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Hit The Boards!

Jan. 16, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

There are two primary ways that Georgia Tech might address the biggest problem from Tuesday’s loss to Pitt so that the Yellow Jackets can better compete Saturday against Miami and beyond: get bigger or get meaner.

Tech (10-7, 1-3 ACC) has been outrebounded just twice this season, but Tuesday’s 38-18 disadvantage was incredibly glaring. Miami (9-7, 1-3) has seen the tape.

The Jackets have seen the tape, too, and since Robert Carter Jr. will remain sidelined as he recovers from knee surgery and they will be no bigger by the time the Hurricanes visit, it is crystal clear that psychological adjustment is in order.

When shots go up, “You’ve got to have it in your head to crash, crash . . . fly in there,” said sophomore swing man Marcus Georges-Hunt. “Be more active, and when the shot goes up don’t just stare. Find somebody to hit, and go in there.”

All five starters from last season’s ACC champion Miami squad have moved on, and they don’t have anyone like pesky point guard Shane Larkin to worry about any more, but their matchup zone defense can be a pain for opponents.

Rebounding, however, is more a point of emphasis and Georges-Hunt should know. He played 37 minutes Tuesday and didn’t have a rebound.

Pitt had manpower advantages, but that alone did not explain the disparity.

“Foul trouble is a big issue with that, and I think we saw that when we were playing [shooting guards] and [small forwards] at [power forwards] and [center],” said coach Brian Gregory. “It was strange because I thought we played with pretty good determination and grit.

“It’s just that sometimes physically we were manhandled through no fault of effort. That’s the challenge that we face . . . obviously, we didn’t rebound at all in the Pittsburgh game.”

There were many peculiar stretches in the Pitt game. With Carter out, most of the power forward minutes have been eaten up by Kam Holsey, Quinton Stephens and Jason Morris.

Morris missed the Tuesday game with concussion symptoms, however, after he was in an automobile accident last weekend, and he is not expected to play against Miami. Also, Stephens fouled out in a mere 10 minutes vs. Pitt.

So Georges-Hunt and Stacey Poole Jr. spent time down low with the big boys, playing a “stretch” power forward position. Poole had one rebound.

Holsey led the Jackets with five, and Miller had a modest four. That’s proof that Tech was out of whack all the way around.

“I think we’re still a pretty good rebounding team but Pitt was so physically strong at every position,” Miller said. “Even . . . the point guard would go and get rebounds that we weren’t ready for. [Against] teams like that, everybody has got to do it.

“We were a little small with guys like Stacy and Marcus running the [power forward] and the [small forward] so at times it can be difficult, but I think we can figure it out.”

This will be a matter of both individual and collective efforts.

“There were some fundamental technique things that we have to work on,” Gregory said. “If you’re a little guy and you’re blocking out a big guy, your sole job is to make sure he doesn’t get it but we [also] need other guys pursuing the ball.”

So the Jackets want to be more aggressive, although Georges-Hunt said that in a way will require that they be a little more patient. Translation: don’t take off running quite so fast so often.

“I think it’s more mental than physical,” he said. “Having the mindset to go [to the boards] every time as a guard is kind of tough because some of us want to take off and run without making sure that we’ve secured the ball.”

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