Jan. 20, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Brian Gregory isn’t a fan of mid-week 8 p.m. starts.
Nothing much transpired Thursday night at Philips Arena to change his mind, as Gregory’s charges dropped a 70-38 decision to No. 15 Virginia.
The 38 points scored were the Yellow Jackets’ season-low and matched the school’s low for points in an ACC game (a 53-38 loss to Wake Forest in 1982). It was a night where the team shot a season-low 29.2 percent and struggled all night against the ACC’s top defensive team. Tech managed only 30.8 percent shooting, going 0-for-8 from three and also shot only 9-for-19 from the free throw line.
“You’ve got to give [Virginia] credit. They’re a very good defensive team,” said Gregory. “Our margin of error is very small. We almost have to make every open shot we get. When you miss a bunch or some, that only highlights or exaggerates the tough shots.
“I felt at times (this season) that who was going to score for us was going to be a problem,” he continued. “That’s why in the games we’ve played well, we’ve defended well enough to go through some stretches where we didn’t make some shots.”
The energy wasn’t there defensively, either. Gregory noticed that by the first TV timeout, when Tech trailed 14-9. The Cavaliers, who in their previous game, had taken Duke down to the wire, opened up an 18-point halftime lead, holding Tech scoreless the final 5:14. They outscored the Jackets 22-12 in the paint, 10-2 on second-chance points and held a 23-12 rebounding edge (7-2 on the offensive glass).
“We weren’t guarding a soul,” said Gregory, who later on saw his team allow points on 12 straight Virginia possessions. “Then we got our wits about us for a bit, and then they went on that stretch right there. Even if you’re a good offensive team on the other end, that still puts you in a really tough situation.”
It was more of the same in the second half, as the Cavaliers carried a 20-plus point lead throughout most of the half.
Tech didn’t look like the team that, like Virginia, had taken the Blue Devils down to the wire.
“At this phase of where we’re at in terms of our program, you feel a lot better walking onto that bus after the Duke game than you do tonight,” he said. “At the same time, you also have to keep in mind that our mission is to win the game and we didn’t in either of those two games. Our job is that you play and compete as hard as you can for 40 minutes, and when you don’t do that, you don’t feel very good.”
Center Daniel Miller, who saw his streak of 23 games with at least one block shot end, said that the earlier showings made the effort against Virginia hurt more.
“Now we know with the other games that we’ve seen that we can play as well as we have been,” he said. “We just didn’t do it tonight.”
Kammeon Holsey was the only Yellow Jacket to score in double-figures, scoring 12 points, going 4-for-8 from the field. Mfon Udofia added nine, including the team’s only three-point field goal in 15 tries.
Tech was outrebounded 45-22 for the game. The Jackets had come in averaging 36 rebounds a game and nearly 12 per game on the offensive end. They grabbed 22 and 5 against Virginia.
“We didn’t get the second chances that we usually get,” said Holsey, who had one of the five (freshman Julian Royal had a team-high three and Glen Rice grabbed the other). “They brought more energy than we did. We didn’t play with a lot of energy.”
“They just attacked us and we weren’t ready for it,” said Miller. “They just came out ready to play. They were tougher than us today. They just played harder and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
They weren’t able to do much about it on Friday, as they were traveling to Clemson for Saturday’s game with the Tigers, who are second in the ACC in scoring defense (tip-off is at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on the ACC Network).
The Jackets hope the quick turnaround will be advantageous.
“It’s an advantage for our guys, I can tell you that,” Gregory said. “Because if we had a few days they’d be in deep, deep, deep trouble.”
“We don’t have an off-day or anything so we don’t have to think about it,” said Miller. “We’ll just start getting ready for the next game. It’s the good thing about basketball. You always have a second chance. We’ve just got to be ready to play.”
Gregory would just as soon put Thursday behind him.
“Whenever you’re in a position that we’re in of trying to rebuild a program, unfortunately as they say, there will be nights like this,” he said. “As a competitor, it ticks you off but we’ve got to bounce back and get ready to go on Saturday.
“We have to watch film, we have to walk through their stuff and we have to make sure our guys know what’s coming at 2:30 on Saturday,” he added. “Hopefully our guys will embrace that challenge and play with a little better attitude, effort and energy than they did tonight.”
That will be the key to making sure that “one of those nights” doesn’t turn into another one of those days.