Feb. 23, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
As Georgia Tech prepares to face a second straight talented opponent that just happens to have been struggling recently, incoming Louisville and the Yellow Jackets can say they share a theme – inconsistency.
The No. 12 Cardinals edged Miami 55-53 on Saturday, the same day that Tech lost 89-60 at No. 15 North Carolina. Louisville (21-6, 9-5 ACC) had lost three of four games prior to topping the Hurricanes, much as North Carolina (19-8, 9-5) had lost four of five before playing the Jackets (12-15, 3-12).
In Louisville’s first trip to play on the Tech campus since the Jackets beat the Cardinals 82-69 almost 24 years ago to the day (Feb. 24, 1991), head coach Rick Pitino and his team are swirling.
Sunday, Pitino dismissed senior guard Chris Jones, the Cardinals’ second-leading scorer in ACC games (16.0 points per game) and leading assist man (4.0). Whether this development translates to an edge for the Jackets remains to be seen at 7 p.m. Monday in McCamish Pavilion.
The Cardinals are offensively challenged beyond leading scorer Terry Rozier (18.0), Jones (16.0) and Montrezl Harrell (15.3) as they combined to average 49.3 points in ACC action while the rest of the squad averages 18.1.
Freshman Quentin Snider (2.1, 1.0) is expected to start at point guard, and he’ll have big shoes to fill. Jones was the Cardinals’ top perimeter defender, and the junior college transfer was key to Pitino’s pressure systems.
Gregory knows about vacillations.
The Jackets’ loss at North Carolina was marked by erratic effort, and likely the least effective defense that Tech has rolled out all season.
The Tar Heels shot 62.3 percent, and out-rebounded the Jackets 37-29.
Tech’s calling cards were absent as UNC scored on 18-of-26 possessions to start the game, taking a 39-25 lead with a 22-8 edge in points scored in the paint. In that span, the Tar Heels averaged 1.5 points per possession. When they did not turn the ball over, they scored on 18-of-23 possessions.
The Jackets began the second half with turnovers issues, and the game was essentially over just a few minutes after halftime.
“I think it was five out of the first six possessions were turnovers where we had some shots, didn’t take them and forced a play,” Gregory said. “I called the second timeout because of a couple loose balls . . . our identity is we come up with those, and we didn’t.”
Louisville is like North Carolina in that both teams prefer a nearly frantic pace, although the Cardinals tend to try and force that on the defensive end where the Tar Heels push the ball like mad.
There were hopeful moments at North Carolina.
In freshman center Ben Lammers’ most significant ACC playing time he turned in six points with four rebounds, a blocked shot, an assist, and a steal in 16 minutes. Glimpses of potential were there to be viewed.
Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, and has scored in double digits in a career-best nine consecutive games.
In that time, he has averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 53.1 percent (52-for-98), 50 percent on 3-pointers (11-for-22) and 80 percent from the free throw line (32-for-40).
Off the bench at UNC, Quinton Stephens scored 10 points with four rebounds and three steals.
The Jackets will likely need more tonight.
“We got beat by a superior team [Saturday]; there’s no question about it,” Gregory said. “I’m OK with that, as long as you compete. We had some guys that did, and unfortunately we didn’t have everybody. And we need everybody.”