Georgia Tech couldn’t exactly blame overlooking Kennesaw State for a slow start Monday night, not as a program only three years removed from a loss to the Owls that was the beginning of the end for the coach Paul Hewitt.
Trae Golden had an excuse, though. He was a freshman at Tennessee at the time.
But it was Golden who used four drives to the basket in a five-minute span to snap the Yellow Jackets into shape late in the first half of a 74-57 win over the Owls.
Golden scored eight points during a 17-2 run in the final six minutes of the first half. The senior point guard, who finished with 15 points, scored 10 of them in 17 minutes in the first half.
Turns out he had heard a thing or two about that game at Kennesaw State.
“When we started preparing for them Coach (Brian) Gregory mentioned that a lot,” Golden said. “So I guess I kind of felt the wrath.”
Daniel Miller, who was a freshman on that 2010-11 Tech team, got his inspiration Monday night from the stat sheet Gregory printed out from that loss.
“I took two shots and made one of them,” Miller said.
And Monday? Miller took nine shots and made six of them, including an array of jump hooks and fade-aways, on his way to a team-high 16 points.
Robert Carter Jr. was a good complement to Miller, posting his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds. The 15 rebounds matched the career high he set against Mississippi Valley State Nov. 26. He shot 5-for-6 from the floor and 5-for-7 from the free throw line.
“He does that sometimes so effortlessly you don’t know how hard he’s playing,” Gregory said. “And I have to sometimes take a step back as a coach because you always want more from guys, no matter what they do. But he just had 15 and 15. You know how hard that is to do in a game? That’s hard. And in 30 minutes.”
The Yellow Jackets didn’t escape without a few flashbacks to the last meeting, after Kennesaw State closed to within seven points with 4:14 left. But Kammeon Holsey scored on a dunk and got a key rebound before Golden hit a 3-pointer to keep Kennesaw State at bay.
Tech (8-3) closed the “State” portion of its non-conference schedule unscathed, with victories over Delaware State, Mississippi Valley State, East Tennessee State and now Kennesaw State (3-8). The Yellow Jackets are 7-1 at McCamish Pavilion but head out on the road for their next four games, including the first two in ACC play at Maryland and Duke.
The Yellow Jackets were coming off an eight-day layoff for final exams. They made their first three jump shots before a little rust started to show up, along with a lack of flow in their offense. But about that time, Tech handed the offensive keys to Golden. Tech had trailed for much of an eight-minute stretch before Golden helped turn a three-point deficit into a 38-26 halftime lead.
“I saw us kind of fading,” Golden said. “And Coach was yelling at me during a free throw, ‘Come on and play with some energy.’ I just tried to get on the fastbreak, get some easy buckets, make some plays, bring some energy to us and it helped.”
Kennesaw State got 20 points in the paint to Tech’s 18 in the first half, in large part from 10 points from Andrew Osemhen, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Kennesaw State senior from Loganville. Tech limited him to three points in the second half.
The Yellow Jackets got four minutes of action from senior forward Jason Morris, who was playing in his first game of the season after Oct. 14 foot surgery.
“My goal is to have him over the hump with some playing time for the start of the ACC,” Gregory said. “Getting him a few minutes was good.”