ATLANTA (AP)—Paul Hewitt believes his Georgia Tech team can be special, and after a puzzling exhibition scare, he was glad to see the Yellow Jackets play up to his expectations in their season opener.
Iman Shumpert scored 18 points and capped a decisive run in the first half, and No. 22 Georgia Tech showed off its freshmen in its 100-59 win over Florida A&M on Saturday night.
Derrick Favors, the biggest name in Georgia Tech’s heralded freshman class, started and had 10 points and eight rebounds. Another freshman, Brian Oliver, had 12 points on four 3-pointers in the second half.
It was an impressive showing of talent and depth for Georgia Tech, which struggled to an 84-76 overtime exhibition win over Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Sunday.
“Trust me, what happened on Sunday had me scratching my head,” Hewitt said. “I thought for sure we’d come out and play better. Today was more of what we expect.”
Junior Gani Lawal added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Georgia Tech finished 12-19 overall and only 2-14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. It opens the season with a Top 25 ranking that reflects the strength of a freshman class that also includes starting point guard Mfon Udofia, who had nine points, and Glen Rice Jr., who had seven.
“I told them this is the ultimate,” Hewitt said. “If you just check all your personal goals at the door and play as hard as you can when you’re out there, we have a chance to have a great team, I mean a great team. We’ve got tremendous depth.”
Shumpert, a sophomore, led the Yellow Jackets (1-0) in scoring despite playing only 19 minutes. He had three of the team’s 17 steals as Georgia Tech forced 25 turnovers.
“Coach was stressing to us all week because of the overtime game in the exhibition that we weren’t jumping on teams defensively like we can,” Shumpert said. “With the depth we have and the quickness we have and a lot of the freshmen are good with their hands, we can get a lot of deflections.”
Shumpert said he heard about the exhibition scare all week from his coach and even from other students.
“(Hewitt) definitely used that,” Shumpert said. “We heard a lot from it. We heard a lot in school about it. Everybody was a little worried. We all knew we just came out flat.”
Favors played 24 minutes in his much-anticipated debut.
“I couldn’t wait for it,” Favors said.
“This game really meant something. It really counted in our schedule. We just wanted to come out here and play hard and have fun at the same time.”
Christopher Walker led Florida A&M (0-1) with 15 points. Brandon Bryant added 14.
Georgia Tech led 16-8 before pulling away with the 14 unanswered points. Shumpert had the final four points in the run.
A basket by Lawal pushed the lead to 30 points at 46-16 late in the first half.
The first sign of Georgia Tech’s new look came when senior Zach Peacock didn’t make the opening lineup. Peacock, a 6-foot-8 forward, started every game last season. Favors and Lawal were the starting forwards in Hewitt’s three-guard lineup.
Peacock finished with eight points.
Oliver had four 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes.