Jan. 27, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
On the road, where maps might often be used, Georgia Tech will try tonight to connect dots, or at least halves, at N.C. State. The Yellow Jackets have led at intermission in four of six ACC games, after all, yet won only once.
So what’s the map look like?
It’s simple, really, a very foul schematic that suggest the Jackets need to keep their hands to themselves. In the three ACC games that Tech (11-8, 1-5 ACC) led at halftime but lost, the Jackets were outscored 49-17 at the free throw line after intermission.
Marcus Georges-Hunt is having a spectacular season, leading the Jackets in scoring yet again and doing so much more. He fouled out with 1:01 left last Saturday against Louisville, however, after scoring a game-high 23 points – including a 12-for-12 showing at the free throw line.
He picked up four of his five fouls after halftime.
The Jackets sure could have used him over the final 61 seconds. They were tied when he left the game, only to lose 75-71 to the Cardinals.
Louisville scored its final seven points from the charity stripe.
Tech attempted 26 combined free throws in the second halves of losses to North Carolina (the Jackets led 42-39), Virginia Tech (43-33) and Louisville (39-32) after leading at intermission each time. The Tar Heels, Hokies and Cardinals combined to shoot 66 times from the stripe in those second halves.
So what gives?
“We’re fouling more, obviously,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “I think a little bit sometimes is positioning. Sometimes, you have situations in the second half where [the defense is] not in front of our bench so you need better concentration and communication amongst the guys on the court.”
In no game was it more obvious than against Virginia Tech that opponents seek to drive against the Jackets, knowing that they have problems defending without fouling.
Georges-Hunt picked up a couple fouls while trying to fight through ball screens only to get caught with his hands in the wrong place.
He said after the Louisville game that he shouldn’t have dropped his digits, that he had to, “show my hands.”
That’s a good point.
There’s a greater emphasis on hand-checking and contact this season among NCAA officials, a mandate handed down before the season.
It’s a better idea to battle through screens while leading with a hand – with the other clearly trailing – rather than trying to uses hands to wedge through.
Is it really that straight forward?
“Oh, yeah; it’s that simple,” Gregory said. “That doesn’t mean if you show your hands you’re not going to be called, but if your hands are within your shoulders and there’s contact with your arms at all – even if the offense grabs you first – it’s going to be a foul on the defense.”
The Jackets will have their hands full with N.C. State guard Anthony “Cat” Barber.
He’s been leading the ACC in scoring most of the season (22.1 points per game), and he’s been top five in assists (4.7). Barber makes the Wolfpack (11-9, 1-6) go, and Georges-Hunt will have a crack at him tonight – as will other Jackets.
“I just know Cat, he’s the motor for them,” Georges-Hunt said. “He’s quick. He can score in many ways.”
It won’t be easy to catch the Cat by his tail.
Nothing’s come easy for the Jackets, though, and Georges-Hunt wants to put his hands up. That’s absolutely not with surrender in mind.
“Really just stay positive. The goal is to win every game,” he said of what it takes to keep pushing without letting narrow losses cloud the Jackets’ skies. “It’s like life, too. Get the best out of your day and just get back up and fight. Be strong from the neck on up, and that will carry you a long way.
“It’s still all out there. Probably a lot of folks count us out, but you can’t worry about what people on the outside think.”