Feb. 29, 2016
Georgia Tech closes out the regular season this week, traveling to No. 11 Louisville (22-7, 11-5 ACC) for an 8 p.m. game Tuesday, then returning home for Senior Day against Pittsburgh (20-8, 9-7 ACC) at 2 p.m. Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. Both games will be televised regionally on the ACC Network (WATL-TV in Atlanta). The Yellow Jackets enter the final week riding a four-game winning streak, the program’s first since the 2001-02 season, after defeating Clemson and Boston College last week. Saturday will be the final home regular-season game for seniors Marcus Georges-Hunt, Charles Mitchell, Nick Jacobs, Adam Smith and James White. Tech is in 11th place in the ACC standings, and can avoid playing the Tuesday round of the ACC Tournament by holding that position.
Following is a transcript and audio of head coach Brian Gregory on Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference.
Opening Remarks “I thought we played well last week. We did a lot of good things. We played well in the tough game against Clemson. Then we turned around and went on the road and won at Boston College. We got good basketball from a lot of different guys so I’m pleased in the progress were making as a team. We’ve got tough challenges this week obviously opening up with Louisville and then Pittsburgh later in the week. Two teams that both have had great years and playing at such a high level right now with certain players playing the best basketball of their careers. We’ve got big challenges in front of us this week, but our guys’ mindset has been good. We’re looking forward to continuing to challenge our guys so they’re ready to play.”
What has propelled your team to win four in a row and five of its last six? “If you look at the 16 games that we’ve played, we’ve played pretty well in all 16 of them. Some better than others but we’ve made consecutive plays at crucial times [in this stretch]. It started with the Wake Forest game. I did not think, and it’s to Clemson’s credit, that we played very well at Clemson. I thought they physically took it to us and we didn’t respond well to that. We turned the ball over too much offensively. With the Wake Forest game, we made a couple of critical plays and I said ‘back-to-back’ meaning we got a stop and then we scored. We didn’t respond well to [Clemson] and then we bounced back and played well at Florida State.
“I think we’ve played well all year long. I think we’ve just put together a string during critical times in games where we didn’t make just one play. We made a second play after that. Sometimes it was a stop and a score and sometimes it was a score and a stop. In this league it’s such a fine line that a couple plays make a difference in the game. Over the past couple weeks, we’ve made those plays. We’ve executed well on offense and I think we’ve improved defensively. I think our perimeter guys are defending better. I think our big guys are defending a little bit better. Not so much anything world-shattering. Like if you watched us play it’s not like you would say ‘man that’s just a different team the way they play.’ It’s a little thing here or there that’s making a big difference.”
Do you need to make any adjustments against Louisville in your second meeting?
“Along with the last question, the one thing that is noticeable is that Marcus Georges-Hunt is solidifying himself as one of the premier players in this league. I never want to downplay during this stretch or during this whole year what he’s done. Obviously it gets a little more notice when you win, and I understand that, and he understands that. To carry that on to Louisville, I thought Marcus played really well in that game. With a 1:20 to go it was a tie game. We scored, and we needed to get a stop. We weren’t able to get any stops down the stretch against Louisville. Marcus fouled out with about two minutes to go, and that hurt us. That hurt us a little bit on the offensive end, obviously. He’s going to have to play at the high level that he’s playing at. I think he’s playing as well as anybody in the league right now. At the same time we need Adam [Smith] to play well, and we need our bigs to play well. They really took it to us in the post and on the glass in that game. Both times we’ve played Louisville, it’s come down to a possession game, and they have playmakers. They really do. [Damion] Lee hit a big three against us. You have to compete every single play. You’ve got to give Coach [Rick] Pitino credit. Deng Adel, who was hurt early in the year and barely played against us, is playing exceptionally well right now.”
Should Marcus Georges-Hunt be in the ACC’s Player of the Year discussion?
“It’s kind of what I just said. Understand that two weeks ago, we were sitting here with three wins, and it’s unless those numbers are so gaudy that you have to consider him. He’s not a gaudy player. He’s an exceptional player who does everything very well and does what is needed at that particular time. After winning some games and so forth, he’d have to be in the discussion for the player of the year simply because I believe he’s had as good a year as anybody in the league. At the same time, he understands that winning is a component in that. If you ask around the league in terms of some of the toughest players in the league, I think he’s going to be mentioned by just about everybody. It was great for him to get the ACC Player of the Week. I think there was one national publication where he was the National Player of the Week. He followed that up with last week’s performance where he played exceptionally well in both those games also. You can’t be more efficient than he was in the Boston College game. He scored 20-plus points when he took seven shots. I think he should be in the discussion, but I’m also realistic and understanding that there are some guys who have had great years and their teams have been more successful, so that’s always a component. But I don’t think you can eliminate a guy from the Player of the Year discussion because of where we’re at. And where we’re at over the last couple weeks is because of Marcus.”
How has Marcus Georges-Hunt averaged more points in ACC play than in non-conference?
“Two things. Number one, we played a pretty tough non-conference schedule. But as you said, no matter who you play in the non-conference it doesn’t compare to the gauntlet you face in this league. But he’s raised his game. He has raised his game. He’s doing everything better. He’s shooting the ball better. He’s getting fouled.
“Now, we have changed up in the league. We have put the ball in his hands a lot more, and that’s had an impact. He’s had a couple games of adjustment there, but I think he’s responded well. My terminology is taking command of the game, and I think he’s done a lot better job of that, especially over the last couple of weeks. If you look at his stats over the last couple weeks, they’re jaw-dropping in terms of points-per-game, assist-to-turnover and all of those different things. There’s no true stat for defense. In the last game there were times he guarded Eli Carter. In the game before that, he guarded Jaron Blossomgame. You’re talking about a guy that has guarded the point guard to the team’s four-man. Then we still need all of the other stuff done by him. When you take a step back he’s had an incredible season.”