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Tech passes halftime 'pop quiz'

ATLANTA — Final exams may have ended for most Georgia Tech students more than a week ago, but men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt had one more for them at halftime of Tuesday's game with Kennesaw State.

"He asked us to draw up the plays and how everything's got to work," Tech freshman forward Brian Oliver said of what Hewitt called a "pop quiz." "I was just saying, ‘Please don't let him call on me.'"

Whichever Yellow Jackets came up to the white board to draw up the plays must have come up with the right answers judging from their play in the second half.

The trio of Norcross grad Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors and Zachery Peacock looked more like themselves on the low block, while Oliver led a perimeter effort that saw the Jackets hit 7 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half to help them pull away for an 80-55 win before an announced crowd at 7,153 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

"The first half was a case of us just not executing, but we're going to get that worked out," Hewitt said. "In the second half, I thought we did a much better job executing and getting the ball where we wanted to."

Much of that mean getting the ball inside more, especially to Lawal, who had the bulk of his 11 points and 10 rebounds in the final 20 minutes, and Favors, who likewise did the bulk of his work (11 points, six boards) in the second half.

"We still wanted to come out here and do what we do best," said Lawal, who offset an off shooting day from the floor — including three missed dunks — by getting to the free-throw line 10 times and hitting seven of them. "It was just being more aggressive and being more assertive (in the second half). "

Tech (9-2) looked like it was suffering a hangover from its loss to Florida State in Sunday's ACC opener — when it managed just seven free-throw attempts for the game — in the early going Tuesday.

The Jackets hit just 4 of their first 11 shots and were outrebounded by the smaller Owls over the first 9 minutes of the game.

And when LaDaris Green put back a missed shot with an offensive rebound, KSU (4-7) trailed just 11-10 with 9:56 left in the first half.

But Tech then held the Owls scoreless over the next 7:29, forcing them to miss their next eight shots before Green broke the drought with a layup with 2:25 left in the first half.

Meanwhile, Oliver hit consecutive 3-pointers from the left wing to ignite a 16-6 run over the remainder of the half to push the Jackets' lead to 27-16 heading into intermission.

"The bottom line is, we couldn't make shots (in the first half)," KSU coach Tony Ingle said. "Georgia Tech was playing real good defense, but we had some looks and we had some shots we should've made."

And the Jackets continued the momentum early in the second half by finally getting the ball inside more to Lawal and Favors.

The pair led a 9-3 run over the opening 5:04 of the final frame as Tech extended its lead to 36-19 following Nick Foreman's layup with 14:56 left.

Peacock then joined in the act, scoring 10 of his team-high 18 points over a 2:11 span midway through the half.

Two of those shots were 3-pointers, while Oliver added two more shots beyond the arc and Foreman and Lance Storrs also added treys as the Jackets scored on 15 straight possessions to push their lead to 71-44 with 6:10 to play, and they never looked back.

"Our perimeter guys were able to knock down some shots," Lawal said. "We were able to get open in our sets. We took our time with our motion offense."

Peacock added seven rebounds with his points, while Oliver finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and Mo Miller came off the bench to dish out eight assists.

Kurtis Woods scored 18 to lead Kennesaw State, while Spencer Dixon added 12 and Markeith Cummings had 10 for the outmanned Owls.

"(Tech) is a great team to play before Christmas," Ingle said. "We will not play a team this good until we get to the NCAA Tournament. ... They've got lottery picks. My guys are thinking lottery tickets."