Jan. 27, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– Coming off the best game of Daniel Miller’s Georgia Tech career and heading into Wednesday’s contest against North Carolina, one could make the case that the senior center is akin to the Tar Heels: they’re all really good when they bring it.
Miller’s career-high 21 points and 14 rebounds weren’t quite enough to help get Tech past NC State Sunday as the Wolfpack squeaked out an 80-78 overtime win.
Sunday also saw an erratic UNC squad play up to its fleeting capability in an 80-61 win over Clemson. Even with that, the Tar Heels are a modest 12-7, and 2-4 in the ACC.
It was a nice glimpse of what the Miller can do, and what the Jackets need of him on a more regular basis as soon as tomorrow night in McCamish Pavilion.
“The one thing about Daniel is he’s all about the team so some games, at times he might not seem as assertive or [he might] take a back seat, and those are the days we’re trying to get him to understand we need more out of him,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said on Monday’s ACC teleconference.
“He doesn’t have to play perfect, but near perfect to be honest with you.”
Miller’s role has evolved since power forward Robert Carter, Jr., was sidelined with a knee injury earlier this month.
North Carolina has evolved as a unit. About four or five times. Maybe more.
The Tar Heels have lost at home to Belmont, at Alabama-Birmingham, by 15 points at Virginia, and at Wake Forest.
They’ve also beaten No. 7 Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., and won against No. 11 Kentucky and No. 12 Louisville.
So after demolishing a pretty solid Clemson squad Sunday as James Michael McAdoo scored 22 points, and leading scorer Marcus Paige tallied 13 of his 15 in the second half, UNC coach Roy Williams sounded a bit in talking about his team like Gregory sometimes does in speaking about his center.
“I’m going to try to keep emphasizing it, screaming, stomping, whatever it takes,” Williams told reporters. “But they’ve got to bring it. When they do that, we’ve got a chance to be a good team.”
The Jackets (11-9, 2-5) have had to do quite a bit of adjusting.
They lost guard Travis Jorgenson to a season-ending knee injury, Carter’s been out, senior swing man Jason Morris has been in and out of the rotation with different injuries, Carter is down, and guard Solomon Poole has been sidelined by medical issues.
Some players are growing up faster.
Freshman Quinton Stephens is a good example. He’s been erratic, as when he fouled out of a game in just 10 minutes, and yet Sunday in Raleigh he scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds off the bench.
Carter’s absence has likely impacted Miller more than anyone.
“It puts more pressure on him. Unfortunately, almost every mistake he makes is magnified because he doesn’t have Robert behind him,” Gregory said. “Our defense hasn’t been as good without Robert. We never gave up a second shot when the two of them were in there.
“On the offensive end, we’re running more stuff to get him involved. More has been demanded of him, and he’s responded well. The negative is a lot of pressure has been put on him. He’s had a heck of a senior year. He dialed it up. He had a great summer, really dedicated himself to getting stronger and in better shape.”
Tech is in no position to brood about Sunday’s narrow loss to N.C. State. Miller and the short-staffed Jackets had better be ready to run Wednesday night.
“In this league, if you worry about the last game you’re going to get whacked in the next one,” Gregory said. “The sky isn’t falling [on UNC]. They’re still a highly talented team. They have great length at every position. They’re great in transition.
“They have high-level players who when they’re in rhythm and moving the ball and sharing the ball, they’re really hard to defend. You can’t key on one thing.”
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