ATLANTA - That Georgia Tech had a strong low-post game had been well-established over its first eight games of the season.
What had been missing was a complementary perimeter game, something the Yellow Jackets were hoping the return of Lewis Clinch to the lineup might provide.
That is exactly what they got. The senior was helped by another strong game from Gani Lawal and the Tech big men as the Jackets ran away from Atlanta neighbor Georgia State 84-64 before 6,835 fans Wednesday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Lawal scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the first half. The perimeter shooting of Clinch early in the second half opened the door for Alade Aminu and Brad Sheehan to help the Jackets put the Panthers away and rebound from a six-point loss to Illinois-Chicago last Sunday.
"We wanted to really bounce back," said Lawal, a former Norcross standout who also posted his sixth double-double of the season by pulling down 10 rebounds. "We gave up a tough one on Sunday, but we wanted to get back to what we do and get prepared and bounced back, and I think we did a good job of that."
Clinch's return after sitting out the first semester due to academic ineligibility clearly helped the Jackets (7-2) do what they do, to use Lawal's verbage.
It took just 1:22 after the opening tip for the 6-foot-3 senior guard to have an impact as he knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing on his way to hitting 4 of 8 shots from behind the arc in an 18-point season debut.
It gave the Jackets a quick 5-0 lead, but more importantly gave them a perimeter shooting presence they've been sorely lacking in their first eight games of the season with teams trying to play tight zones on their big men like GSU (3-7) tried to do Wednesday.
"He shot them right out of the zone," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "He can do that every night. ... One of the things about (perimeter) shooting is (that) it can be catching in terms of confidence. If (Clinch) starts knocking down shots then I think Iman (Shumpert) is a good shooter, Lance (Storrs) is a good shooter, Nick Foreman is a good shooter, Zack Peacock is even a good shooter. So it gets every one back (into a rhythm)."
Even as Clinch gave GSU something to think about on the perimeter, the Panthers weren't having much luck stopping Lawal, who scored five points in the first 4:14 to help Tech jump out to an 8-0 advantage.
The lead reached 10-0 before GSU finally managed its first points on a Bernard Rimmer jumper 5:03 into the game, and Tech led by as much as 31-16 after a layup by Sheehan with 4:19 left in the opening frame.
But as they did against Florida State last Saturday - coming from 19 down in the second half to pull to within a point before falling by five - the Panthers tried to mount a comeback.
GSU used an 8-2 run to pull as close as seven points on two Dante Curry free throws before Iman Shumpert's jumper with 2 seconds left gave Tech a 35-26 lead heading into intermission.
But Tech went back into the paint to start the second half and Lawal had plenty of help.
Aminu scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes, while the little-used 7-footer Sheehan erupted for the bulk of his career high 16 points and six rebounds in the same time to help Tech pull away.
First, the Jackets used a 15-9 run over the first 4:56 to push their advantage to 50-35 after another 3-pointer by Clinch, before a later 9-0 run - also capped by a Clinch triple - put the game out of reach at 61-38 with 11:08 to play.
If there was one bright spot for the Panthers on the evening, it was the play of guard Dante Curry, who scored a team-high 21 points in his GSU debut after sitting out the first semester following his transfer from South Florida in January.