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#TGW: Far From Whole

March 1, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

There is the real assignment of getting ready to play this evening at Florida State in Georgia Tech’s only matchup with the Seminoles this season, but sometimes looking forward can be complicated by previous test results.

The Yellow Jackets have had a tough road.

The injury bug has been evil on a level that might be found in a Stephen King novel, there has been some other roster turmoil and Tech has lost a few games where no explanation seemed plausible, some games where the Jackets simply seemed to let go of the rope, and others where they were right there, but . . .

It’s hard to forget all that, and it all adds up to wear and tear of varying sorts.

Tech (13-15, 4-11 ACC) plays at FSU (16-11, 7-8) today at 6 p.m., head coach Brian Gregory has all of it in mind.

That’s a tricky deal, though, because if the boss were to make too big a deal of all that has plagued his team, he might well give players an invitation to feel sorry for themselves. That would be no frame of mind to carry into a competitive situation.

Still, this has been crazy. Injuries have prevented the Jackets from even practicing in a normal fashion, which makes executing in games a more dicey proposition.

Frustration is a part of life, and it’s been a big part of Tech’s reality.

There was at the beginning of the season a real feeling that the program was poised to make a substantial move forward, yet it’s been hard to evaluate whether that has happened because the Jackets have been so far from whole.

How do you taste-test a pie if somebody pulls it out of the oven too early?

“It is [frustrating] when you know you’re pretty close to having a pretty good team,” Gregory said. “[In addition to injuries and an ever-shortened roster] when you pile on a small mistake here or there, our margin of error has become so small…

“There’s the fatigue factor, the rhythm of practice. As kids nowadays say, it is what it is and you’ve got to figure out a way to get it done.”

If you know nothing about the Seminoles, a glance at their record might make them look like a so-so mark. Frankly, that’s about right.

There was the confounding home loss to Miami (FSU later won at Miami), but also in Florida State’s last game, the Seminoles won 71-66 at Pitt last Sunday.

They took No. 1 Florida to the edge in Gainesville before losing 67-66 on Nov. 29, and lost by two in overtime to No. 16 Michigan on Nov. 22.

The `Noles walloped Charlotte 106-62, whipping a team Tech edged 58-55. And they won 56-41 at Clemson, but lost to Clemson at home.

So there’s a bit of consternation in Tallahassee, too.

When FSU is playing the way coach Leonard Hamilton prefers, they’re stingy as can be. When they’re not, they’re nothing special at all.

“One they thing do a great job of is protecting the rim. I think Leonard has done a really good job of getting back to some of the defensive principles [of the past],” Gregory said. “Hard pressure, a lot of physical play, and they’re hard to score on. “When they get into a flow offensively, they’re one of the top teams in the league. That win at Pittsburgh . . . from start to finish they dominated almost every aspect of the game.”

The Seminoles have blocked 153 shots in 27 games to Tech’s 119 blocks in 28. They don’t have a Daniel Miller (68 blocks) per se, but they have several junior versions. Boris Bojanovsky has swatted 51, Okaro White 27 and Michael Ojo 24.

“We talked about their size,” the Tech coach said. “They’re all big and long.”

Tech’s transition defense has waned, and the Jackets’ offense has suffered with the groin strain of point guard Trae Golden. He scored a team-high 17 last weekend against Clemson, and then went scoreless a few days later at Notre Dame.

The senior is not the player he was, the whirling dervish who earlier in the season went routinely whizzing through lanes. And the Jackets’ leading scorer might not be that player again – at Tech.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for him just due to the fact that . . . it’s going to be two weeks of nothing but rest and rehab [that mends Golden all the way],” Gregory explained. “He’ll have April to do that.”

Sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. appears highly mended, on the other hand, after going for 19 points and 10 rebounds at Notre Dame.

The Jackets, though, have suffered repeatedly after suffering injuries galore. They’ve never had a chance to build momentum because they’ve been so beat up.

Today, senior forward Kam Holsey will play with a bum knee and sophomore swing man Marcus Georges-Hunt continues to battle through a tweaked hip and other maladies.

Gregory says, however, that the Jackets’ spirit has not been broken.

“It’s hard for them, but when the dust settles you have got to give them some credit. They keep coming back and battling back,” he said. “I think it says a lot about our seniors because they’re the ones have the most at stake. Two of them are not at 100 percent.”

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