Feb. 15, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
It is Brian Gregory’s opinion that any chance of his players entering today’s game at Wake Forest over confident because the Yellow Jackets trounced the Demon Deacons 82-62 three weeks ago was eradicated by Thursday’s 56-53 loss to Clemson.
The Tech coach, who was a bit hoarse Friday when talking about this, may be right about that. That Wake game, though, should serve in a way as a reminder of what the Jackets can and need to do to succeed.
Tech had 20 assists in that game, an ACC season high, and the ball was moving especially crisply in the first half when the Jackets shot 21-for-34.
Tech didn’t make 21 shots in the entire game against Clemson (19-for-55) Thursday, when the first half was probably the Jackets’ worst offensive outing of the season.
That Tech trailed just 20-15 at the break to Clemson was a testament to defense well played, but the Jackets’ 5-for-29 shooting was a reminder that this is not a team that can routinely expect to score big by one-on-one plays. The Jackets need to help each other.
“I think the two stats that are really important for this team … one is rebounding; there’s no question about that, [and] the other one is the assists to turnovers,” Gregory said. “As the assist number moves up, that means we’re moving the ball, and we’re making plays for each other.”
Senior point guard Mfon Udofia led Tech with four assists against Clemson, but the Jackets had just nine total. That number will rarely work for a win in the ACC.
Tech has averaged 15 assists in three ACC wins, and 7.9 in eight ACC losses.
Assists come through a three-step process: a player has to work to get open, a teammate has to deliver an appropriate and well-timed pass, and the receiver has to hit the shot.
All three parts have been issues for the Jackets, and Udofia is not typically a high volume assist PG. He played a little more of that role in non-conference action, when he averaged 3.5 dimes per game. In ACC action, he is averaging 2.1, and center Daniel Miller leads the Jackets in assists (2.4).
It’s nice to have a big man in the middle who is adept at passing. Here, though, is a fine line where the Jackets need more than that.
Miller had two assists in the loss to Clemson. He took, and made, just one shot.
“I would like Daniel every time he gets the ball to think score. He’s leading us in assists in the ACC. That’s good and bad,” Gregory said.
“It’s good because as I’ve said he’s a good passer, but it’s bad because we need him to be more aggressive to score, and your center shouldn’t lead you in assists.”
Miller has heard the be-more-aggressive business many times. Simply put, sometimes he is, sometimes not so much.
“I’ve been trying to get more confident,” he said. “[Against Clemson] I didn’t really have the chance. I only got a couple touches. They were playing really tough inside. I guess I’m not there yet.”
If that seems indecisive, it is a perfect reflection of a quandry the Jackets have: they need to be more effective passers, and at the same time they want their top passer to pass less and shoot more.
“Post players sometimes get more upset with missed shots than perimeter players,” Gregory said. “Obviously, [Miller] is much more aggressive than he was, but [against Clemson] he wasn’t as aggressive as we need him to be.”
For comparison sake, Miller scored eight points (he’s averaging 8.2 in ACC action) against Wake on 3-for-5 shooting with a team-high five assists as well.