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Tech spoils Mutakabbir's homecoming

Presbyterian guard Khalid Mutakabbir, left, dives for a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Tech, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Presbyterian guard Khalid Mutakabbir, left, dives for a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Tech, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA -- For a half, it looked like Khalid Mutakabbir's trip home might be a very memorable one.

Presbyterian led Georgia Tech and the Peachtree Ridge graduate was having his way with the stunned Yellow Jackets.

"I thought we had a chance to take them down," Mutakabbir said.

Then maybe a little reality set in.

Georgia Tech stopped the 6-foot-4 senior guard and took over, winning 52-38 on Wednesday night at a McCamish Pavilion that featured none of the electricity of its opening Friday.

Mutakabbir, a preseason Big South All-Conference selection, scored just one of his game-high 13 points in the second half as the Yellow Jackets outscored Presbyterian 28-13 after intermission.

"They zeroed in on me," Mutakabbir said. "I felt like I didn't take advantage of what they were giving me. I probably should have drove more and dished to my teammates. They focused on me more in the second half."

The loss, though, couldn't really dampen the Presbyterian standout's homecoming, which fulfilled an early promise by coach Gregg Nibert.

"I just felt blessed that I got to come home in my senior year," Mutakabbir said. "Coach told me four years ago that he was going to take me home. Georgia Tech is one of the teams I watched growing up, so I really wanted to play them."

Mutakabbir had a rooting section of 25 sitting behind the Presbyterian bench and he treated them to a first half to remember.

After falling behind 12-2, Presbyterian went on an 18-4 run sparked by Mutakabbir and took a 20-16 lead on his back-to-back 3-pointers. The Blue Hose (0-2) led 25-24 at intermission, and Mutakabbir topped everyone in the game with 12 points and five assists.

"I thought he was one of the best guards in the gym," Nibbert said. "He's tough physically and he's tough mentally. He's a leader and a winner."

After missing his first three shots, Mutakabbir hit his next four -- including a trio of 3-pointers. Presbyterian shot 45.5 percent in the first half to 25 percent for Georgia Tech, which was 2-for-13 from behind the arc against the Blue Hose zone.

But the Yellow Jackets (2-0) turned things up both offensively and defensively to take control in the second half. After scoring the first basket after halftime, Presbyterian went nine minutes without another and Georgia Tech ran off 18 straight points to go up 42-27.

Shiloh graduate Robert Carter scored nine points in the second half and tied fellow freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt for the Yellow Jackets lead with 10. Georgia Tech shot just 33.3 percent for the game, but committed just seven turnovers to 18 for Presbyterian, which had lost its opener at Clemson.

Mutakabbir had five turnovers, but he also had a game-best seven assists and two steals.

"I've been a head coach for 24 years and this guy is the hardest-working and most mentally tough player I've ever coached," Nibert said. "He's in (the gym) at 5:30 or 6 o'clock in the morning shooting, and if he does something poorly, then he wants to see it on tape and go out there and work on it."

Mutakabbir, Presbyterian's only returning starter, was second on the team in scoring last season at 13.7 points per game and has a chance to become the school's first player to reach 1,500 career points since the move up to NCAA Division I.

Mutakabbir's biggest game for Presbyterian came last season against Cincinnati, when he scored 25 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left in the upset of the Bearcats.

"He made every big shot down the stretch," Nibert recalled.

Mutakabbir was a Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection as a senior at Peachtree Ridge, where he was a teammate of injured Georgia Tech freshman Corey Heyward. He led the Lions to a 21-8 record and a spot in the Class AAAAA Sweet 16 while averaging and 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game.

Mutakabbir was considered a recruiting coup for Presbyterian at the time and he has lived up to the billing as a four-year starter. The Blue Hose couldn't pull off an upset of Georgia Tech, but at least they gave the Yellow Jackets a scare.

"From playing Clemson two nights ago to playing Georgia Tech, the ACC is pretty stacked with athletes," Mutakabbir said. "I could really feel it. We made some crucial mistakes, especially turnovers."