Delaware State center Kendall Gray (1) and Georgia Tech's Daniel Miller (5) battle for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Duluth, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
DULUTH -- It took a little longer than the Yellow Jackets would have liked, but it can be said Georgia Tech took some literal big steps forward in Monday's night's basketball game with Delaware State.
Behind a career night from a pair of sophomore low-post players --Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey -- the Yellow Jackets overcame some first-half sloppiness to finally put away the scrappy Hornets 70-52 before a cozy gathering of 1,079 fans at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The 6-foot-11, 256-pound Miller matched his career high with 14 points and added new career marks of 15 rebounds and six assists -- all of the latter coming in the first half.
"Nate Hicks was in my ear a little bit (about a potential triple-double), but I wasn't able to make it happen (Monday) night," joked Miller, a graduate of Loganville Christian Academy in nearby Walton County who posted the first double-double of his college career. "Last year, it was all defense. But this year, they wanted to work me into the offense, and we've had some set plays for me. ... Then, just posted up a lot more and looking inside. ... Trying to become an inside presence."
Meanwhile, the 6-8, 226-pound Holsey scored a career-best 21 points -- 15 of which came in the second half, including 11 as Tech (2-0) outscored Delaware State 18-6 over the final 8:23.
"We need to play with a little greater poise pon our offense (and) we need to keep getting that ball inside," Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "I thought you saw us do a much better job (of that) in the second half. When we do that, a lot of good things happen.
"Those two guys (Miller and Holsey) -- Daniel's playing exceptionally well for us right now. His activity level has been great. Obviously, Kam had a great second half just being active. We didn't play with the composure we needed to in that first half in some wrong spots in terms of being able to create some space to get some baskets. In the second half, Kam did a great job of that, Daniel kind of anchoring the post and Kam kind of playing off that."
The evening started off well enough for the Jackets, with four of the five starters getting into the scorebook during an opening 11-3 that left Tech with the eight-point lead after Mfon Udofia's layup 4:04 after the opening tip.
But from that point, things started getting sloppy, with the Jackets committing nine first-half turnovers and hitting just nine of their final 20 shots from the floor after hitting four of their first five, and needing an 8-2 run over the final 4:52 of the first half to go into intermission with a 30-23 lead.
"We had to stay poised," Holsey said. "We got frustrated a little bit (in the first half) after we went up 11-3. We got a little too relaxed, and they came back."
They continued to have a hard time shaking the Hornets (1-1) in the second half, who trailed just 52-46 after Amere May's layup with 8:23 to play.
But Holsey, who had just re-entered the game seconds earlier, began to assert his authority in the low block to help Tech finally begin to pull away down the stretch.
He hit both free throws after going to the basket on the Jackets' next offensive possession and tallied 10 points during a 12-4 run over the next 3:37, with Miller posted the other two, that pushed Tech's lead into double digits for good at 64-50 with 4:46 to play.
"I sensed (Delaware State's big men) were starting to get a little fatigued," Holsey said. "The difference between us this year and last year (is), as a team this year, we're playing harder. Like Coach Gregory says, we want to be the hardest-playing team in the country. We want to play hard for 40 minutes."
The Jackets kept playing hard until the buzzer, as Udofia's conventional three-point play with 4.2 seconds left to account for the final margin demonstrated.
Udofia finished with 10 points and five assists, while Jason Morris was the other Tech player to reach double-figure scoring with 11 points and six rebounds.
Tahj Tate, whose high school career included a year at Wheeler High in nearby Cobb County, and Marques Oliver each scored 14 points to lead Delaware State, while Oliver added team highs of seven rebounds and four assists for the Hornets.