#TGW: Danger Zone

Nov. 28, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

   Georgia Tech fell for the first time this season, but Thursday night’s 72-70 loss to Marquette in the first round of the Orlando Classic was not about the Yellow Jackets being over-matched. The Golden Eagles snuck one out with guile at both ends.

   The bigger Jackets (3-1) worked to a 41-29 rebounding edge, but that raw number did not translate the way Tech needs it to as the Jackets did not capitalize on their size advantage against Marquette’s surprising zone defense(s). Tech scored just 12 points off 17 offensive rebounds.

   At the other end, seven of the eight Marquette players combined for 34 points on 12-for-29 shooting. The problem was transfer guard Matt Carlino, who scored an Orlando Classic-record 38 points by making 8-of-14 3-point shots and 14-of-16 free throws.

   He was in an attack mode the likes of which Tech entered only in the waning minutes. The Jackets had trouble tracking Carlino much of the game, and when they did find him, they often fouled him.

   First, a more detailed look at offensive matters:

   Tech scored a modest 26 points in the paint, and big men Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox, who entered the game averaging nine and eight shots per contest, respectively, took just five shots each. They scored seven points each.

   The Jackets scarcely attacked the zone, and went to the free throw line just 11 times, making seven.

   Combine that with the Jackets missing 13 of their first 16 3-point shots, and Tech trailed by double digits late.

  “On paper [the rebounding margin] looks great,” said Tech head coach Brian Gregory. “Second-chance points are 12-11. We’re making all this effort without getting anything out of it.”

   The Jackets scrapped their way back into the game by making four of their final eight long balls as freshman Tadric Jackson (17 points) warmed up for the first time this season, and junior Marcus Georges-Hunt (14 points) was aggressive and impressive late after going scoreless in the first half.

   The Jackets led 31-29 at halftime.

   The Golden Eagles (3-2) had not played much, if any, zone in its first four games, but the Jackets (3-1) probably should not have been surprised to see it Thursday night.

  Why?

  Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski surely noted Tech’s size advantage, which went beyond Mitchell and Cox, and also saw that the Jackets had not – other than sophomore Quinton Stephens – shot the long ball well.

   Over Tech’s first three games, Stephens made 8-of-14 treys, but his teammates combined to go 7-for-34 (20.6 percent).

   Against Marquette, Stephens made 1-of-7.

   Chris Bolden made both of his trey tries, and Jackson hit 3-of-8. Beyond those two, the Jackets were 2-of-14.

   Mix in a season-high 16 turnovers, several coming after Tech players grabbed offensive rebounds and tried to score when swarmed rather than pass out of traffic, and it was not a good night offensively.

   Where the Jackets were sometimes too aggressive with those offensive rebounds, they were not aggressive enough in attacking the zone from the flanks. That had a lot to do with being outscored by 16 points from the free throw line.

   Marquette was 23-for-32 to Tech’s 7-for-11 at the stripe.

  “Free throws . . . we only got there 11 times,” Gregory said. “We fouled some at the end, but it would be 11 [free throws taken] to 25 in their favor [if the Jackets had not been fouling with intent late], and you’re not going to win many games doing that.

   “I wish I could say it was one of those nights. We got to be tougher, more physical, take our time, and finish. If we can’t finish, we got to kick it out.”

Defensively, the big problem was tracking the itinerant Carlino.

   The Brigham Young graduate, who played briefly at UCLA after first committing to Indiana after he and his father, Mark Carlino, moved from Scottsdale, Ariz., to Bloomington, Ind., for Matt’s junior year of high school and then opted to graduate from high school an entire year early, was all over the place.

   Tech’s top perimeter defender, Corey Heyward, did not play for the third time in four games, and as the Golden Eagles set screen after screen for Carlino and he moved as if hyper-charged, the Jackets had difficulty keeping up with him.

  “We did a good job on him in some spots [Carlino missed all four of his non-3-pointers], but there were a couple of inexcusable situations,” Gregory said. “We can’t put him on the free throw line, too. That was disappointing.”

   Even with all of the Jackets’ miscues, they put themselves in position to win or tie at the end.

   They closed the game with a frantic 18-9 burst over the final 3:23, in which Jackson’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds left pulled Tech within 69-68.

   A quick foul sent Carlino to the line yet again, and he made both with 11 seconds to go.

   Tech had no timeouts.

   Georges-Hunt drove the lane for his final score – he scored eight points in the final 2:46 – and feathered in a shot to make it 71-70.

   There was only one second left, however, and if he had it to do again Georges-Hunt probably would’ve passed to the left corner.

   Josh Heath (six points, seven assists) was there alone, wide open in front of the Tech bench for a potential game-tying trey.

   Instead, another quick foul sent Marquette’s JaJuan Johnson to the line. He made the first, missed the second, and after Bolden snatched the defensive rebound, his long throw fell far short of the basket.

   Going into Friday evening’s game against Rider, Gregory took some positives.

   The Jackets did their job rebounding, and Jackson looked far more in sync than in Tech’s first three games. His decision-making is improving.

   The Tech big men, however, must be better at deciding when to go back up with offensive rebounds, and when to pass out of trouble to make those boards pay off more often.

  “They haven’t been put in a position to make those plays . . . in their former lives,” Gregory said. “If you’re swarmed in there and you don’t have a good shot, kick it out.”

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