ATLANTA (AP)—Georgia Tech’s freshman class may be good enough to lead the Yellow Jackets back to elite status.
Freshman Thaddeus Young scored 19 points and classmate Javaris Crittenton had 18 as No. 23 Georgia Tech overwhelmed Georgia State 103-74 on Thursday night.
The play of the freshmen has impressed Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt.
“(They) have started off good, but are facing an inevitable adjustment period. If there’s no adjustment period, they’re even better than I think,” he said.
Lewis Clinch, a sophomore, led Georgia Tech with 20 points, but Young and Crittenton combined to make 8 of 9 3-pointers and grab the attention of Georgia State coach Michael Perry.
“They make plays that are sometimes indefensible,” Perry said of the two freshmen.
Georgia Tech is starting three freshmen, including center Zach Peacock, and Perry said the infusion of talent will make a big difference for a team that fell to 11-17 last season.
“I thought they were as good or better than the Final Four team they had a couple years ago,” Perry said, referring to Hewitt’s 2003-04 team that lost to Connecticut in the national championship game.
Georgia Tech (3-0) made 13 of 24 3-pointers to easily win the first game between the Atlanta schools in 13 years.
With 10 players each logging at least 10 minutes, Hewitt took advantage of his team’s depth to put the game away in the first half with constant full-court pressure defense.
Georgia State (0-2) led 8-5 before Tech took command with a 19-0 run. Crittenton hit two 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the run.
Crittenton scored all of his 18 points in the first half, going 7-for-7 from the field. He hit three 3-pointers as the Yellow Jackets were 8-for-13 from behind the arc while building a 58-30 halftime lead.
“A lot of the shots came off good penetration,” Crittenton said. “We just did a good job of rotating and passing the ball to each other and when the opportunity came, we knocked down shots.”
Crittenton led Tech with nine assists. The Yellow Jackets committed only 10 turnovers.
Young picked up the scoring pace in the second half, making all four of his 3-pointers.
Perry said he knew his team couldn’t match Tech’s depth, so the Panthers tried to force the Yellow Jackets into a half-court game. Tech answered that challenge with the 3-pointers.
“There isn’t a lot of defense when a 6-5 guy (Crittenton) jumps up over your guards and shoots it from 3 and then when a 6-9 guy (Young) jumps up and shoots it from 3,” Perry said. “They are a very difficult team to guard.”
Georgia Tech, coming off a 100-70 win over Jackson State, scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time in 12 years. Even so, Hewitt was critical of his team’s poor passing and shot selection in the second half.
Lance Perique was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line to lead Georgia State with 22 points. Rashad Chase added 18.
Jeremis Smith, a junior and the only upperclassman in Tech’s starting lineup, had 12 points.
Hewitt said Smith, Clinch, Anthony Morrow (10 points), Ra’Sean Dickey (seven rebounds) and other returning veterans have “absolutely” accepted the freshmen. But the coach said the team ultimately will lean on the older players.
“If we’re going to be any good, it’s because of the core of the team,” Hewitt said. “The returning guys are really going to have to carry us.”
The two Atlanta schools met for the first time since a Tech win on Dec. 4, 1993. Tech is 15-2 in the series with the Panthers.