ATLANTA (Mar. 6) – While Georgia Tech has tried to balance its offensive production this season, there has been no doubt that when Jason Floyd is playing well, the Yellow Jackets usually win.
Tech (13-16, 5-11 ACC) enters this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament with some momentum, due in part to a rise in fortune for the senior swingman. The Jackets are the eighth seed by virtue of Saturday’s 85-69 win over Clemson, and will meet No. 7 seed Florida State at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) at the Charlotte (N.C.) Coliseum.
After nearly pulling out a victory at North Carolina last Wednesday (a 74-72 overtime loss), Tech pounded its way past the Tigers Saturday, getting an outstanding performance from Floyd in each game. The 6-6 Hampton, Ga., senior scored 12 points and hit 5 of 10 field goal attempts at UNC, then scored 23 in his final home game Saturday against Clemson, making nine of 15 field goal attempts (4-of-7 from three-point range).
“We played well against Carolina, probably one of our best defensive games of the year,” said Floyd. “That momentum carried over into the Clemson game with all the emotion of being the last home game. If we can keep playing like that, we’re going to be fine Thursday.”
Floyd’s performance against Clemson, in which he combined hot shooting and slashing drives to the basket, was a season high in scoring and a career best for an ACC game. It also erased the memory of a scoreless game against the Tigers just one month before and gave head coach Bobby Cremins a lasting memory of his final game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
“The guys wanted to send Coach out on a high note in front of the crowd he’s been coaching in front of for 19 years,” said Floyd. “Everybody took it upon themselves to do whatever was necessary for us to win.”
For Floyd’s part, the last time the senior scored in double figures in consecutive games, Tech defeated Maryland and Florida State in mid-January. In fact, the Jackets are 10-4 this season when the former Lovejoy High School star has scored 10 or more points.
Two other patterns emerge when you investigate Floyd’s importance to the Tech success. In the 13 Tech wins this season, he has scored 11.9 points per game, shot 44.7 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from three-point range. In Tech’s losses, Floyd has averaged just 7.6 points and shot 36.7 percent from the floor.
For the season, he ranks fifth on the team at 9.6 points a game and has shot 40.6 percent from the floor. He has been one of Tech’s best at the free throw line (74.4 percent).
“The more I can contribute, offensively and defensively, the better we end up faring,” said Floyd. “It’s a matter of what everybody brings, but when I shoot the ball well and do the little things well, that gives us a better chance of winning.”
Prior to his performance in the game against Clemson, Floyd’s high for an ACC contest had been 18 against North Carolina last season in a 66-64 win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Though he counted his most memorable achievement a career-high 31 points against Mount St. Mary’s and Charleston Southern last season, Saturday’s game will replace those.
“I think that’s a new No. 1,” said Floyd, “because of all the emotion going on that afternoon of playing my last home game before all these fans who have been supporting this program for the four years I’ve been here. Not to mention the guy who recruited me and was the reason I came here, I got to play that game for him. I just put all my feelings aside and tried to play hard for him. It was a great way to go out.”
The day also was special for Floyd because he surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career. He became the 30th Tech player to do so, and enters the ACC Tournament with 1,010 points. He also ranks sixth in career three-point baskets (168) at Tech. Should the Jackets advance past the first round of the tournament, Floyd could conceivably move past Jon (176) or Drew (179) Barry on the career list.
Floyd is in his second season as a starter for the Yellow Jackets, having averaged 13.5 points while starting all 31 games last season. He started the first 20 games of this season before his production declined to the point that he went scoreless in a Feb. 2 game at Clemson. With Tech on a four-game losing streak, head coach Bobby Cremins shook up the starting lineup, and Floyd and teammate Tony Akins found themselves coming off the bench for the next four games.
“I think it changed our attitudes and made us realize we have to be grateful for the playing time we get,” said Floyd. “I didn’t want to quit, I’m still a part of the team. I’d been in that role before, and it was a matter of remembering the things I needed to do then. Coach told me to keep fighting and playing hard, and good things will happen. I might have been taking it for granted. I was really uncomfortable in that Clemson game. Everybody was trying so hard to win games, it showed. That might have been our worst game.”
He returned to the starting lineup Feb. 21 at Florida State, the first game for Tech following Cremins’ retirement announcement. Since then, Floyd has averaged 9.9 points and shot 43.2 percent from the floor while the Jackets have also played better as a whole.
“I think it has been more relaxed,” Floyd said. “That’s what Coach has been trying to get us to do all along. Regardless of what we thought, there was a dark cloud over us. It was affecting him and the team. It says a lot about his character that he never really showed how much it hurt, and he kept plugging away. After he made the announcement, we were able to go out and just play ball. We were more comfortable out there.”
Whether Tech can make some noise in the ACC Tournament this week remains to be seen, but Floyd is aiming to finish his career on a high note.