Jackets split two home nonconference matchups

The Tech men’s basketball team went one-for-two in their attempt to avenge 2010 losses with a 72-44 win over Siena and a 76-60 loss against Northwestern in the last week. The Jackets finished the week with a 4-3 record after splitting the two contests.

The Jackets were able to make a statement against Siena under first-year Head Coach Brian Gregory, something they were unable to do in the 62-57 loss to the Saints in New York last year. Junior guard Glen Rice Jr. was the leading scorer, making seven baskets en route to his 23 points along with six rebounds and three steals.

Due to a violation of team rules, Rice was held out of the first three games and has since been coming off the bench, a scenario that Gregory has hinted could become the norm.

Redshirt sophomore forward Kammeon Holsey contributed 14 points and sophomore center Daniel Miller added four blocks in the convincing win at the Gwinnett Arena. However, it was the defensive efforts of guard Pierre Jordan and junior guard Mfon Udofia that previewed the promise in the young squad that many consider to be in a rebuilding mode. With stifling on-ball defense and tireless lane coverage, the two guards shut down freshman point guard Evan Hymes to the tune of one-for-nine shooting for three points, 16 points below his season average.

The win, although coming against a team without three of its starters, marked a strong defensive performance by the Jackets. Tech held Siena to 30 percent shooting for the game and only allowed three baskets from beyond the arc while out-rebounding the Saints 40-23.

However, the Jackets could not keep up their dominance, as displayed in the Jackets’ performance against Big Ten/ACC challenge opponent Northwestern on Nov. 29 at Philips Arena. Playing for just the second time in basketball, the matchup between the two highly-regarded academic institutions finished just like the first, with a double digit Northwestern win.

After last year’s 91-71 loss in Evanston, Ill., the Jackets were aware of Northwestern senior forward John Shurna’s scoring ability after he put up 21 points in 2010. However, the Jackets could not find an answer to stop the potential All-American and Player of the Year candidate from scoring 25 points, including three three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and three blocks.

Shurna, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 21.2 points a game, sparked the Wildcats, leading Northwestern to 55.4 percent shooting from the field. The Wildcats controlled the game from the tip, jumping out to a 27-14 lead with 10:19 left in the half, a lead they would not relinquish. The Jackets would keep the game competitive towards the end of the first half due to 11 points by sophomore forward Jason Morris in a 13-point run that cut Northwestern’s lead to 36-33 with 4:11 left in the half. After a few exchanged baskets by both teams, the Jackets went into the locker room at halftime down five with the score at 44-39.

The first half comeback gave the Jackets hope, but even a career high 21 points by Morris was not enough to overcome a second half surge by Northwestern. The Wildcats’ offensive explosion was helped in part by guard Drew Crawford and center Luka Mirkovic combining for 11 second half points to pull away late in the second half.

The Jackets struggled from the field in the second half, shooting 29.6 percent. The poor shooting led to a 42.6 percent shooting effort for the game and allowed for Northwestern’s extended lead in the second half. Along with Morris, Udofia and Miller scored in the double digits with 12 and ten points, respectively.

Tech is now 4-8 all-time in the Big-Ten/ACC challenge, having beaten Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State and having lost to Northwestern twice, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, and Penn State.

After the loss, the Jackets are set to face an undefeated Tulane team on the road Friday, Dec. 2 before facing rival Georgia in a midweek matchup Dec. 7.