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#STINGDAILY: Picking Yourself Up

Nov. 25, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn Sting Daily

The goal going into Georgia Tech’s basketball game against North Carolina A&T was not to end up walking away Sunday evening saying, “Wow, that was a good win.” Yet that’s what happened after a 78-71 victory.

A rout was anticipated against a MEAC team that played six freshmen.

A gut-check broke out.

In the end, that may have been a good thing, an accelerator to speed the Yellow Jackets’ growth. They have, after all, already in this young season shown a galling immaturity.

After the Jackets rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to beat the Aggies there was an unexpected takeaway: Tech muscled up, manned up and bore through real challenges. That they dug themselves a hole was the problem.

That they pulled themselves out of it was, hopefully, more important because every team trips itself but not every team picks itself up

That was a lot more than the Jackets could say four days earlier, when they fell behind Dayton at home, stayed behind, and then panicked in trying to make up the difference all at once rather than one play at a time.

“One of the things that we in this program have to get better at in this process is . . . you can’t get so discouraged. You have to keep fighting that next possession, keep it up for the next play,” head coach Brian Gregory explained of the difference between the way the Jackets handled their mess against Dayton and the way they responded against A&T.

“If you string some of those together, then you can eliminate an 11-point deficit or stretch a lead – whatever needs to be done.”

Against A&T (1-3), Tech (4-1) finally settled into its rightful rhythm, which is to say they turned to a more frenetic defensive pace and started forcing errors by the Aggies.

Trailing 49-38 with just over 13 minutes left in the game, Gregory called timeout. He read the riot act.

“The lesson today was we were down 11, and I got on ’em pretty good in one of our timeouts, particuarly a couple of our better players,” the coach said. “Those guys responded extremely well.”

With a 14-3 run, the Jackets tied the game at 52. Key to their success was a 21-for-28 showing at the free throw line in the second half after a miserable 8-for-18 first half had much to do with a 37-33 halftime deficit.

Gregory said it was about greater focus.

Makes sense.

It was about defense, too, even though center Daniel Miller was limited to 20 minutes of playing time because of foul trouble. He eventually fouled out, in fact, in a game that featured 57 combined fouls and 77 free throws.

Solomon Poole hit a 3-pointer after the Jackets forced a turnover, and then Poole had a steal and assisted Trae Golden on a layup at the other end.

“I think the biggest thing for us is we got a few stops, and we were able to capitalize,” Golden said after scoring a game-high 20 points with seven assists.

Maybe that timeout worked.

“Yeah. I was one of [the players] who got busted,” Marcus Georges-Hunt said after scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds. “I deserved it because I wasn’t playing so well. [Coach Gregory said] ‘Pick it up, you’re slacking.

” ‘Get on the boards . . . play defense, stay solid.’ He wasn’t really upset. He had a lot of energy, and that energy really picked me up and made me play better.”

That may be a PG telling of a BG session.

Whatever, there would be three more ties before Tech closed with a 17-5 blitz to win.

Gregory said the key to him was that the Jackets picked up the D down the stretch. For a while there, they played the way he wants them to play all the time.

Sunday, it was enough. There will be plenty of times to come – and tonight’s game against Mississippi Valley State will offer the next chance – where the Jackets will need more than 13 minutes of it.

“For me, it’s not necessarily who you did it against. It was, ‘Did we do it?’ ” the coach said. “There’s five or six plays in a game that are going to make the difference. The problem is you don’t know when those five or six plays are so you have to play every play like it’s [going to be] one of those plays.

“We’re not there yet. We don’t do that on a consistent basis. That’s what good teams do. We’ve gotten better at it, but we’re not quite there.”

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