As a Georgia Tech basketball fan, I believe that dealing with adversity builds character.
After a tough loss against St. Joseph's in which Tech lost their grip of a winnable game after having a halftime lead, I was concerned about how Brian Gregory's Yellow Jacket team would respond against last year's NCAA Final Four Cinderella, Virginia Commonwealth .
A subtext to this game is how would Glen Rice, Jr. respond after being suspended the first three games of the 2011-12 season. The 6'5 junior did come off the bench, but his impact was felt at critical junctures of a 73-60 character-building win over Virginia Commonwealth (VCU).
There were other factors as well such as how Georgia Tech cope with playing back-to-back games for the first time this season.
VCU did lose several key players from last season's Final Four squad , but the Rams still have a very capable Bradford Burgess. The 6'6 senior small forward scored 17 for the game and was a factor early as the Rams built a halftime lead which caused Yellow Jacket fans to worry.
The Rams had sprinted out to an 26-14 lead after the first 16 minutes. However, the Yellow Jackets began to string baskets together along with tightening up defensively and Georgia Tech ended up being down by just eight points at halftime, 31-23.
Last year, games like this outside of Atlanta, usually went south with the first bit of adversity. However, Tech was able to get a strong effort from various players to help forge a comeback.
It is just one game, but this was an early test and there will be more to come.
Rice was on his best behavior and filled up the stat sheet with 19 points and eight rebounds along with four assists and three steals to help round out a solid overall performance.
Rice started to warm up in the second half, and it began defensively. Rice had stolen the ball from VCU's Rob Brandenberg early in the second half --one of three steals--which led to a short jumper that drew Georgia Tech closer, 33-29.
Rice's energy on both ends of the court was a cause of concern for VCU coach Shaka Smart and forced the Rams to call a timeout.
However, this is where the game turned and Rice was able to put the team on his back.
At the 13:44 mark, the junior sharpshooter connected on a jumper to make it 38-36 and twenty seconds later, the confident Rice made a clutch three-point shot to give Tech its first lead in the second half, 39-38.
Rice led by example and his streaky shooting continued with a layup and another three-pointer that pushed the Yellow Jacket lead to five.
The Yellow Jackets received contributions from Kammeon Holsey who had another double-digit effort for Georgia Tech with ten points and scored a key basket to push the lead to 51-42.
Transfers Brandon Reed and Pierre Jordan made baskets and Daniel Miller put an exclamation on the win with a dunk that pushed the lead to double digits, 68-57.
The Yellow Jackets were sharing the ball, playing confidently and the team's leading scorer from last year, was able to show that leadership when it counts.