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Georgia Tech Beats Experienced UTEP Team 71-61, Faces No. 10 Syracuse Tomorrow

On a Friday full of football, Georgia Tech basketball took on the UTEP Miners in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, NJ. The team that played today had no relation whatsoever to the team that lost to Kennesaw State a few games ago.

UTEP went to the tournament last year and lost to Butler (the national championship runner-up Butler) in the first round. It has 8 seniors on the roster, and the top five scorers are all seniors. Tech, on the other hand, is anything but veteran. But the Jackets sure didn't show their inexperience today.

Tech was led by two sophomore, Glen Rice Jr. and Brian Oliver, who both posted their first career double-doubles. Oliver scored 15 points, had 12 rebounds, and hit on 3 three-pointers. Rice led the team with 19 points, and had 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Iman Shumpert chipped in with 13 points.

Shumpert made a huge impact in this game on defense, bottling up UTEP's Randy Culpepper. The reigning Conference USA player of the year scored 13 points, but looked frustrated by Shumpert's stifling defense for most of the game. The junior guard finished with 5 steals, the most for Tech.

There are a lot of stats to like from this game. The Jackets finished with 15 offensive rebounds, only 11 turnovers compared to 17 assists, 5 blocks, and made 78% of free throws. Tech put the game out of reach by making free throws in bunches down the stretch (when is the last time that could be said?). The only negative number was 36% shooting from the field, but Tech's ability to fight for rebounds kept them in the game for long stretches. 

I continue to be impressed with Daniel Miller's improvement from game-to-game. Glen Rice was very good, and if he can figure out how to utilize his sheer athleticism, he will be a force on both sides of the court. 

This was a good solid win for the Jackets. They beat a veteran team, away from home, and managed to fight for a win even with a poor shooting effort. If that percentage can increase, this will be one good team. It is still too early to make a complete judgement of the 2010-11 Yellow Jackets, but they have earned the right to play the 10th ranked Syracuse Orange tomorrow at 8 p.m. 

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.