Nov. 13, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
There was a time not so very long ago when a Georgia Tech basketball coach did not exactly embrace the idea of playing Georgia much. One might speculate as to reasons, but that won’t happen here.
Presently, however, Yellow Jackets’ coach Brian Gregory is very much looking forward to Friday’s game in Athens, where Tech will have a chance to become the first school on either side to win this game three years running since Tech did it in 1992-’93-’94.
And yes, like many fans, he wishes this year’s meeting were scheduled a little deeper in the season but it just did not work out that way.
“One time a year you get to play the Georgia Tech-Georgia game, and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” Gregory said Wednesday. “[Georgia coach] Mark [Fox] and I tried to figure out a time to play it later.
“With our finals, and their finals and the way the holidays fell this was the only time we could fit it in. I think both would like to play it a little later, but you have to play the game when the schedule allows it.”
In ways, this will be like a pickup game down at the corner. So many players from Tech (2-0) and Georgia (1-0) not only know each other well, but have played with and against one another since they were relative tots.
“I know most all of them. They recruited me, too,” said Tech sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. “I know Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann . . . There’s definitely a lot of tension and excitement. Everybody talks about it. Nobody here likes UGA, and I’m guessing nobody at UGA likes Tech.”
That goes without saying.
These appear to be a new brand of Jackets, although that wasn’t quite as apparent in Monday’s 68-50 win over Delaware State as in the season-opening 88-57 win over Presbyterian.
Monday, Tech wasn’t quite as successful in coping with Delaware State’s attempts to slow the pace as the Jackets were against Presbyterian. Still, there were signs of offensive progress. Gregory’s greatest disappointments from Monday’s game came not from the Jackets’ failure to do what he’s asking, but to not do it with enough energy and concentration.
Georgia will provide ample opportunity to turn up the volume. Tech needs to be more aggressive in rebounding and more diligent defensively to appease the head coach.
“After 16 minutes [Monday], we had played extremely well. Our defense was guarding the dribble-penetration, we were helping our teammates, we were playing very good team defense and rebounding the ball exceptionally well,” Gregory said.
“We always want to dictate what we’re doing and because of them slowing the game down and lowering the possessions, I think we got out of sorts at times more-so on the defensive end. There’s a maturity factor in games that you need to make sure you’re seeing a continuous increase in.”
Senior Kam Holsey has played in Athens before. He says he loved it, no doubt in great measure because the Jackets won over there a couple seasons ago, and he doesn’t a lack of energy or focus will be issues this time around.
“The crowd was crazy,” Holsey said. “I enjoy playing the game.”
The Bulldogs may be just what Gregory ordered.
“Georgia is playing very well right now; very fast-paced, very athletic. They play a lot of different guys. It’s a style of play that suits them well and will pose a lot of problems to us, and we’re going to have to play extremely well. They’re hard-nosed defensively; they’re hard to score against.
“They’re great on the glass. Those are two areas that are obviously near and dear to my heart. I know how hard it is to get kids to play great team defense, and play with the effort and intensity, to rebound the ball the way they do. There’s a lot of similarities.”
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