NEW YORK - As satisfying as Georgia Tech's blowout of Texas Tech in the Preseason NIT final was to coach Paul Hewitt, the compliments he got from losing coach Bob Knight might have meant even more.
"I told our team (Thursday) that I was as impressed with watching Georgia Tech as I have been with any team in a long time," Knight said. "I think they are really well put together and extremely well coached. There is an energy there that they have when they play. I think this is a very, very good basketball team."
The Yellow Jackets deserved all that praise and more following Friday night's 85-65 victory over Texas Tech.
Their defense smothered Texas Tech and they had six shooters in double figures, led by Jarrett Jack's 17 points. Tournament MVP Isma'il Muhammad and B.J. Elder added 16 apiece.
They proved that their semifinal victory over No. 1 Connecticut was no fluke. The Huskies defeated Utah 76-44 in the consolation game.
Knight couldn't say enough about Georgia Tech.
"It seems to me they have developed a determination to be good," he said. "They have good depth and they are unselfish. All the characteristics as a coach that you would like to see in a basketball team, they have."
All that was music to Hewitt's ears.
"You learn so much watching his teams play," Hewitt said. "I thought he gave our kids an unbelievable compliment on how tough and hard they played. When somebody I respect as much as him says something like that, it means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to our players."
Knight preaches defense first, and that's the way Georgia Tech beat the Red Raiders.
The Yellow Jackets played passionate defense, challenging every possession, forcing Texas Tech into hurried shots. It is becoming a trademark for Georgia Tech, which came into the game holding opponents to 35.3 percent shooting from the floor and limited Texas Tech to 39 percent.
They will run all game long, daring opponents to stay with them in the up-tempo game.
Twice in the first half, the Yellow Jackets denied Texas Tech shots until the 35-second clock ran down. Rarely did Texas Tech have a shot that was not challenged. The stifling defense forced Texas Tech into 16 turnovers.
Hewitt never let the Yellow Jackets forget their defensive assignments. On one switch, he gestured to an open Texas Tech player and shouted to his team, "Who's got this one? Who's got this one?"
Somebody quickly did.
The zest for denying points added up to a 43-28 halftime lead for Georgia Tech (5-0) off to its best start since 1994-95. Texas Tech (4-1) never solved the defensive puzzle and Georgia Tech extended the lead to as many as 28 points.
Hewitt was happy but added a word of caution.
"They know how fragile this can be," he said. "We played well the first five games because we've defended and rebounded. We've got to continue to do that. If we slack off that, we become very average and maybe even bad."
So far, they've been very good and they own the Preseason NIT title to prove it.
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