TGW: Getting to the Rack

Feb. 2, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

At this point, micro-analysis is folly and simple mandates trump all, so when Georgia Tech faces a mottled Duke squad tonight, head coach Brian Gregory wants to see his players, “get to the rack,” above all else.

With a record (12-9, 2-6 ACC) and a trail of narrow-loss tears that afford opportunities to suggest the Yellow Jackets are short in a variety of ways, Tech is not different than so many teams.

Perhaps, though, there is a relatively simple solution to a huge disparity in points scored at the free throw line vs. points surrendered (113-165) and to a shortage of chances cashed in from close range.

These are two of the easiest points-scored categories. Uncontested 3-pointers would round out the group, and the Jackets are well ahead of recent paces there. If Tech were to improve in each category, close losses might well become wins.

It’s not rocket science, although senior leader Marcus Georges-Hunt suggests that this shortfall may come down more to gray matter than skills lacked.

Duke (15-6, 4-4) has problems of its own, chiefly based upon injuries and an even shorter-than-usual player rotation.

The defending national champions will not offer any better a foil for the Jackets to correct themselves, however, other than the fact that if Tech gets nasty, attacks the basket, and pulls out a win, it will probably feel good in ways that validate the notion that a bully approach can solve more than one problem.

“When we have advantage breaks in the open court, we need to finish,” Gregory said. “We need to get fouled or put the ball in the basket. We have too many empty possessions. We need to be more aggressive in attacking the basket.

“We can throw away the Euro-step and the Crow Hop and all that crap, and get to the rack; that’s what we need to do.”

Georges-Hunt leads the Jackets in scoring, and he’s averaging 18 points in ACC games despite putting up six points Saturday when Tech lost 60-57 at Syracuse when the Orange zeroed in on him.

The Jackets did not fully take advantage of the opportunities Syracuse’s attention to Georges-Hunt created for others. That was the most glaring example of Gregory’s point.

Marcus probably does not fit in this conversation other than as its pivot point. He gets to the basket, and he gets fouled. He’s attempted 54 free throws in conference games — or 34.2 percent of Tech’s total — even though he’s played 17 percent of the Jackets’ total ACC minutes.

No other player (Charles Mitchell) has tried more than 24.

The Jackets need to stop pulling up on so many fast breaks, especially when they have a manpower advantage.

“Some of us tend to back away and pull it out, but all of us should try to go and get fouled or score,” Georges-Hunt said. “Just put it in our minds, get it in our heads that when it’s advantage break we have the opportunity to get a basket or get to the free throw line.”

In the loss at Syracuse, the Jackets suffered, too, from several near shots missed.

Again, Tech will look for less finesse and more muscle.

“The second thing is when we’re around the basket, either on the post move or on the offensive rebound, we need to explode to the rim because that’s our opportunity to put it in or get fouled,” Gregory said.

There’s not a lot of nuance required here.

It would probably help as well if the Jackets would – after “putting it in their minds” to be more aggressive – avoid analyzing their work while they’re doing it.

Just play.

Tech has struggled in late-game situations, and Georges-Hunt said these are not physical issues.

“I think it’s mental, honestly,” he said. “Coach tells us all the time that the majority of these games are going to come down to the last four minutes and that’s when the mental part kicks in even more.”

With the Blue Devils’ manpower issues, perhaps the Jackets will be more aggressive in their pressure packages tonight.

That’s less a concern to Gregory than the Jackets going into attack mode when they have the ball with the hope that one solution will address more than one problem.

“It’s just one more [aggressive play] per guy,” he said. “I’m not asking guys to shoot 80 percent.”

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