Feb. 25, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Before addressing schematic problems that have contributed to Georgia Tech’s back-to-back one-sided losses, coach Brian Gregory and the Yellow Jackets have an energy issue that needs attention.
At roughly the same time in last Tuesday’s loss to North Carolina and in Sunday’s loss at Virginia, the Jackets were right there only to suddenly, dramatically go AWOL.
Trailing UNC by just four points and Virginia by five, the Jackets in each game fell behind by more than 20 points in minutes and each time they looked gassed and disjointed as opponents unfurled game-clinching runs.
Runs are part of the game. The Jackets appear to have reached a point in their season where a certain run by the opponents weighs more heavily than others. Then, it’s like hanging onto a rope: at some point, legs may come off, but the Jackets have to hold on with their hands, their teeth, whatever, until they can re-wrap their legs. Don’t just let go.
“Guys can’t drop their heads,” said senior Mfon Udofia. “It might just be a three- or five-point run and we come to a huddle and some of the guys’ heads are down.
“We just need to continue to talk to each other, and let each other know we’re still in the game . . . we’ve just got to know teams are going to make runs. Guys kind of dropped their heads, and there’s no communication, guys are not talking as much on defense.”
Legs are heavier this time of the season, and with a player rotation that includes three freshmen starters and another freshman off the bench, a wall has popped up, “In each of the last two games at about the 14-minute mark [of the second half], with the game in the balance,” Gregory said.
If they want to compete Wednesday against Maryland, which is an especially deep team, then Sunday against N.C. State and in the final two regular season games at Miami and Boston College, the Jackets are going to have to fight through all forms of fatigue.
“Our starters are logging a lot of minutes. We need to get more production from the guys coming off the bench, and it’s important that they understand that,” the coach said. “We’re not as good a team with our starters logging 32-plus minutes…”
“You can’t expect guys to play at that level for eight or nine straight minutes, not at this stage of the season. [Subs] don’t necessarily have to score, but hold the fort, make energy plays, make hustle plays…The opportunity exists now for some guys coming off the bench to make a mark, and give us a boost. We need them, there’s no question about it.”
Gregory can preach it. Players need to play it. Strategic adjustments and improvements alone likely will not be enough.
“We just need to continue to talk to each other, and let each other know we’re still in the game. It’s going to be a 40-minute game,” Udofia said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team . . . we’ve just got to move on to the next play. Tell each other, ‘You’re going to make the next shot,’ or, ‘You’re going to make that next defensive assignment.'”
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