March 3, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
The Yellow Jackets logged yet another odd entry Monday in their diaries about an oblong basketball season as they flew from Tallahassee, Fla., to Syracuse, N.Y. and flipped their worlds around in the process. Yet again.
Georgia Tech lost 81-71 Sunday evening to Florida State in a game where the visitors got a little offense going in the second half, but could not keep the Seminoles from cranking it up a little more.
It was 75 and sunny Sunday at FSU, and about 12 degrees with snow all over the place in Syracuse, where the Jackets arrived at their hotel around 5 p.m. yesterday.
In as strange a turnaround as the ACC likely has scheduled all season for any teams, Tech (13-16, 4-12 ACC) will play the No. 7 Orange (26-3, 13-3) tonight 49 hours after taking on the Seminoles in another part of the country and without having slept in their own beds in between.
Into their diaries, under the headline, “The winter I nearly went nuts,” they bled.
Nevermind for a moment that Syracuse is reeling, with three losses in its past four games after a 25-0 start.
The Jackets are having a hard time thinking straight.
This season of beating beaten down by injuries to the point where head coach Brian Gregory and players hardly know from one day to the next who will be able to play or how much, let alone how well, has baffled and irritated.
Technical difficulties made Gregory’s appearance on Monday morning’s ACC coaches teleconference a bit balky.
Once he started rolling, he lamented aloud for his players, especially seniors Daniel Miller, Trae Golden, Kam Holsey and the injured Jason Morris. Gregory lauded the upperclassmen for their stick-to-it-iveness, yet pined for them as well.
Golden’s groin is still wrenched, and Holsey has not practiced for about three weeks because of a wonked knee. He played just 11 minutes at FSU. Morris has trademarked the term, “Buzzard’s luck,” for his past three years.
And that’s roughly just about half the Jackets’ 2013-’14 injury misery.
“With all the stuff that we’ve been through this year . . . not being able to either field the team [coaches and players thought they’d have] or have the guys out there that are 100 percent and true to who they are as players, it can get frustrating.”
Against Florida State, sophomore Robert Carter Jr. put up another solid game, scoring 20 points with the benefit of a perfect night on 11 attempts from the free throw line, and Golden bounced back from a dreadful outing against Notre Dame to score 16 and Miller was rock solid with 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
The whole thing felt goofy, though.
Not often does a team attempt 27 more shots than its opponent, turn the ball over just eight times, and eke out a 36-35 rebounding edge and yet lose by 10 home or away.
That happened, though, as another bizarre installment to the season.
Florida State is so good at protecting the rim, that the Jackets would hoist 27 3-point shots. Generally, that is not their game. Sunday, they made just five, and in the second half went 3-for-16.
Florida State corralled several of the resulting long rebounds and turned them into points in a 46-40 second half.
“There were a couple stretches there where we were just not able to get some key stops,” Gregory said. “And at about the 18 mark of the second half they went on a couple runs that decided the game.”
Tech’s first appearance in the Carrier Dome as a member of the ACC will not offer a warm and fuzzy environment.
Orange coach Jim Boeheim, his players and fans up in New York have quickly become both dazed and cranky. C.J. Fair and freshman Tyler Ennis are among the best players in the nation, but suddenly Syracuse has lost its identity.
Folks are not going to be in a good mood tonight after the Orange were pasted the other day in Charlottesville, where a miserable second half mandated that they cede the ACC regular-season title to Virginia.
The Jackets, frankly, have never been able to forge an identity, especially in conference play.
And yet, Gregory applauds the ethic of his seniors.
“Those guys have done a tremendous job of staying positive as much as they can,” the coach said. “I think it speaks values of what the guys have bought into. There’s never been a day or a game where those guys weren’t 100 percent bought in.
“It’s a difficult challenge for them because it could have been a lot different.”
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