Dec. 7, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
There has been more good news than not about the Georgia Tech basketball team so far, and while tonight’s game against UNC Wilmington might not look like a litmus test of the major sort, maybe, just maybe it actually will be that.
The Yellow Jackets (5-2) have an RPI of 50, and ought to beat the Seahawks (4-4), but this and other leading indicators have been wrong before. At Tech. A lot of times.
Last year’s squad did not always take care of business, and was not alone in that failing, by the way. Kennesaw State? Illinois-Chicago? UNC-Greensboro? Hello, McFly?
Don’t lump Tech’s 63-59 loss to Dayton on Nov. 19, 2009, into this group. Former Flyers coach Brian Gregory carried the No. 18/21 team into the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off that season so it did not count as an upset.
Now, as Tech’s head coach, Gregory’s on the lookout for a letdown.
Last season the Jackets were handled by Mercer and scuffled against Alabama A&M. Getting up for the first couple games in McCamish Pavilion, getting juiced to play Georgia, going on the road where distractions were limited on a recent 2-2 road trip in which Tech was competitive in every game is one thing.
Taking seriously a game like tonight’s? That takes another kind of character. The Jackets won’t play again after this evening until Alabama State on Dec. 17 with semester exams in between. A big toe is waiting to be stubbed, and Wilmington head coach Buzz Peterson’s squad would be happy to drop the anvil.
“That’s been an issue here in the past, I think,” he said Friday when asked about the prospect of the Jackets being lethargic. “The way I go about coaching I put things on the table. I make sure guys understand that’s been an issue in the past, and we need some maturity when it comes to that.
“Wilmington has won three of the last four games, and it should have been four out of four.”
Look for the way the Jackets work on rebounding tonight at McCamish Pavilion. That will tell you plenty.
Tech has been out-rebounded in four straight games (two wins, two losses to teams – Cal and Illinois – with a combined record of 15-1), and the boss is not happy about that.
Gregory preached a bit Friday about how sometimes rebounding comes down not to getting the board yourself but making sure the guy you’re defending does not. He also said that if the guy you’re defending is not around to be boxed out, “hit” somebody else. “Legally,” the coach said.
If the Jackets are listening the way they ought to be, there shooting percentages will have less to do with the outcome than the rebounds. Tech boards, Tech wins – tonight, at least.
“Those guys know that it’s not who has the best team, or the best this … it’s the team that plays the best for 40 minutes that wins,” Gregory said. “We’re in no position as a team or a program to think that any game is not going to be determined by who plays best in those 40 minutes. We’re a long way from there.”
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