March 5, 2012
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech opens play in the 59th annual Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with a 9 p.m. game against 6th-seede Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC) Thursday night at Philips Arena. The Yellow Jackets (11-19. 4=12 ACC) are the 11th seed. The winner of that game will take on No. 3 seed Florida state (21-9, 12-4 ACC) at 9 p.m. Friday night in the quarterfinals.
Coach Brian Gregory previewed Thursday night’s game with the ACC media in his weekly session on the ACC Teleconference.
“Pleased with our effort on Saturday afternoon. I felt that for 40 minutes we played a pretty good game, and hopefully we’ll be able to use a little bit of that momentum heading into the tournament. Facing a very good Miami team that we didn’t — they played well against us, and as close as even a 15-point game, it probably wasn’t even that close. We’re going to have our work cut out for us and have a couple good days of practice and hopefully play well on Thursday night.”
Playing on the court you used most of the season in conference, any advantage at all?
“It can’t hurt. You know, it can’t hurt. And we’ve — the last couple games have played better there. So you know, again, I think a lot of this, you get into March, a lot of it is confidence and just the idea that the things you’re doing are working. So I think that will help.
Eight other conference teams have played a game there this year, as well, so there’s some familiarity with the setting, and they’ve gotten a shoot-around in there and a game. It’s a great venue for basketball. There’s no question about it. It’s going to be a great venue for this tournament. Even as difficult as some of the challenges we’ve faced this year have been, we’ve gotten some pretty good crowds, and it’s going to — as I said, I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere for the ACC tournament, and hopefully because of us playing some games in there, our comfort level will be pretty good heading into it.”
What kind of particular problems does Miami present? It was a long time ago back in January when you played them.
“Well, you know, they have great size inside, obviously. With the versatility of those big guys, to be able to score on the block and also be able to stretch the defense on the perimeter, and their athletic ability and explosiveness on the perimeter with the depth that they can play and different guys can do a lot of different things, you have to play a total game in order to be able to compete with them. You can’t probably emphasize one key aspect, because they’ve won games in a lot of different ways, and I think that’s one of the things that has been a key to their success. And I think that that really poses a challenge for us.
“You have to do a great job on the glass. You have to do a great job in transition defense. They can get after you defensively, so you have to take care of the ball. And so Jim has got those guys kind of really buying into his style, which is a very versatile attack, and he’s such a good coach, he figures out during the game which way needs to be exploited, and they had some match-up positives with Kadji, and he really hurt us, and then we didn’t do a good job of guarding the three. They were 9 of 17 from the three. So those two areas, Jim obviously, a veteran coach, has been through a lot. He knows — I think he’s got a really good feel for that team right now.”
What do you think enabled your to bounce back here at the end of the season after the Clemson loss?
“We were 3 and 5 during the second half of the league. We lost on a last-second shot at Virginia Tech and had a couple pretty good looks to win the Boston College game, even though I didn’t think — and give Boston College credit; they took us out of a lot of stuff, and defensively we weren’t very good in the first half. I think it had something to do with our defense. But their offense was really clicking in the first half.
“But for the most part, the second half of the season we’ve played pretty well, other than that one outlier was the Clemson game. A lot of different factors in that. That was our third game in six days, and we’re a little limited in terms of depth right now. But our guys have been resilient. I think they understand that the process that we’re under and the things that we’re trying to kind of instill right now. They’ve always bounced back. Give these guys credit. They’ve bounced back.
“They’ve had a positive attitude at practices even after a difficult loss like Clemson. I think some of the guys that have been through it a time or two like Mfon and like Daniel and Kam, those guys have done a good job of just staying upbeat and understanding where we’re at. I think Jason Morris during the second half of the league has played his best basketball of the season, obviously kind of highlighted in Saturday’s game.
“We’ve practiced better, even though with our depth it’s been shorter and a little more intense. So I think our guys kind of understand where we’re at and understand what our objectives are, and that’s just every day come back to work and try to get a little better. And as I said last week, you look at some of our guys and the improvements that they’ve made during the season — you see guys improve during the off-season, and that’s always important, but our guys have really made some strides within the season, which is good to see.”
Is there any update on Glen Rice, and also, is it possible the team is playing better without him, with just guys rallying?
“Well, the update on Glen is his suspension will go through the tournament, and so — with that, I think our guys have responded well to the situation. More has been asked of more guys. It wasn’t one person. It was more of a collective ability to pick up the scoring and the rebounding that we lost. You know, and I think throughout the year we’ve gotten better in some different areas, and those have just kind of been highlighted in the last few weeks. Our guys understand the challenge that was posed to them when the suspension started, and I think our guys have responded pretty well.”