowing the Jackets to get within four before the half ended.
Tech came out strong to open the second half and actually took the lead at the 17:57 mark. Rice led the charge with another dunk, and a free throw that gave the Jackets the lead at 38-37. Freshman forward Jason Morris added a dunk of his own and Shumpert had a layup before UTEP finally scored for the first time in the half.
UTEP re-took the lead at 48-47 when Christian Polk hit a three. Tech then went on a 12-point run consisting of three pointers from sophomore forward Brian Oliver and lay-ups from Shumpert.
Tech played good defense down the stretch and made its free throws to ice the game.
“We can do [defense and free throw shooting]… It’s just a matter of us being mature,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Rice led the team with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the main reason the Jackets won is that they shut down UTEP’s star player, Randy Culpepper, who only had 13 points.
Oliver also helped lead the team with 15 points and 12 boards.
“[Oliver and Rice] played like mature players today, and that is something that we have been talking to them about in this young season,” Hewitt said.
Tech’s next game was against the Syracuse Orange, and it was Tech’s first game against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Jackets started strong as Oliver hit a three on the game’s opening possession. He added a layup later in the half to give Tech a 5-2 advantage. Oliver hit another three, then hit a long-range jump shot to extend Tech’s lead to five.
Holsey and Udofia dominated the next few minutes of the game by snagging rebounds and scoring easy jumpers. Oliver hit another three at the 12:21 mark to give Tech the lead at 19-12.
Oliver, Miller and Rice all made threes to round out the half, but Syracuse’s C.J. Fair hit a three with nine seconds left in the half to give Syracuse a three-point lead going into halftime.
Just like the first half, Oliver hit another three to start the second half and another one two minutes later to give Tech a commanding seven point lead, 47-40. Oliver finished the game with a career-high 32 points.
“I saw they played out higher, so I knew that I could hit deeper threes than what I usually take, but I just saw the opportunity at times. I got hot,” Oliver said.
Later in the half, Syracuse went on a 15-2 scoring run that lasted almost seven minutes. Udofia finally ended the run, but Syracuse extended their lead to 13 shortly after.
Tech fought to get back in the game and went on a 10-3 thanks to Shumpert’s first five points in the game. In the end, Tech just ran out of time. Syracuse hit five of six free throws down the stretch to end Tech’s hopes of a comeback.
The Jackets continued their road trip on Nov. 30 by taking on Northwestern.

The Jackets jumped out early with Rice leading the charge. He made the first basket for Tech when he dunked the ball with one hand, and finished off an 18-5 run with back-to-back threes.
Northwestern would come back with a 10-2 run that was highlighted by open three-pointers from Drew Crawford and John Shurna. That would be a recurrent theme throughout the contest.
Tech and Northwestern traded baskets for much of the first half, and Tech held a small lead until the 7:45 mark when Crawford hit another three to tie the game at 30. Shurna followed with a three and then Morris cut the Wildcat’s lead to one.
Tech would not score for the next three minutes, and Northwestern added nine points to their lead.
The second half started slowly for both teams but within six minutes, Crawford had extended Northwestern’s lead to 14 at 60-46.
Later in the half, freshman center Nate Hicks slammed down a dunk to cut the Wildcat’s lead down to six, but Tech could never get closer than that.
“I thought the young player [Nate] Hicks came in and established [the post]. We started going in there, we actually gave ourselves a chance with the pressure, but we just didn’t make enough shots,” Hewitt said.
Tech started fouling Northwestern’s shooters at the five-minute mark. The shooters kept making their free throws to ensure a win for the Wildcats.


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