March 11, 2005
By JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – Foul. Miss. Turnover. Foul. Miss. Miss. Could this Georgia Tech team really be the one that was ranked No. 3 in the country at the start of the season?
After 15 minutes of painful-to-watch basketball, the good Yellow Jackets finally emerged, going on a 20-2 run to take control and ruin Virginia Tech’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament debut with a 73-54 victory in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“Thirteen first-half turnovers,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “But some of that might have been first-day jitters for a couple of our young guys. I thought we settled down in the second half and moved the ball well.”
Well enough to shoot 65 percent in the second half and break a frustrating streak of inconsistency. Georgia Tech’s previous 12 games? Lose. Win. Lose. Win. Lose. Win. Lose. Win. Lose. Win. Lose. Win. It was enough to raise some doubt as to whether last year’s national runner-up would return to the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve been struggling with trying to put wins together,” said guard Jarrett Jack, who scored 13 points. “I think there’s been certain games that we’ve controlled the majority of and let slip through our fingers. Hopefully this weekend we can get some momentum and put some wins together.”
Georgia Tech (18-10), seeded fifth, will face top-seeded North Carolina in Saturday’s semifinals. The Tar Heels, who defeated Clemson 88-81 in Friday’s opener, beat Georgia Tech 91-69 at Chapel Hill on Jan. 12 in the teams’ only meeting during the regular season.
“I thought we settled down in the second half and moved the ball well.” Paul Hewitt
“I don’t know if this win put us in” the NCAA tournament, Hewitt said. “We have a chance to take all doubt out of the equation. Our mind-set was to come in and ‘Let’s win this first game’ and see if we can keep it going through the weekend so we don’t have to worry about talk about bubble and things like that.”
B.J. Elder scored 19 points, and Will Bynum added 13. The Yellow Jackets overcame 22 turnovers and held the Hokies to 37 percent shooting, including an 0-for-9 stretch to open the second half that gave Georgia Tech a double-digit lead it never relinquished.
Carlos Dixon scored 12 points to lead the fourth-seeded Hokies (15-13), who finished with a surprising 8-8 conference record in their first ACC season. But Virginia Tech’s first appearance in the league’s biggest show resulted in nearly more turnovers (18) than field goals (19). Tech was also hurt by off nights from Zabian Dowdell (1-for-7), Deron Washington (1-for-6) and Coleman Collins (4-for-11).
“I’m extremely disappointed with the way we represented ourselves today,” coach Seth Greenberg said. “That was not reflective of the last seven months of the hard work that we’ve put in. We picked a bad night to play the way we did. Georgia Tech, obviously, was a part of that, but we just didn’t play at the level that we needed to play at to be successful.”
Dowdell, who led the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage in the regular season, missed all three of his long-range attempts and finished with just six points, ending a 14-game streak in double figures.
Both teams like to keep the score low, and they sure did a good job of that in a jittery first half that included more combined turnovers (23) than field goals (20). Jack and Bynum both picked up two early fouls, and Dowdell went 0-for-5 from the field in the half.
Down by seven early, the Hokies went on a 10-0 run that was so tepid that their fans barely seemed to notice. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 10-0 spurt of their own, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Jack and Elder, the start of the 20-2 run that continued into the second half.
Virginia Tech got as close a 57-43 with 6:30 to play, but Georgia Tech sealed the game with a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Bynum, to push the lead to 23 points.
“The start of the second half we did not need to play with a sense of urgency and a toughness that you need to play with to beat a team as good as Georgia Tech,” Greenberg said. “That shouldn’t take away from what we did this year. No one expected us to be in this game, no one expected us to be competitive in this league, and that’s probably why it hurts so much.”