Jan. 25, 2016
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech goes back on the road for a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference games this week, visiting NC State (11-9, 1-5 ACC) at 8 p.m. Wednesday night on the ACC Network, then traveling to Syracuse (13-7, 3-4 ACC) for a noon game Saturday airing nationally on ESPNU. Tech lost its only game last week, a 75-71 decision at home to No. 17/16 Louisville. The Wolfpack scored a big win at Pittsburgh mid-week before dropping an 88-78 contest to No. 20 Duke Saturday. The Orange won three in a row following an 0-4 start in conference play before losing at Virginia Sunday.
Here’s a transcript of Coach Brian Gregory’s segment on Monday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference.
On Tech’s improvement from last year
“I do think we are. Obviously, we’re a much-improved team, and I think the mindset of being competitive, but not finishing the job is something that is no longer accepted. So now you’ve got to figure out a way to make a couple plays at the end of those games. Obviously, there’s always a lot of stuff that’s focused on the last two, three or four minutes of the game, and at the same time we understand why that is, but there are some crucial plays that occur in the first 36 minutes, as well that we can address, get better on and improve. You look at Saturday’s game – we’re up seven at halftime, but we gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half. And obviously, Louisville’s a tremendous offensive rebounding team, but if you cut that in half or even to six or seven, now it’s a 12 or 13 point game at halftime. You always have to focus. You always have to do your preparation in terms of situational stuff and all that. We got caught in a tough spot, too without Marcus in there in the last couple offensive possessions. At the same time, you’ve got to do a better job defensively in the second half in terms of defending without fouling. That was kind of a theme in some of those other close losses. Obviously, the Virginia Tech game is called to mind, as well as the Pittsburgh game, the North Carolina game, even the Notre Dame game. And Louisville shot 19 free throws in the second half of the game on Saturday, as well. So you’ve got to make them earn some of those baskets instead of just putting them to the free throw line, and that’s an area I thought we did a better job of on Saturday than we had. We’ve talked about being more aggressive, driving the ball, and I think that’s going to help us in close games, as well. I thought a really great spot was Adam Smith’s ability to take the ball to the basket for some plays. We’re going to need a little more of that from him and a little more of that from guys like Tadric (Jackson), Josh Heath and Travis Jorgenson.”
On Charles Mitchell’s recent struggles
“I think he’s become much more of a focal point because of the blazing start he got off to with nine straight double-doubles against some pretty good teams. He had 18 and 18 against Arkansas. He had double figures scoring points against Villanova, Tennessee and VCU – schools like that. But, point-blank, he hasn’t played as well and hasn’t finished with the ball as well around the basket. He’s pressing a little bit in terms of when he gets an offensive rebound, he has to make a little bit better decisions when he’s swarmed and covered up. He’s not a player, as I mentioned earlier, that’s going to play over the top of guys. You’ve got to be willing to make a hustle play, get an offensive rebound, kick the ball out and have our offense live for another day as opposed to trying to force some shots. Sometimes you start pressing a little bit. He needs to get back to being the Charles Mitchell that we saw earlier where the effort, intensity level and energy level that he played with created scoring opportunities – not only on deeper post-ups, but also getting fouled and getting to the free throw line. He was not a very good free throw shooter, obviously, in the past. He has dramatically improved, but in the league right now he’s at 33 percent. And that’s a little bit concentration and a little bit of pressing. He needs to take a step back and get back to doing the things that made him very, very special and unique earlier in the year.”
On NC State’s Cat Barber
“Give him credit, because he’s dramatically changed his game from strictly a driver and a finisher around the basket, and a guy that’s a one-man fast break to a guy that has a great mid-range game now and can knock down the three. Obviously, he still has all those other parts of his game. He’s one of the few guards in the country that if you need him to get 25, he can get you 25. If you need him to get 15 and 10 assists, he can do that, as well. His game has evolved and obviously you can’t do that. You see that in this league – guys that are really driven to continue to improve, and he gets all the credit for that with the direction of Mark (Gottfried) that he’s received in the system and different things like that. He’s so difficult to defend because of the open-court opportunities, the ball screen opportunities and the fact that he can score in all three phases of the game. He’s not just one of the best guards in our league, he’s one of the best guards in country, and the stats clearly show it.”
On which players for NC State cause concern for him
“Their whole team gives me cause for concern. Last year, they really hurt us inside. I think the basketball IQ’s of the Martin brothers is something that no one has talked about. They make basketball plays on a consistent basis. The have a guy who is going to be in the mold of some of the great shooters and offensive weapons that they’ve had in the past in Maverick Rowan. They’ve got a lot of pieces, and obviously in the last couple of games – that great game that they had against Pittsburgh, and they played well against Duke, as well – they lost a couple of tough games. That’s what this league is about is being able to respond to those, and I think they’ve righted the ship. I think they’re going to have a great second half of the ACC season.”