Strong effort from rookies can't overcome shooting woes in season-opening loss at Georgia Tech

Strong effort from rookies can't overcome shooting woes in season-opening loss at Georgia Tech

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

ATLANTA, Ga. – Strong showings from several newcomers proved not enough for the Tennessee Tech men's basketball Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles dropped their 2016-17 season opener on the road at Georgia Tech, 70-55.

A rough shooting night proved costly for the young squad, with a 33.3 percent shooting touch from the floor and 19.2 percent rate from downtown making it difficult to match a Georgia Tech squad that hit at over 50 percent from the field.

"I thought we played hard," head coach Steve Payne said. "Overall, I was pleased. We had a freshman play pretty well in his first college game, but we don't usually shoot the ball that poorly. I think a lot of that had to do with their length. They had a lot of length and they came and got our shooters. We acted like we had never seen zone before, but credit to them and what they did."

Redshirt freshman Micaiah Henry proved more than effective in his first collegiate contest, leading the Golden Eagles in scoring with 15 points on a very impressive 7-for-10 outing. The big man hauled in five rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, and rejected two shots as well.

The Golden Eagles dominated the offensive boards all night, owning a 21-8 advantage while also collecting a 37-34 edge on the glass overall. Tech also won the turnover margin 15-14.

Junior college transfer Ja'Cardo Hawkins enjoyed a successful debut in the purple and gold, scoring 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting. He also collected four rebounds while playing just 12 minutes off the bench.

Senior Kajon Mack, who transferred to Tech from Tulane over the summer, tallied nine points in his Golden Eagle debut while sophomore forward Courtney Alexander II led the team with six boards.

"I told them before the game, if we win, Saturday morning, we've got a lot of work to do," Payne explained. "And if we lose, Saturday, we've got a lot of work to do. We have 31 games in the regular season and they are all about getting better. I am pleased with their toughness and effort tonight. We just didn't execute very well."

The Golden Eagles will return to Cookeville for their home opener Monday, Nov. 14, a 7:30 p.m. CT match-up with Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference. Fans can follow the action live via webstream on the OVC Digital Network or by radio on 106.1 The Eagle.

Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information