ATLANTA — Georgia Tech wasn't good from distance Wednesday night, and for a while the Yellow Jackets weren't much better close to the basket before they finally started pounding the ball inside to beat Presbyterian 52-38 in a non-conference game.
From start to finish, the Yellow Jackets (2-0) took care of the basketball, and that's something they couldn't say a year ago. Freshmen Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter Jr. scored 10 points each with one combined turnover in Georgia Tech's new McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets had just seven turnovers to Presbyterian's 18.
The bigger team from the Atlantic Coast Conference didn't take advantage of its size in the first half, when after trailing 12-2, Presbyterian went on an 18-4 run. The Yellow Jackets missed 11 straight shots from the field during the spurt. Presbyterian's zone threw Georgia Tech out of whack. Ten of those shots were jumpers, seven from 3-point territory.
Presbyterian (0-2) led 25-24 at halftime, but after the Blue Hose scored the first basket of the second half, the Jackets scored 18 straight points and had a 22-4 edge in paint points after intermission.
Carter scored nine of his 10 in the second half. When he tallied from point-blank range on Tech's first possession, center Daniel Miller did the same on the second, and then Carter did it again a new template was set.
"We were moving the ball better, making plays for each other," said Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory. "We haven't worked against a lot of zone. I think the post guys posted harder, and the (perimeter) guys looked in there a little more.
"There was no doubt that getting the ball moving, getting the post guys posting and getting the guys to look in there was more emphasized."
This game was largely about ball security. Tech outscored Presbyterian 23-10 off turnovers.
Last season, the Yellow Jackets ranked 321st out of 337 Division I teams with 99 more turnovers than takeaways — an average deficit of 3.2 per game.
Wednesday, Tech was plus-11 in turnover margin even with three freshmen — including Chris Bolden — combining to play 72 minutes with one combined turnover.
The Blue Hose had 10 turnovers in the second half, including six during the Yellow Jackets' 18-0 run.
Presbyterian senior guard Khalid Mutakabbir, who played high school basketball in metro Atlanta at Peachtree Ridge, led the Blue Hose with 13 points, but scored just one after halftime.
Gregory moved senior point guard Mfon Udofia — who scored all seven of his points in the first half — onto Mutakabbir for much of the second half. "I took it as a challenge . . . don't let him score," said Udofia. "I feel like last year at this time, you never know what would have happened."
Mutakabbir missed all four of his second-half shots, saying, "They really zeroed in on me."
The Yellow Jackets' second-half success came in stark contrast to their' first half problems. Against the Presbyterian zone, the Yellow Jackets settled for 13 3-point shots, making just two. The Blue Hose even out-scored Georgia Tech 10-6 in the paint in the first half.
After Georgia Tech pushed its second-half lead to 15 points with the 18-point run, Presbyterian never drew closer than 46-38.
Despite their size, the Yellow Jackets carved out a modest 34-30 rebounding edge and they shot just 33 percent (19-for-57), but the Yellow Jackets made 11 free throws to Presbyterian's three. Tech also had an 11-0 edge in second-chance points, and an 18-1 bulge in bench points.
The Blue Hose scored just 13 points in the second half on 5-for-18 shooting with 10 turnovers. Jordan Downing added nine points for Presbyterian. Tech got seven points and nine rebounds from Miller.
"We can't turn it over 18 times against a team like that," said Presbyterian head coach Greg Nibbert. "Their depth and their size contributed to that second-half run."