Feb. 1, 2016
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech begins a three-game homestand Tuesday night when Duke (15-6, 4-4 ACC) visits McCamish Pavilion for a 9 p.m. nationally televised game. Following that, Tech entertains #17 Miami (16-4, 5-3) in another nationally televised contest on Super Bowl Sunday at 1 p.m. The Yellow Jackets split a pair of road games last week, capturing a 90-83 win at NC State on Wednesday before dropping a tight 60-57 decision at Syracuse on Saturday.
Following is a transcript of head coach Brian Gregory’s segment on Monday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference.
On the development of Nick Jacobs
“I think that’s one of the things that we’ve challenged him with. He started off the season with a great game against Tennessee, and then it was kind of up-and-down in some other games. The consistency in terms of daily performance has been the thing that we’ve said “Hey, we need you and this is what you’ve got to do every day,“ and I just think over the last month or so, there’s just been even a greater commitment level. Do you attribute it to seeing the end of the road coming near, or just maturity? He’s dramatically improved in the time that we’ve had him here. He’s going to graduate in May. He’s done all the stuff that we’ve asked of him in every aspect, it just hasn’t been as consistent. He’s here every morning either with a workout or doing extra cardio to get in better shape. I think he’s in a little bit better shape, and there’s just a greater focus. I think the key that you’ve seen over the last few games is more activity on the glass and better defensively. When he’s rebounding and he’s defending that means he’s engaged, and when Nick’s engaged he’s a tremendous low-post scorer for us. I know a couple of years ago and in the Syracuse game he lost the ball on post feed and then missed a pretty good look around the basket. I just think because of his maturity and his increased accountability, I think that stung him a little bit, and you want that. He was back at it yesterday working extremely hard. So I like where he’s at right now and we need him to maintain it and maybe even take it up a notch.”
“This league is a monster, and you have to play exceptionally well for all 40 minutes or you’re going to have a tough time being successful. The bottom line with Duke – if you take (Amile) Jefferson out of the mix, that has a huge impact. If you take any upperclassman that has won a million games in his time, has a National Championship and all the success – if you take that out of any team in our league, that team is not going to be the same team. It’s just a fact. The other thing that I think happens sometimes is – and it’s because of where their program is at and what an unbelievable job Mike (Krzyzewski) has done with the program year in and year out – sometimes it’s not what’s the matter with Duke, sometimes it’s that the team’s they’re playing are really good. And when you add the factor with Jefferson, it doesn’t make it that hard to figure out. At the same time, it was a close game against Syracuse, a close game against Notre Dame – you take a look at those games and they could have gone either way. Instead of 4-4 now they’d be 6-2, and everyone would be talking about how they’ve done an unbelievable job even with Jefferson out. It’s such a fine line. That’s exactly where they’re at right now because of that.”
On the impact of Syracuse’s guards
Huge. They are men. You just look at them – they look like men, and they play like it, too. They never get rattled, and they know exactly what they’re supposed to do every possession offensively and defensively. In their last defensive possession, we had guys who had a couple of good looks throughout the game in some of the stuff that we ran. We got the ball inside to Nick (Jacobs) on the one play, but it was two feet out further than where he caught it before. Now, he was a little uncomfortable, and that’s when we had the turnover on the last offensive possession where Adam (Smith) turned it over. All of a sudden, they extended the zone way out there and really put pressure on Adam and kindo of choked everybody else off. They know what to do on every single possession, and they don’t get rattled. I do think the quick turnaround – as I said after the game – I think it affected both teams’ shooting because both (Michael) Gbinije and (Trevor) Cooney had some shots that I was like “Man, I can’t believe they missed them.” And then I thought we did, too. Those guys’ experience – especially with their system – those guys set the tone defensively with their activity on the top. That can’t be understated. And then offensively, all three of the other guys kind of play off of those two. Those guys are talented in (Malachi) Richardson and (Tyler) Lydon in there, or if you have (DaJuan) Coleman. I think everything they do revolves around those two fifth-year seniors.”
On if Duke is a dangerous team at this stage in the season
“I think when you’re, like I said – they’re not a national program, they’re a national brand. You look at the schedule and the record, and sometimes it’s not always what’s the matter with Duke, it’s the other way around. We played Duke last year – they were 5-3 in the league when we played them. There’s a one-game difference. You know what I mean? They’re going to be there in the end. There are some guarantees in life, and that’s going to be one of them, because they’re talented, they’re well-coached and they’re disciplined. The young guys are getting better and, as I said, they’re not a full strength. Remember a couple of years ago when we went to Syracuse and beat them, and I think they were No. 7 in the country. (Jerami) Grant was banged up. He wasn’t a full strength. And as good as that team was, I remember that was one of the few times that year we were at full strength. In this league, you’re good, you’re really good, or you’re great. You go from each of those levels, even with the loss of just one player. I think that’s where Duke is at.”