ATLANTA - As opening acts go, the Georgia Tech basketball team has done well, evidenced by their 90-59 win over Harvard on Thursday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
But the Yellow Jackets know the warmup is over. North Carolina comes to town Tuesday for Georgia Tech's Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
"I've got a lot of respect for Harvard," said Georgia Tech center Alvin Jones, who notched season-highs in rebounds (15) and blocked shots (eight) while scoring 13 points. "But the ACC is a totally different game."
The Jackets (8-3) never trailed, though Harvard (5-4) overcame an early 17-5 deficit to tie the game at 24 with 8:51 left in the first half. Georgia Tech closed the half with a 19-6 run for a 43-30 cushion at intermission, then scored the first eight points of the second half to put the game essentially out of reach.
The win wasn't without its blemishes. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt bemoaned a lack of scoring punch out of half-court sets, but he deemed his club prepared for ACC play.
"I'm pleased with where we are, but there's still a long, long way to go," Hewitt said. "I think we're ready. I think every team in the conference still has some things to work on at this point. You're not going to be a finished product until late February, but based on putting in a whole system, the guys have come through it."
Guard Tony Akins scored a game-high 19 points for Tech, equaling the 19 put up by Harvard's Dan Clemente.
Clemente, who came in hitting 43 percent of his 3-point shots, had to work for his. He was just 3-of-9 outside the arc, a product of Georgia Tech's contesting of perimeter shots.
"We did a very good job of executing our defensive game plan," Hewitt said. "This is an excellent 3-point shooting team ... we talked about putting as much pressure as we could in the backcourt and forcing Clemente to bring the ball up and try to wear him down. I thought it worked pretty well. They got some open looks, but they weren't making them."
Said Harvard coach Frank Sullivan, "Fatigue definitely entered the equation. Clemente was 3-for-9. He's better than that, and Patrick Harvey was 1-for-6. He's better than that."
By contrast, Akins finished 5-for-6 on 3-point shots despite being pulled after nailing his first three in the opening 2« minutes.
He wasn't concerned about being pulled.
"You know you're going against North Carolina and you're going to play the whole game," Akins said.
Freshman Marvin Lewis scored 17 and Shaun Fein had 10 for Georgia Tech.
Harvey was the only other Harvard player to score in double figures, finishing with 13.
The fast-paced game, though it produced a season-high 22 turnovers by the Jackets, paid dividends in the second half. Unlike in the early going, the Crimson never fashioned a run to get back in contention, and Georgia Tech pushed its lead to 30 with 4:54 left.
"They had a lot of guys averaging 38 minutes a game," said Georgia Tech freshman Robert Brooks, who scored a personal-best nine points and added nine rebounds. "With our style we felt they wouldn' be able to stay with us. We just ran them to death."