March 3, 2012
ATLANTA (AP) – Jason Morris scored a career-high 22 points and made five of Georgia Tech’s season-high 11 3-pointers in Saturday’s 69-62 win over Wake Forest in the regular season finale for both teams.
Leave it to first-year Tech head coach Brian Gregory to look beyond obvious numbers for deeper meaning. In a season that has at times been painful for the Yellow Jackets (11-19, 4-12 ACC), the coach was most pleased by the way Morris and the Jackets attacked the glass and moved the ball.
He has been preaching for months that good things — and open shots — will come to those who work hard and do the right things.
Saturday, Tech did more of all that in limiting Wake Forest (13-17, 4-12) to four offensive rebounds and in registering 18 assists. That’s one less than the Jackets’ season high, at Fordham, and the most Tech totaled in a conference game.
The Jackets entered the game making just 22.4 percent of their 3-point shots in Philips Arena, which has been their “home” court while their on-campus arena undergoes renovation.
They made 8-of-17 from beyond the arc for a 32-28 halftime lead, however, and Tech took the lead for good when Morris hit a 3-pointer with 9:14 left in the game for a 49-48 edge.
The pass that set up Morris’ go-ahead trey came from center Daniel Miller, a reflection of the way Tech’s inside-out game was working. Eight Tech players had at least one assist Saturday, when the Jackets also tied their season low with just six turnovers.
“I don’t think he missed one shot when the ball went inside, and was kicked out, or when we ran an `action’ for him,” Gregory said. “I’m really proud of our guys’ effort, their competitiveness, their intensity . . . we forced 10 turnovers, won the battle on the glass (30-28), got 11 offensive rebounds.”
Morris made just 3-of-12 shots in Wednesday’s loss at Boston College, and the sophomore forward missed all five of his 3-point tries. So he watched himself on film.
“I could see I was pushing it instead of releasing it,” said Morris, whose previous career high of 21 points came in a Nov. 29 home loss to Northwestern. “I can honestly say I’ve taken that shot [on a kickout pass from an interior player] 1,000 times [in practice]. I just shot with confidence.”
Morris wasn’t alone in that regard.
Senior guard Nick Foreman, who started alongside fellow senior walk-on Derek Craig, began the game with a 3-pointer, and Morris made all three of his 3-point shots in the first half while point guard Mfon Udofia hit 3-of-4 long balls. Craig hit a 3-pointer in the second half.
“They got hot from the 3-point line. They hit a lot of shots they’re not used to making,” said Wake forward Travis McKie. “And we didn’t rebound; those are the two main things that cost us the game.”
McKie had 23 points and 11 rebounds when the Demon Deacons beat Tech 59-50 in Winston-Salem on Feb. 15.
He hit a 3-pointer to pull Wake within 52-51 with 8:06 left in the game, but the Jackets pulled away from there. The Tech lead grew as big as 12 points before the Deacons scored the final five points.
McKie had just four rebounds Saturday and Tech out-rebounded Wake 16-11 in the second half, when the Deacons had just one offensive rebound.
Tech won the first half from the perimeter, and the second half inside — as Wake missed suspended 7-foot senior center Ty Walker.
After intermission, Tech forward Kammeon Holsey grabbed five of his seven rebounds and Miller grabbed four of his five. Also, while the Jackets made a modest 3-of-9 3-pointers in the second half, Miller scored all 11 of his points and Holsey had seven of his nine in that time.
“The difference in this game was [Tech] had eight offensive rebounds and I believe 20 points in the paint [in the second half],” said Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik. “When we did get them to miss, they were able to get their second-chance points.”
C.J. Harris scored 17 points to lead Wake Forest, and Udofia had 15 points and five assists for Tech, which played without suspended leading scorer Glen Rice Jr. for the fifth straight game.
Tech will be the No. 11 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament in Philips Arena, and will face 6th-seed Miami in the opening round at 9 p.m. Thursday night.