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#STINGDAILY: Jackets Can't Catch A Break In Loss To Hokies

Jan. 12, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Before rummaging through all details, it was difficult at first Saturday to explain completely Georgia Tech’s 70-65 overtime loss to Virginia Tech. After a full sifting of the stat sheet and game tape, however, some sense can be made.

Virginia Tech (10-6, 1-2) had more turnovers than assists (12-9), shot just 41.4 percent, made just 3-of-16 3-pointers and yet won. Here’s why:

The Hokies out-rebounded the Yellow Jackets 43-32, and after freshman Chris Bolden hit a 3-pointer for a 53-47 lead, Georgia Tech scored just two points – on free throws – in the final 7:25 as the Jackets missed their last nine shots in regulation.

There you have it.

Against the Hokies, the Jackets (10-5, 0-3) could not stick a shot in the wane of regulation, either from near or far or the free throw line, nor rebound their misses.

And at the risk of trotting out what will seem sour grapes, every late break that came went against the home team in McCamish Pavilion.

The result after the Jackets lost an 11-point second half lead was miserable. Asked if it had been one of the worst losses in recent years, senior Mfon Udofia said, “Yeah. It is. You expected to win. I marked this as a guaranteed win for us.”

Virginia Tech coach James Johnson was “We had a lot of guys step up,” said Virginia Tech coach James Johnson. “We limited them to one shot [per possession], basically.”

That was absolutely true down the stretch.

As the Jackets missed their final nine shots in regulation, they did not grab a single rebound off those misfires. They had one offensive rebound in that stretch, when Robert Carter Jr. gathered a free throw missed by Marcus Georges-Hunt.

Then, Virginia Tech’s Cadarian Raines blocked Carter’s shot.

That play, with 4:41 left in regulation, was the first of three point-blank shots missed by the Jackets. Daniel Miller missed at 2:09, and Georges-Hunt was blocked at the rim by Jarell Eddie at 1:37.

“I thought Robert had some good shots around the basket, and Daniel too,” Gregory said. “We just didn’t finish, and if we did get fouled, we didn’t get those in. There’s a couple key points there were you go to the free throw line with a chance to stop the bleeding, and we didn’t.”

The Hokies pulled within 55-53 when Raines grabbed an offensive rebound and then hit a jumper, and scoring machine Erick Green (28 points) made two free throws with 24 seconds left to tie it.

Head coach Brian Gregory has lamented his team’s rebounding for a while.

Georgia Tech had 41 opportunities to grab an offensive rebound (off a missed shot or free throw), and snatched a modest nine to Virginia Tech’s 32 defensive rebounds. That’s a 22 percent offensive rebounding rate.

Virginia Tech had 34 offensive rebound chances, and grabbed 11 to Georgia Tech’s 23 defensive rebounds. That’s a 32.4 percent rate for the Hokies, who extended their offensive possessions with rebounds on about one out of three chances. The Jackets did that in just over one out of five.

Late in regulation, that was lethal.

When the Hokies made their first three shots in overtime and the Jackets missed their first two in between (without grabbing either rebound) to leave Georgia Tech behind 62-55, Virginia Tech had gone on a 15-2 run.

Any conversation of toughness can be phrased many ways; that’s a subjective matter. It says here that the “grit” that Gregory said on Friday that his team needs more of is comprised chiefly of defense and rebounding.

The Jackets were good to go on the former until Virginia Tech made 5-of-6 shots in overtime, not so much on the latter.

Green countered Bolden’s trey with one of his own to pull Virginia Tech within 53-50 just seconds later, but it’s not like the visitors boat-raced the Jackets from there to the finish line.

Virginia Tech scored just five points over the final 6:51 of regulation. The Jackets were defending; they just weren’t scoring.

A free throw by Georges-Hunt with 4:06 and one by Miller with 3:44 were the Jackets’ only points in the final 7:25, when – unfortunately – Georgia Tech missed three free throws as well.

Add some misfortune, and the Jackets lost.

Georges-Hunt scored a breakaway layup with 4:06 left in overtime, and Eddie was called for a flagrant foul.

Problem: officials went to court-side monitors to review the play. The basket was disallowed as officials said that Brandon Reed touched the ball while it was on the goal.

Incredulous at the time, Gregory was no help explaining that after the game.

“No comment,” he said. “I don’t know. I better not say anything.”

Georges-Hunt made one of two free throws. When Georgia Tech then inbounded, Carter was wide open in the lane 12 feet out. His jumper missed, and Virginia Tech rebounded. Carter made 2-of-3 3-pointers Saturday, yet missed all nine of his shots inside the arc while leading the Jackets with 12 points.

What might have been a rare six-point possession (the layup, two free throws and Carter’s jumper) instead resulted in one point. The Jackets led 54-50.

“I guess pretty big [point in the game],” Gregory commented. “That was a layup, a flagrant foul and the ball back. Critical play.”

Add more misfortune, and Tech was done.

The overtime jump ball was staged three times. Miller won the first two, each of which was whistled off for reasons unclear to me. On the third jump, Virginia Tech won.

C.J. Barksdale hit a jumper on the Hokies’ first possession of overtime, and the Hokies led for the first time since there was 8:16 left in the first half.

The Hokies never trailed again, and the Jackets were left to rue their inability to grab offensive rebounds in the crunch.

“For us to be good and be successful, you can’t have those empty possessions,” Gregory said. “Where we’re at right now, that’s the key. There’s a mindset, understand that every possession you have to have that urgency.”

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