Feb. 8, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Rather than complicate this with a long to-do list, perhaps the simplest formula for Georgia Tech to win today for the first time EVER at Virginia Tech would be for the Yellow Jackets to improve significantly in the two areas that troubled them most in last month’s loss to the Hokies.
Inferior rebounding and a low percentage on high-percentage shots did in the Jackets on Jan. 12, when they fell 70-65 in overtime in McCamish Pavilion.
Virginia Tech’s Erick Green leads the nation in scoring with an average of 25.2 points per game, but he didn’t hurt the Jackets as much as they hurt themselves.
The crafty guard scored 28 on points on 9-for-16 shooting against Georgia Tech. Frankly, that’s not much more than you should expect from him.
“He’s a guy that can single-handedly win games. He’s a tough matchup not just for us, but for everybody they’ve played,” head coach Brian Gregory said of the Hokie guard who scored 29 in Thursday’s loss to Maryland. “You’ve got to make sure the attention isn’t so much on Green that you give the other guys open shots.”
The Jackets’ bigger problems were the Hokies’ 43-32 rebounding edge and a satchel of missed shots that were more makeable than average – average being around 43 percent.
“We were horrendous on the boards,” Gregory said. “We kind of let that game slip away. We had some good looks. We have to do a better job of finishing around the basket.”
In Georgia Tech’s first three ACC games, they were out-rebounded by a combined 126-98 by Miami, NC State and Virginia Tech.
At Georgia Tech last month, the Hokies (11-11, 2-7 ACC) had more turnovers than assists (12-9, 2-7), shot just 41.4 percent, made just 3-of-16 3-pointers and yet won. Here’s why:
The Jackets missed their last nine shots in regulation, and did not grab one offensive rebound off those misses. Those were keys in losing an 11-point second-half lead. Georgia Tech led 55-50 on Daniel Miller’s free throw with 3:44 left before falling.
They missed three point-blank shots in that span (either dunks or layups), and Robert Carter Jr. missed a wide-open 12-foot jumper on a picture-perfect inbounds play as well.
After being out-rebounded 126-98 in the first three ACC games, the Jackets went five straight without being bettered on the boards. They built a 196-186 edge in that stretch before Florida State battered the Jackets 30-24 on the glass Tuesday.
The Jackets have been much better on the boards since those first three. Generally, they’re not waiting for rebounds, they’re going and getting them or boxing out so that teammates can go get them.
That five-game stretch earned the Jackets the right to look at the FSU game as an aberration on the boards.
Scoring up close has been a steady issue, however.
With a roster not built around players who can create shots for themselves, as Green can for Virginia Tech, it is important that the Jackets run up points in the easy-score categories: layups/dunks, 3-point shots and free throws.
Georgia Tech is marginally better this season than last at the 3-ball, yet layups/dunks and other short shots and free throws are problematic.
The Jackets’ 64.3 percent free throw rate ranks 300th nationally out of 345 teams. That was a big problem late against the Hokies (and Tuesday against FSU).
Still, Gregory’s guys bang away hoping that the eighth time is a charm. Georgia Tech is 0-7 at Virginia Tech, and 4-14 all-time against the Hokies.
“We practiced [Thursday], and as I said, when you’re close and making progress [but not winning] it’s even harder,” he said. “When you have a game that could have gone either way and it didn’t go your way, you’ve got to be able to bounce back. That’s a mark of where we’re at right now.”
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