Energy Efficient

Jan. 10, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

With a couple days to digest what may have been Georgia Tech’s most comprehensive effort (beyond the first several minutes of Saturday’s visit by Duke), some folks outside the Yellow Jackets sphere are curious about some of the same things as fans within.

On the ACC coaches teleconference, Tech coach Brian Gregory was asked about Glen Rice, Jr. coming off the bench, and the curious case of Mfon Udofia at point guard.

Gregory is not exactly receiving a warm welcome to the ACC. When your conference schedule opens with a game against Duke and then two road trips — to NC State for tonight’s game, and then to Maryland for a game on Sunday — you’re not sending a thank-you to the league office even if the Terrapins are having a down season.

Don’t look for Gregory to poor mouth, or whine. No style in that.

On the upside, the Jackets played with as much passion against the Blue Devils as they have in a few weeks, and they were perhaps more mindful of their Ps and Qs than at any point this season.

More than anything, they were out-manned rather than out-played.

“We need to continue to play with the effort, energy and intensity that we played with on Saturday,” Gregory said. “If you do that, good things are going to happen to you down the road.”

NC State (12-4, 1-0 ACC) also has a new coach, and Mark Gottfriend has done as well with the Wolfpack to date as could have been expected, perhaps better. They’ve won six straight.

Rice was fabulous off the bench against Duke in going for 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting. He added eight rebounds, and made four three-point shots, which is about what Tech is averaging as a team.

The trick for Gregory, Rice and the Jackets — all of them — is that predicting how he’ll play has been abundantly difficult whether he’s working in a starting role or as a reserve.

In Saturday’s case, he played starter minutes (32), and for the most part up to his talent level. He was locked in; that hasn’t always been the case.

“I’ve never been a guy who has put a great emphasis on who was starting,” Gregory said. “Sometimes, it’s what is best for this team that’s the most important. We have played some of our best games with Glen coming off the bench.

“Usually it is based on performance in practice and so forth, and different things. Having that luxury of that guy that can get it going and can sub in at multiple positions, that is one thing with Glen, we can sub him in at the one, two or the three depending on how the flow of the game is going at that time.”

If the Jackets (7-8, 0-1) put together an effort similar to what they threw at Duke, they’re going to give the Wolfpack fits.

Udofia, who prior to this season played more off the ball than with it in his hands, played more like a true point guard against the Blue Devils than in any game this season.

And yet he did it without sacrificing his propensity to attack while on offense. He not only had a team-high four assists, but added 19 points and made a couple treys himself.

That was certainly a good sign as point guard play has been sporadic to date.

“I think Mfon is a guy who you’ve really seen, from day one of the season, a guy who has really improved his overall play,” Gregory said. “I thought he handled the ball extremely well, got us into our offense . . .

I’ve said this is a new role for Mfon in terms of having the ball in his hands quite a bit and quarterbacking the club.”

Any improvement in point-guard play has an exponential impact on the Jackets as Rice and to some degree Jason Morris are otherwise often the only Tech players who can often create a quality shot for themselves without being set up.

“I think the last couple of years with a guy that could really dominate the game and the ball as much as Iman Shumpert did, sometimes, the challenge we are having Mfon undertake is daunting at times,” the coach said. “[That’s true] especially in this league with the quality of play, the quality of defenses coaches are able to apply, different types of pressure and so forth and recognizing different situations.”

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