Feb. 15, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
As ACC play heads toward its final hand few of games, it’s pretty obvious that the breaks are not going to even out for Georgia Tech this season.
If you believe breaks eventually do even out, Brian Gregory and the Yellow Jackets have a massive payday coming down the road, but as far as 2014-15, no way.
About the only break the Yellow Jackets have gotten this season is heartbreak.
On Saturday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion, the Jackets (11-14, 2-11), who you’d think had run out of ways to have their hearts broken, found they had another, allowing a game-closing 9-0 run by Florida State (14-12, 6-7) in falling, 57-53.
It was Georgia Tech’s fourth loss this season when leading with five minutes to play. Marcus Georges-Hunt had 17 points, extending his record for consecutive double-digit-scoring games to seven (two more than his previous career-high), and also matched his season highs with nine rebounds, tied for the team lead, and five assists, while Demarco Cox added 12 with his 12th double-digit-scoring effort — he had five in three years at Ole Miss. — and Robert Sampson grabbed nine boards, matching his season high.
“Our guys fought, that’s what we do. We have just got to keep doing it,” said Gregory after the Jackets’ 10th straight loss to FSU. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow there’s no doubt about it. But again, you have got to get one crucial stop there at the end and we were not able to do that.”
The inability to finish both halves was critical. Gregory pointed to the end of the first half, where FSU also closed on a 9-0 run, turning a 23-23 tie into a 32-23 halftime deficit. The Jackets went 0-for-5 with three turnovers during the Seminoles’ run.
“I thought the last four minutes of the first half was a crucial part of the game for us,” said Gregory. “I thought it was the only four minutes that we did not play with the physicality, toughness, and intensity level that you need to play with when you play a Florida State team. I thought that really put us in a hole, but our guys responded well especially to start the second half.” The Jackets, who were 1-7 when trailing at the half, seemed determine to turn that statistic around, busting out on a 15-2 run over the first six minutes of the second half to take a 38-34 lead, with Georges-Hunt scoring eight of the points.
The game stayed tight, heading into the final 7:44, when a Cox layup forged the sixth tie of the game. He then completed the three-point play to put Tech ahead. After a Seminoles basket, Chris Bolden hit a jumper to regain a one-point lead. The Jackets would push the lead to five with 3:31 left and seemed to have all the momentum.
But those final 231 seconds became the witching hour.
Beginning with the second of two foul shots by forward Charles Mitchell, Tech, up 53-48, didn’t make another shot of any kind the rest of the way, going 0-for-5 and 0-for-2 from the line. Even Georges-Hunt missed the front end of a one-and-one with eight seconds left and Tech trailing 55-53.
While Tech went cold, the Seminoles couldn’t miss. They went 7-for-8 at the line and 1-for-1 from the floor. It was the `Noles’ eighth straight game decided by eight-or-fewer points and their fifth victory in those games. Meanwhile Georgia Tech’s misery in close games was extended, as the Jackets suffered their ninth loss by seven-or-fewer points and their ninth loss in a game where they were within one or two possessions in the final minute.
The loss overshadowed what had been a terrific effort by the Jackets. They won points in the paint (32-22), second-chance points (8-4), and fast-break points (19-10). They doubled up FSU on the offensive boards (12-6), won the turnover battle (18-11 — the 18 miscues the most by a Tech opponent since Nov. 18 against Alabama A&M, the second game of the season) and had a resounding edge in points off turnovers (19-4 — the 19 points a season-high in conference play). Tech also worked the ball beautifully, recording a season-high 16 assists on their 21 baskets, with the point guard tandem of Travis Jorgenson and Josh Heath combining for 10 assists against only three turnovers.
But, rearing its ugly head was that inability to close. GT turned the dozen offensive boards into only eight points, and, at the line, they made only two more free throws (eight) than they made. Over the final five minutes of the two halves, Tech shot 3-for-16 (.188), missing their final five shots of the first half and their last six shots of the second, and went 1-for-4 from the line, with four turnovers.
While the Jackets have proved incredibly resilient and have never showed a trace of quitting — they’re going to show up hungry when they take the court next against Clemson at McCamish on Monday — Gregory admitted that the seemingly bottomless well of bad luck that Tech has fallen into during ACC season is getting hard to take. That good karma they have in escrow is of little consolation.
“I don’t think you can go through the nine times that we went through it in the league and not have that. That’s human nature,” he said. “I do not think there’s any question that it’s weighing on the guys but our guys have done a pretty good job of not letting that affect how hard they have played. They are still sticking together and fighting together.”
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