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A Frustrating Close To The Preseason

Jan. 2, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Sunday brought a frustrating close to the preseason for the men’s basketball team, which has struggled to find consistency in style of play, and on individual levels down to most players.

An 86-83 double-overtime loss to visiting Charlotte underlined these problems. Iman Shumpert gave the Yellow Jackets a chance yet again with team highs in points (28), rebounds (nine), assists (eight) and steals (four), and Glen Rice was again solid with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists after scoring a career-high 24 points in Friday’s win over Mercer.

Beyond Daniel Miller’s six blocked shots, these points were about where consistency ended.

This game swung on two columns in the box score: rebounding (where Tech was on the short side, 41-31), and at the free-throw line.

Tech has, in general, rebounded better this season than many might have predicted given their lack of experienced size, but Sunday night the Jackets were whipped here in a painful way.

Beyond Shumpert’s nine and Rice’s eight rebounds, all other Jackets combined for 14 rebounds in a combined 165 minutes played. That’s one rebound in every 11.8 minutes played for all players not named Shumpert or Rice.

Charlotte guards Jamar Briscoe and Javaris Barnett crashed the boards for eight and six rebounds, respectively, or the same total as all Tech players other than Rice and Shumpert. Briscoe is 5-feet-10.

Even against this, the Jackets made 13 of 31 3-point shots to give themselves a shot at winning had they made a couple more free throws at the right time, or perhaps one more at the very right time.

Rice attempted four free throws. He missed them all. The first pair came with 1:24 left in regulation, when the Jackets held a 66-64 lead. The second pair came with three seconds left in the first overtime, when the game was tied.

Lest one be tempted to single out Rice, consider:

Other than Shumpert, who made all six of his free throws, all other Jackets made 6 of 13.

To break this down into a per-minute stat again, Tech players other than Shumpert went to the free throw line 13 times in 210 combined minutes played, or once every 16.2 minutes played. Tech’s four bigs – Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey, Nate Hicks and Oliver – combined to make 1 of 2 free throws in 97 minutes.

Charlotte made more free throws (26 of 33) than Tech attempted (19), and the 49ers were on the road.

That could be a lack of aggression, which has been a more common issue than rebounding for the Jackets.

Coach Paul Hewitt has pointed this out in comments to the media, and individually with players – including Shumpert.

I asked Hewitt a couple weeks ago about the difference between being aggressive enough and deferring too much. He said, as just about any coach would, that there is a fine line there.

Right now, Shumpert appears to be the only player toeing it, with Rice giving it a go.

Basketball may not be a collision sport, but it is a contact sport and most of the Jackets need to treat it as such.

Charlotte coach Alan Major, whose team has won four straight games in come-from-behind fashion (the 49ers trailed by 14 in the first half Sunday), said it all: “In a nutshell, this game was just about fighting.”

Shumpert scored all eight of Tech’s points in the first overtime, but when the 49ers went on a 9-0 blitz in the second overtime, it didn’t matter.

The fact that Shumpert is the Alpha Jacket does not mean that his teammates need to watch semi-idly by as he does his thing(s).

It is absolutely not Shumpert’s nature to be selfish. It was obvious at times early in the season that he needed to be less selfless and more assertive on a team of complementary players.

Add his occasional cramping problems to a team of players struggling to fill roles and/or play to their capabilities, and you have a head scratcher. As senior Moe Miller said, “We prepared and practiced well. I think we just got overanxious and made mistakes that shouldn’t have been made.”

As the Jackets (7-6) ready themselves for Saturday’s ACC opener at Boston College, they could use a widespread dose of selfishness so long as it doesn’t go to the point of pigheadedness.

They need to be meaner, stop thinking, and start doing.

If you think I’m crazy, or even if you don’t, let me know at stingdaily@gmail.com.

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