CARROLLTON, Georgia -- West Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Niki Okolovitch knew his team would eventually come together and play up to their potential. He just didn’t know when.
It happened Monday night in Carrollton, as West Georgia Tech played excellent basketball on both ends of the floor to defeat rival Southern Crescent Tech (7-10, 0-1), 77-53.
“Southern Crescent is a very good team that will scrap you to death and we just came out and played our tails off for the full forty minutes,” said West Georgia Tech head coach Niki Okolovitch. “We dropped into a zone defense for the last 35 minutes of the game and they missed some shots that they would normally make. On the other end we made them. That was a big win for us.”
It was a different story Monday night.
West Georgia Tech (7-10, 2-0) fell behind early, 7-2, but slowly crept back into the game. A Joe Williams jumper with 11:14 remaining in the first half broke a 13-13 tie and gave WGTC the lead for good.
It was 28-25 with 3:41 left in the first half. Then West Georgia Tech went on a 26-6 run over the next nine minutes to give the Golden Knights a commanding 54-31 lead with 14:05 remaining.
West Georgia Tech was in control the rest of the way.
Four players scored in double-figures for the Golden Knights, led by Jalen Bracey, who scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds.
Cameron Carter and Dominique Lindsey both added 14 points and Antonio Smith scored 11 to round out the double-figure scoring for WGTC.
Adrian Tolbert had 9 points and 11 rebounds. He leads the conference in rebounding, with 11.6 per game.
WGTC outrebounded Southern Crescent by a slim margin, 54-53, and forced 20 Tiger turnovers.
The Golden Knights shot 41.8 percent from the floor (33 of 79), 3 of 18 from three-point range (16.7 percent) and 8 of 15 from the free throw line (53.3 percent).
West Georgia Tech’s defense held Southern Crescent to just 28.9-percent shooting from the floor (22 of 76), and held the Tigers to just 1 of 12 from three-point range.
The Golden Knights held the conference’s leading scorer, Dantavius Bega, to just 6 points. Bega came into the game averaging 22.7 points per game.
“It was a team effort defensively, especially once we dropped into the zone,” Okolovitch said. “A total team effort out there. I like the rotation that we have now. We have some things we need to build on and get better at, but we are molding into a team that, if we play hard, can be a pretty good team when it is all said and done.”
West Georgia Tech struggled to find a rhythm against a tough early-season schedule made up of mostly NJCAA Division Iteams. A 102-76 loss on the road to NJCAA D-I power Gadsden State to open the second half of the season Saturday night did not dampen Okolovitch’s optimism of his team’s progress.
Monday night’s win over the Tigers might prove him right.
West Georgia Tech is back in action Wednesday night at home against NJCAA D-I opponent Gordon State. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.