OT loss to FSU puts Tech in early hole

The Associated Press. Florida State's Solomon Alabi (32) shoots over Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal (31) during the second half of their game Sunday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta.

The Associated Press. Florida State's Solomon Alabi (32) shoots over Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal (31) during the second half of their game Sunday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta.

Sunday's 66-59 overtime loss to Florida State wasn't exactly the start to the Atlantic Coast Conference season Georgia Tech was hoping for.

Yet, for the third straight year -- and seventh time in Paul Hewitt's nine seasons as head coach -- the Yellow Jackets will have to battle out of an early conference hole after the setback in front of 8,225 fans at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

It will be almost three weeks, when Duke comes into town Jan. 9, before Tech (8-2, 0-1) gets a chance to begin climbing out of that hole.

However, the process to correct what went wrong Sunday begins this afternoon at 2, when the Jackets play host to Kennesaw State in the first of four more non-conference game before the ACC schedule resumes.

And those corrections are as much emotional as they are physical according to junior post Gani Lawal.

"We just want to come into practice and look at film and get ready for our next opponent," the 6-foot-9 former Norcross standout said. "We're a good basketball team. We've got the ability to do great things this season. Look what (North) Carolina did last year. They lost their first (ACC game) to Boston College and went on to win the national championship. I don't want to jinx us and say we're going to win the national championship, but we have the talent to go deep."

If that talent is to translate into an NCAA tournament run, the Jackets must do a better job getting Lawal and fellow post Derrick Favors involved than they did Sunday.

That pair found the going tough against a Florida State team that featured players on the low block and wing just as big and strong as they are, in the form of 7-2 Solomon Alabi, 6-8 Ryan Reid and 6-9 Chris Singleton.

Lawal was held to his lowest output of the season with just four points and four rebounds, though he did block three shots. The 6-10 Favors struggled in the first half before finishing strong with eight points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.

"It was a learning experience for everybody," Favors said. "The energy level was a lot better (than in non-conference games). It's pretty much what I expected."

It was a definite "welcome to the ACC" moment for Favors and three fellow Tech freshmen -- M'fon Udofia, Glen Rice Jr. and Brian Oliver.

"It's the ACC," said Udofia, who finished with 12 points, two assists and four turnovers. "That's what it is. It's tough. It's rough. ... It's a dogfight every night.

"This game is over with. ... We battled to the end. We've got to get ready for the next game (today against Kennesaw State). It's a long season. It's not a (sprint). It's a marathon."

Reunion week for DeMercy

Sunday's game marked the third straight season former Norcross forward Jordan DeMercy returned to Atlanta.

And while he played only seven minutes in Florida State's win, it was just as enjoyable.

"It's always nice to come home and have all the people close to me come see the game," said DeMercy, who posted his only two points on an alley-oop layup with 6 seconds left in overtime to help seal the win for the Seminoles (10-2), "Most of my family come down to Tallahassee (occasionally), but all my good friends and some of my relatives (only) get to come when I'm playing in Atlanta."

Sunday was also the second of two straight reunions with former Blue Devil teammates for DeMercy.

Just three days after Florida State defeated Auburn and Tony Neysmith, the Seminoles downed Tech and Lawal.

"Now I'm 2-0 against my former teammates," DeMercy quipped. "I'm not bragging on Gani, but I'm 4-0 against him now. It's looking good (to get the upper hand in the series) before I graduate."

Both DeMercy and Lawal will also meet up with another former Blue Devil -- Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu -- at least once each this season.

And with another former high school teammate, Jodie Meeks, now toiling in the NBA, DeMercy said the reunions are just another reminder of how dominant Norcross has been the better part of the last decade.

"It's a program we helped build," DeMercy said. "And it feels good that the program (former) Coach (Eddie) Martin built, and now with (current) Coach (Jesse McMillan) there, is still going strong."