ATLANTA – Instead of Chris Bolden’s return giving Georgia Tech a lift, the Yellow Jackets took a step down.
It wasn’t pretty for either the former Gwinnett County high school standout or his team Wednesday night.
Bolden was out of synch and so was Tech, which wilted after leading by nine points midway in the first half and suffered an 82-72 loss to Dayton at McCamish Pavillion.
Bolden, who was suspended for the first three games, had just three points while shooting 1-for-10 and the Yellow Jackets trailed by 14 points in the second half while losing for the first time this season.
“It’s a sign of a little immaturity,” coach Brian Gregory said of Bolden struggles. “He tried to take on too much and took some bad shots. It’s all about making the right decisions.”
But the Yellow Jackets had more than just Bolden play poorly and the game ended with one player on crutches.
Gregory wasn’t excited to have to play his former school and he felt worse after losing freshman point guard Travis Jorgenson, who injured his right knee, as well as the game.
Devon Oliver and Jordan Sibert each scored 20 points for Dayton (4-0). Daniel Miller had 20 points and Markus Georges-Hunt scored 16 for Tech, which couldn’t build off a third-straight victory over Georgia on Friday.
The Yellow Jackets (3-1) committed 19 turnovers that led to 33 Dayton points and were 3-for-14 on 3-pointers.
Bolden was one of four starters returning this season for Tech, but he drew a suspension following his arrest this summer for DUI, underage drinking, speeding and improper lane change during a traffic stop in Gwinnett County.
Bolden, who took over as a starter in January, averaged 9.5 points in ACC games as a freshman, scoring 21 points against Miami and 20 against Duke. He shot 3.6.5 percent from behind the arc in ACC games and averaged 7.3 points overall.
The 6-foot-2 guard entered less than five minutes into the game against Dayton as Tech’s first substitute and picked up a quick assist before sinking a 3-pointer on his second shot. He struggled after that, though, and finished 1-for-6 in 11 first-half minutes.
Bolden played just eight minutes in the second half and missed all four of his shots. He ended 0-for-6 from inside the arc and shot 1-for-4 on 3-pointers.
Miller had four points and two blocks by the time the game was barely a minute old as Tech jumped to a ultra-quick 7-0 lead after a 3-pointer by Georges-Hunt. The Yellow Jackets went cold, though, after going up 22-13 and Dayton had 13-0 run late in the first half en route to a 39-32 lead. at intermission.
“They hit us right in the mouth, but it’s a long game,” said Dayton coach Archie Miller, who replaced Gregory four years ago. “We didn’t come down here to lose. We’ve got a lot to build on. This is a confidence builder for us.”
Dayton got 34 points off the bench, with Vea Sanford scoring 15 and Devon Scott adding 13.
Trae Golden had 13 points for Tech, but committed six turnovers. Robert Carter was held to five points.
“Some of our impatience put us in difficult situations offensively,” Gregory said.
Tech plays North Carolina A&T on Sunday and Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday before heading to Brooklyn for the Barclays Center Classic Thanksgiving weekend. The Yellow Jackets open the four-team event against Mississippi on Nov. 29, while Penn State and St. John’s meet in the other game.
“At this time of year, it’s all about how you respond,” Gregory said.