#TGW: So Close

Jan. 26, 2015

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

As Georgia Tech built what would be its biggest lead Sunday, the Yellow Jackets straightened out their offense and in pairing that with what had been lockdown defense against Boston College, their first ACC victory was visible on the horizon.

Then came detours: the defense lost track of Olivier Hanlan, and the Jackets from there too rarely found the Eagles in a 64-62 loss at McCamish Pavilion. Twenty four of BC’s 25 field goals were layups/dunks/tip-ins or 3-pointers.

Neither team started well: The Jackets made 1-of-11 shots to open, and BC. 3-of-16.

Tech started rolling, though, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Quinton Stephens and Marcus Georges-Hunt. When Stephens added a jumper and Georges-Hunt a free throw, the Jackets led 14-7 with 8:56 left in the first half.

Then, Tech’s nightmare reoccurred.

Hanlan, a Canadian guard, wiggled free at 8:09 for the first three of the junior’s game-high 25 points and the Eagles’ offense and/or the Jackets’ defense were dramatically different onward.

BC made 7-of-12 shots to close the first half and 13-of-22 in the second as the Eagles (9-9, 1-5 ACC) squeaked out their first conference win.

After that 3-of-16 start (18.8 percent), BC made 20-of-34 shots (58.8).

What happened?

Foul trouble among Tech’s bigs didn’t help.

Robert Sampson, new to the starting lineup, played just seven minutes in the first half. Fellow starting front-liner Demarco Cox played 12. Charles Mitchell went for nine off the bench. They had two fouls each, bringing freshman Ben Lammers off the bench for a couple rare minutes at the end of the first half.

“I think that hurt with our big guys in foul trouble; we didn’t have the protection and the wall around the basket like we normally do,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “We had to go very small because of the foul trouble.”

Tech’s scrambled defense did not have to concern itself with BC center Dennis Clifford, as the 7-foot junior was sick and did not play.

Keeping track of everybody else became a problem, as Gregory explained that, “they spread us out.”

Hanlan has done this before.

He scored 41 points against Tech two years ago in the ACC tournament on 14-of-18 shooting. His eight 3-pointers that day tied former Jacket Mark Price’s ACC tournament record.

Sunday, as two years ago, he was supremely efficient in scoring 25 on 18 field goal attempts. Four of his nine field goals were 3-pointers (on eight attempts), and the other five were layups.

He wasn’t alone.

The Eagles were remarkably efficient in scoring 38 points after halftime, prompting BC coach Jim Christian to say, “I thought the second half was the best offensive half we played in the ACC [in terms of] just playing smart and making smart basketball plays.”

Boston College sailed by nearly abandoning its mid-range game.

Over the final 20 minutes, they went 8-of-11 at the rim with layups, dunks or tip-ins (16 points on 11 shot attempts), and 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (15 points on eight tries). Those ratios of 1.45 points per shot taken up close and 1.88 on those launched from afar offset 0-for-3 shooting inside the arc but away from the rim.

After reserve Will McGarity’s 12-foot jumper from just outside the right side of the lane with 12:30 left in the first half, BC’s final 22 scores were layups or 3-pointers.

“Our guards got caught on big men, and they did a good job of running special plays that we didn’t see on film or that was the first time running it,” Georges-Hunt said. “Having our bigs out, and [BC] throwing newer plays at us caught us off guard.”

BC was 4-of-12 on 3-pointers in the first half, 1-of-5 from mid-range, and 5-of-11 at the rim (much of that happening before Tech’s bigs found foul trouble).

There were later occasions when an Eagle drove, and Cox, Mitchell or Sampson had to stand down rather than try to block or alter a shot.

The Jackets put together a 7-0 run to tie the game at 59 on two free throws by Georges-Hunt with 1:26 left before Hanlan struck for the final time.

Angling left from mid-court with defender Corey Heyward marking, Hanlan gave the ball to McGarity on the high elbow beyond the 3-point line, and headed for the corner.

As Heyward worked around a screen, Hanlan changed course, and cut down the baseline. He took a pass, and made a layup for a 61-59 edge with 1:10 left.

There was no defensive help in the paint. The Jackets were spread out, and caught off guard.

“We haven’t seen that [play], but we should have stuck to our defensive principles,” Georges-Hunt said.

“We played hard. We made a lot of mistakes defensively in the second half . . . It really came down to communication with each other, not talking on certain plays. That’s how they got open looks.”

Senior guard Patrick Heckmann added two free throws with 27 seconds left after Stephens missed a pair of shots, and although Stephens forced a BC turnover with 17 seconds left and made a trey with six seconds remaining to pull Tech within 63-62, the Jackets (9-10, 0-7) fell short.

Stephens’ 17 points off the bench supplemented 20 from Georges-Hunt. All other Jackets combined to go 8-of-28.

BC’s Aaron Brown made a free throw with 4.5 seconds remaining, and soon after Sampson rebounded a miss, Georges-Hunt missed a shot of 35 feet or so at or perhaps shortly after the buzzer.

“Unfortunately,” Gregory summarized, “our defense wasn’t up to the task that it needed to be in the second half.”

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