ATLANTA -- The return of sophomore guard Josh Okogie on Sunday gave Georgia Tech a big lift with ACC play looming in less than two weeks and rival Georgia up next on Tuesday.
Okogie, a preseason second-team All-ACC choice, scored 19 points in his first game of the season and the Yellow Jackets (5-4) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 79-54 victory over Florida A&M.
"We'd probably be 9-0 if he'd played all nine games," coach Josh Pastner said.
Okogie was suspended the first six games of the season by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits and stayed sidelined further because the open dislocation of his left index finger suffered in an exhibition game became infected.
"The guys did a good job of finding me in spots where I like the ball, so it was second nature to me," said Okogie, who missed eight games because of suspension and injury. "It felt great to finally get my feet back out onto the court. I went through a lot the past seven weeks."
Okogie, who led the Yellow Jackets in scoring 16.1 points per game last season and made the ACC All-Freshman team, couldn't practice because of the infection and played against Florida A&M with small cast after being cleared Wednesday.
"It's doing really well," Okogie said of the finger on his non-shooting hand. "I've got a lot of range of motion and this cast protects me from a lot of harsh impact."
Okogie played 28 minutes and made four of his five shots in the second half, finishing 6 of 13 from the floor. He was 2 for 3 from behind the 3-point arc, and had four rebounds, two blocked shots, an assist and a steal.
"I thought he played pretty well for his first game of the season," Pastner said.
Freshman forward Moses Wright, who made 8 of 19 shots from the floor, also had 19 points and the Yellow Jackets (5-4) handed the Rattlers (1-13) their ninth straight loss.
"Tech played well and we didn't," Florida A&M coach Robert McCullam said. "I was really disappointed in our effort."
Georgia Tech scored the game's first 10 points and led 35-22 at halftime as senior guard Tadric Jackson, who scored 11 points, went 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc.
The Yellow Jackets broke the game open with a 19-0 second-half run that gave them a 59-29 lead with 11 minutes to play.
Georgia Tech hadn't played since a 63-60 loss at Wofford on Dec. 6.
Freshman Curtis Haywood had started in place of Okogie, but he wasn't available against Florida A&M because of a shin injury.
"With Josh back, they kind of want to get him back in the flow of things," McCullam said. "With him, they're a different team."
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets, who were upset by Grambling State and Wofford during their three-game losing streak, have three games to get in synch before the start of ACC play on Dec. 31 at Notre Dame. In addition to Georgia Tech being without Okogie, senior center Ben Lammers has been missing practice time because of a sore ankle. Lammers had six points and eight rebounds against Florida A&M.
Florida A&M: The Rattlers finished 7-21 last season and the MEAC school has struggled in McCullam's first season as coach against a rugged schedule that has included Miami, Texas, Mississippi State and UNLV. FAMU's only victory was 77-59 over NCAA Division II Albany State on Nov. 20.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets try to snap a two-game losing streak to rival Georgia as they play the Bulldogs on Tuesday in Athens. Georgia won 60-43 last year in Atlanta.
Florida A&M: The Rattlers go to New York City to play Fordham on Thursday. Just two of FAMU's 16 games in November and December are at home.
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|North Carolina A&T||9-3||2||14-12|
|North Carolina Central||8-5||3.5||13-14|
|South Carolina State||5-7||6||7-21|