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#STINGDAILY: The "Big" Factor

Jan. 6, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The most obvious explanation for what happened as Georgia Tech lost its ACC opener  to Miami came after Saturday’s game when Daniel Miller said, “We hadn’t played bigs like that all year,” or something very much like that.

It wasn’t as simple as Tech’s junior center’s explanation. Frankly, the Jackets hadn’t played but 1.5 teams all season nearly as solid as the Hurricanes, and nobody stout for a long time.

That fact set the table for what happened in McCamish Pavilion. There, an incomplete mindset among the Jackets and Miami’s size led to the Hurricanes’ 62-49 win.

So, a glimpse at the “big” factor: 

Before the Yellow Jackets scored the final 10 points of the contest in a series of mad scrambles keyed mostly by subs for both teams, Miami led 62-39 and the ‘Canes had outscored Tech 28-10 in the paint. The visitors also won the battle of the boards, 40-29, a margin that doesn’t fully tell the rebounding story.

Despite what happened in McCamish Pavilion, the Yellow Jackets are A.) a lot better than they were last season, and B.) a lot better than they played on Saturday.

To summarize the ACC opener in football terms, the Jackets got their bell rung and never regained their wits.

They were tied at 17 late in the first half when freshman forward Robert Carter Jr. picked up his second foul and left the game.

He didn’t play again until the second half, and with Miller having already departed moments earlier for the balance of the half with his second foul, Miami put together a 16-6 run over the final few minutes of the first half for a 33-23 halftime lead.

This game was decided in that stretch. Four times in that span, the ‘Canes got to the basket for three layups and a tip-in, and they added two 3-pointers.

The fact that Miami sub guard Rion Brown – the son of former Tech scoring machine Tico Brown (1976-’79) – scored a career-high 22 points was relevant to the margin in this one, but not the theme.

Over roughly the final five minutes of the first half and the first 15 of the second, Tech was outscored by 23 points, and disjointed on both ends of the floor for much of that time.

The Jackets were knocked to the canvas and although they got up, they remained woozy for a long time, too long to recover with a mere 10-0 flurry at the end of the game.

“I thought that the last five minutes of the first half was a pretty big part of the game,” said Tech coach Brian Gregory. “We had both Robert and Daniel on the bench with foul trouble that really hurt us . . .

“With our depth, our bench needs to do a better job of making a big difference for us in the game.”

Miami started forwards Kenny Kadji (6-11) and Julian Gamble (6-10), and brought bigs Raphael Akpejiori (6-10) and Tonye Jekiri (7-0) off the bench.

That was, well, big.

The size had much to do with Tech’s poor shooting, although the Jackets missed more than a typical share of uncontested shots as well.

Tech made but 17-of-52 shots (32.7 percent), and was 10-for-15 from the free throw line. Three of those missed free throws became rebound opportunities.

Of all Tech’s missed shots (35 field goals and five free throws), Miami grabbed 30 defensive rebounds to Tech’s seven offensive rebounds.

That ratio won’t cut it. The Jackets will need to play with more force, and work more diligently for better shots whether they face a zone like Miami’s or not.

Time to grow up, freshmen and all, beginning Tuesday at N.C. State.

“We had a pretty good stretch where we were doing good things offensively,” Gregory said. “The only thing I didn’t like was when we would make some shots . . . we would get away from creating those same looks.

“That’s one of those things that will come with some maturity as we continue to work and improve.”

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