November 19, 2009

Jackets drop first Puerto Rico game

Headlining the Puerto Rico Tip-Off was the first meeting between ranked teams of the 2009-10 season. The Dayton Flyers defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by a score of 63-59. Chris Johnson came off the bench to score 19 big points on 7-13 shooting from the field, including four three-point baskets. Paul Williams was another clutch performer off the bench and sparked the victory for the Flyers with a big three-point basket to take the lead by two with less than a minute remaining. He would later seal the win with four important free throws down the stretch on two one and one trips to the foul line.

The game lived up to expectations because it was not decided until the final horn sounded, but it fell far short in terms of enjoyable basketball to watch. Both teams combined for 48 turnovers including a game high 26 by the Yellow Jackets. Tech's starters combined for 19 of those give aways, including eight by Gani Lawal. The Jackets also struggled mightily from the free thrown line by make only 11 of 20 attempts (55%).

Dayton came out of the starting blocks quickly and after a flurry of three pointers to lead 20-14 half way through the first half. Tech would claw their way back into the game with strong defense and found themselves only down by two points with five minutes to go in the first half. Tech called timeout and then proceeded to turn the ball over on six straight possessions. Meanwhile, Dayton's Luke Fabrizius drained back to back three pointers and Chris Wright got a break away dunk to finish the half on a 9-2 run for the 31-22 halftime lead.

Tech came out with a clear mission in the second half; get the ball inside to Derrick Favors and Lawal. The two big men combined for nine of Tech's first 11 points out of the break as the Jackets were able to cut the lead to four points within the first five minutes. Tech would get no closer than that until nine minutes to go when Brian Oliver delivered a huge three pointer to cut the lead to three points. Dayton turned the ball over on two straight offensive trips, while Favors drew a foul underneath and made both free throws, which was followed by another Oliver three pointer to give Tech a two-point lead. It was their first advantage on the scoreboard since a 10-9 lead within the first five minutes of the game.

The Jackets suddenly had the momentum and they ran with it, building a seven-point cushion with only four and half minutes standing between themselves and victory. However, Tech would go ice cold and they did not score another basket for over four minutes. At that point, it was much too late with only 19 seconds left in the game. During that stretch, they turned the ball over on four out of their six offensive chances and missed the front end of a one and one. They also gave up three big offensive rebounds to Dayton, which led directly to five points, including the go ahead three pointer with less than a minute to go. Tech looked to their star point guard, Iman Shumpert, to deliver but he fumbled the ball away with only 34 seconds to go. From then on, it was a free throw contest for Dayton and the rest is history.

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