Looking for a Strong Finish

Jan. 12, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

When Georgia Tech goes for its first ACC win this afternoon, head coach Brian Gregory will be looking for one thing above all else. He calls it, “grit.”

The Yellow Jackets (10-4, 0-2 ACC) didn’t have it in the conference opener last Saturday, but they brought it in spades Wednesday at No. 20 NC State only to struggle down the stretch.

Virginia Tech (9-6, 0-2) may be in for an uprising today in McCamish Pavilion.

“We’ve made a commitment to each other, to this Institution and to the fans … one thing they’re going to see is us play our butt off every second,” Gregory said Friday. “It may not be perfect … and we didn’t have that kind of grit last Saturday. But usually if you have that, a lot of good things will happen.”

Given the rough start to Georgia Tech’s conference schedule, the Jackets were done no favors when the ACC slate came out. After playing the Hokies, Georgia Tech will go on the road to play Duke and North Carolina.

That would appear, in a way, to make this game even more important. Gregory didn’t say that, though. He’s more interested in the Jackets’ esprit de corps … their verve. In three of his team’s four losses, Georgia Tech waned down the stretch of the game (against Cal, Illinois and N.C. State).

“You look at the Saint Mary’s game, and you look at the Georgia game – the game was in the balance late there, and we won. Some of it has to do with youth. Some of it has to do with playing pretty good teams during those four losses,” he said.

“It was the same thing at the end of the first half against Miami. If you have a good year, you win half the close games. If you have a great year, you win 75 percent of the close games. If you have a bad year, you win 25 percent of them. We’re about 50-50 right now, so to take another step forward, we have to win more of those.”

The Yellow Jackets know that state of mind is critical, especially – for example – with regard to rebounding. To a great degree, that’s a mindset. In that area, Georgia Tech has lagged a bit.

“I think [mind set] is a good part of it,” Gregory said. “We’re not as physical on the glass as I’d like us to be. I think what’s important is that we go out there and compete at the level we did the other night. There’s only been one game where we didn’t do that.”

Freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt knows the difference attitude can make. It starts well ahead of a game.

“It really starts the night before the game, going over your scouting report. You can tell when we’re ready because it’s a different type of atmosphere in the locker room,” Georges-Hunt said. “Everybody is amped up and jumping around, yelling and stuff . . . it was a little bit more quiet [before the Miami game].”

Junior swing man Jason Morris will miss today’s game as his foot problem persists. He underwent an MRI, and results are pending. Comments to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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