ATLANTA – A cold start led to a long day for the East Tennessee State basketball team.
The Bucs missed 13 of their first 14 shots and never recovered as Georgia Tech rolled to an 87-57 non-conference victory Saturday at McCamish Pavilion.
“Kind of my worst nightmares came true,” ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. “Offensively we weren't very good, defensively we weren't very good and we got out-rebounded.”
ETSU's 7-percent shooting start helped Tech get out to a 20-6 lead.
Then Lester Wilson got hot for a couple of minutes to give the Bucs a glimmer of hope. The sophomore forward swished a trio of 3-pointers to key an 11-4 run that got ETSU back into the game at 24-17.
Wilson's third shot of the flurry came from deep on the left wing, right in front of the Georgia Tech bench, and forced Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory to call a timeout.
ETSU got it to 24-19 on a pair of free throws from Jalen Riley, but Georgia Tech closed the half on a 20-4 run to grab a 44-23 halftime lead, its biggest advantage of the first half.
The second half bought much of the same as the Bucs never got closer than the halftime score. When Georgia Tech's Solomon Poole made a 3-pointer with 13:08 left, the Yellow Jackets had doubled up ETSU at 60-30.
Georgia Tech's biggest lead was 43 points.
ETSU, which had won four of its last five, fell to 4-6. Georgia Tech improved to 7-3.
Marcus Georges-Hunt led Georgia Tech with 18 points, including 14 in the first half. Former Tennessee Vol Trae Golden came off the bench to score 13.
Freshman A.J. Merriweather led the Bucs with 18 points and seven rebounds. Riley had 12 points.
“We just weren't mentally prepared,” Merriweather said. “We were coached well, but we just came out flat, and when you have to play from behind the whole game, it's hard.”
Wilson finished with the nine points that came during ETSU's brief spell of competitiveness. He was 3 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range.
“We really as a team didn't come out ready to play all the way,” Wilson said. “It's really hard when you're on the road. It's always to their advantage, so you have to bring a different game to an away game.”
One positive note for the Bucs was Ron Giplaye scoring his first points as a Buc. Giplaye, a transfer from Providence who underwent open-heart surgery shortly before the season began, grabbed an offensive rebound, gave a little pump fake, and put it up and in with 3:08 left.
“Oh, my man Ron, I'm so happy he's back on the court,” Merriweather said. “He's a bulldog. To see him get his first two points was a real blessing.”
Bartow said he hopes Giplaye can begin to play a bigger role in the coming weeks.
“He's starting to get back to form,” Bartow said. “I think he's a guy that can help us. He's a guy we've got to get in the mix and just see where he's at. He just needs minutes.”
Bartow had shown some concern about how his team would fare on the boards against the bigger Yellow Jackets, and his concerns were well founded for much of the game. Georgia Tech out-rebounded ETSU, 46-36, but the margin was much greater until the final 10 minutes when both teams began to empty their benches.
“They've got size, they defend better than anybody we've played and they're so big,” Bartow said.
The Bucs wound up shooting 31 percent, making 4 of 22 from 3-point range, while Georgia Tech made 51 percent of its shots, including 10 of 23 from 3-point range.
Notes: The Bucs have now made at least one 3-point basket in 803 consecutive games, dating back to February of 1987. …
Golden recently surpassed the 1,000-point plateau. His first 931 points came at Tennessee. ...
Chad Dollar, a former star at Milligan College, is on the staff at Georgia Tech as one of Gregory's assistant coaches. It's Dollar's third season with the Yellow Jackets. …
Georgia Tech's next game is against another Atlantic Sun Conference team, Kennesaw State. ...
ETSU takes a break for exams and returns to action Dec. 16 when it plays host to Tusculum College.