Feb. 4, 2012
By Jon Cooper
There were a lot of zeroes on the final stat sheet following Georgia Tech’s 51-47 win over Boston College Saturday afternoon at Philips Arena.
Two of the most significant ones, however, were nowhere to be found.
One was the zero that no longer existed, under Tech’s home wins in ACC play — and, thus, at Philips Arena. The other doesn’t really exist at all, outside of in the Tech locker room, under losses for the second half of ACC play.
Both were reason for the Yellow Jackets (7-16, 2-7, 1-0) to celebrate.
“They’re excited. You have to remember they’ve been beat up for more than just this year now,” said Head Coach Brian Gregory, of his team, which snapped a six-game losing streak, an overall five-game home losing streak and a four-game losing streak at Philips. “Losing makes small problems look big and makes big problems look small. The size of the problem is actually the same no matter what. But you get a little different perspective when you get a win and our guys feel good about what they’re doing and hopefully respond with three good days of preparation to get ready for Thursday’s game.”
“It was very exciting to get a win at home,” agreed point guard Mfon Udofia, “It was our first win at Philips Arena. Everybody in the locker room right now is going crazy and we are excited about that.”
That the opponent was 9-14 (2-7, 0-1) Boston College, the conference’s lowest-scoring team, was irrelevant. Saturday was the kind of gritty game Tech was expecting and the kind of game that could serve as a confidence-builder and a sign of progress.
“It’s a great win for us,” said Gregory. “It was good to see different things that symbolize and signal that we’re making some strides. It’s good for the guys to feel good about what they’re doing. You need some tangible evidence sometimes. To do it kind of in a ‘get your hands dirty’ type of way was probably better for us.”
Udofia had a mixed day stat-wise. He shot 0-for-7 on field goal attempts, 0-for-3 on three-point field goal attempts, but, in arguably a more important category, he had a zero in the turnovers column. That zero looked pretty next to the six assists column.
That’s a career-high six.
“I will take that trade-off any day,” said Udofia, whose other clean game this season came Jan. 19 in the loss to Virginia, and who had been minus-9 (five assists vs. 14 turnovers) in the four games since. “We were trying not to rush things out there and just control the pace of the game. That is what it was. I wasn’t trying to play safe, I was just trying to control the game.”
Gregory will certainly take the trade-off.
“If your point guard gets six assists with zero turnovers you have a great chance to win the game, no doubt about that,” he said. “He is not going to have many 0-for-7 days. He made really good decisions and was under control the entire game. I thought his shots were all good, so I can live with all of them. I think we maybe took two bad shots the whole game which is why we were successful.”
Another reason was the work on the interior, where Georgia Tech held a 30-14 edge. Center Daniel Miller and power forward Kammeon Holsey each had 10 points. The duo combined for 12 of Tech’s final 17 points, all of them coming, from the 9:00 mark, when Miller scored to tie the game at 36 and ended a B.C. 5-0 run, until the :47 mark, when Glen Rice, Jr., who led Tech with 11, tapped in his own shot to give the Jackets a 48-45 lead.
The play inside compensated for B.C.’s 24-9 domination in three-point shooting, where the Tech made only three of 15 attempts (20.0 percent). But Gregory was still pleased with his team’s ability to defend at the arc, as the eight three-pointers came on 27 attempts (29.6 percent).
“I thought our guys’ effort for 40 minutes today was tremendous,” he said. “You saw a glimpse of their scrappiness and intensity level that we need to continue to play with. We made some big plays in chasing down loose balls and coming up with stuff. I am pleased with that level of intensity and pleased with being successful at the end, but how we did it. We grinded it out a little bit, got some defensive stops, executed some stuff at the end.
“For us to force 14 turnovers (10 of them in the first half, B.C. had only seven field goals) and hold a team to 35 percent shooting was a pretty good effort,” he added. “We will get a day off and start getting ready for Thursday night.”
NC State comes in Thursday, a team the Jackets have already beaten on the road (82-71 on Jan. 11).
Tech will come into that game looking to erase the memory of some zeroes from Saturday. Udofia should expect to find the range from the field — he shot 5-for-8, 3-for-4 from three against the ‘Pack in Raleigh — while Jason Morris should expect to find the floor and erase the zero in points and minutes played in the second half Saturday (he played seven total minutes).
“It was a coach’s decision,” said Gregory of Morris’ benching. “I thought those other guys were doing well. There are things that are not negotiable and if you don’t do them…We are a much better team when we have everybody moving forward.
“Sometimes you have games like that, when you can’t get untracked,” he continued. “Someone else needed to step up and we were fortunate to get that. Nick [Foreman] played those minutes and I thought did really well.”
They’ll also look to defend that zero in the loss column for the season’s second half.
“It is a good start to the second half, we are 1-0 and 1-0 at home,” said Gregory. “They have to now gear it up and come back here on Thursday. Every day we have to keep getting better, stay positive and make sure that the guys that are buying in are getting the rewards for that buy-in.”