Feb. 1, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– For a moment or two depending on the individual, Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets were frozen Saturday afternoon after taking a collective kick in the gut. They’re moving forward, though, even as progress may be hard to see through the fog.
When NC State’s Trevor Lacey’s 25-foot jumper dropped through just ahead of the overtime buzzer in McCamish Pavilion to give the Wolfpack an 81-80 win, shock prevailed. Tech fought from so far back, 14 points in the first half, and did so many obvious things well that losing hurt that much more.
Of positive note, junior Marcus Georges-Hunt has taken the leadership role that head coach Brian Gregory has thrust upon him and is running with it, point guard Travis Jorgenson picked up speed, Tech made 17-of-21 free throws (81 percent) and the Jackets had a 49-31 rebounding edge.
# Georges-Hunt scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds, added three assists to stretch the best three-game run of his college career.
With 20, 24 and 23 points against Boston College, Miami and N.C. State, he’s averaging 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in that spell, shooting 60 percent from the field and 77.2 percent from the free throw line. He’s hit 2-of-6 three-pointers in that run, but he’s making hay by attacking the basket.
“I think he’s a great player, and Brian’s got him doing just what he needs to be doing; he’s using his strength,” said N.C. State coach Mike Gottfried. “It’s hard to stop him because of his strength. I told him after the game after the game he’s a great player, and we were fortunate, fortunate to hit a shot.”
Gregory has not hidden his belief that Georges-Hunt can be one of the ACC’s top players, yet there have been times where one could wonder reasonably if the soft-spoken junior has the personality to match that role.
Not lately. He was notably vocal in huddles and on the floor Saturday, and is growing demonstrably as the Jackets’ alpha hoopster.
“Before I get the ball, I know which way I want to go and who I want to attack, what gap is open,” he said. “I know a lot of bumps are going to come when I’m driving … I’m always going to attack.
“Sometimes, there’s a lot of weight on me but people step up and the defense has to respect them for a second and that’s when I attack. Being that I’m all over the place, in a lot of positions, that helps me.”
# Jorgenson may not become a full-time double-digit scorer, but in scoring a career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting Saturday, he looked the part.
In playing a season-high 31 minutes, he pitched in four assists, made both his free throws, both his three-pointers, and added a couple of rebounds. He helped defensively in the second half as the Jackets adjusted to slow N.C. State point guard Cat Barber, who scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half.
“That’s the most minutes he’s played since he’s been here, played a good floor game,” Gregory said. “I thought he defended extremely well in the second half on Barber. I thought he played well in Miami also.
“We’re at a different pace when he’s out there in terms of our transition game, which is important for us.”
# If rebounds were punches, the Jackets would’ve won by knockout. They whipped the Wolfpack 49-31 on the boards, and from halftime on, Tech bludgeoned the visitors 30-13 on the glass.
With 22 offensive rebounds plus 27 defensive rebounds to N.C. State’s seven offensive caroms, the Jackets’ rebounding was at times their best offense and defense against the Wolfpack.
“That was the part of the game that was frustrating for us,” Gottfried said after watching his team get whipped 46-21 on the boards after the Wolfpack took a 21-7 lead on the scoreboard.
“We couldn’t get a defensive stop, because we couldn’t get a defensive rebound. But even with that we found a way to win which is amazing.”
This would be a good spot to transition into what worked against the Jackets. Close inspection reveals devils in the details.
Georges-Hunt made a series of shots near the goal, several while appearing off balance, and he had two chances to finish off the Wolfpack in the waning seconds of regulation.
With the game tied at 68, Gottfried subbed in BeeJay Anya, a 6-foot-9, 295-pound sophomore shot blocker who entered the game leading the ACC with 2.68 blocked shots per game despite playing just 18 minutes per contest off the bench.
Anya, whom N.C. State officials say has lost more than 50 pounds since joining the program, has a 7-foot-9-inch wingspan that is the second longest ever in the NBA Draft Express database.
Georges-Hunt went at him and other `Packers and missed a driving shot with six seconds left. Anya didn’t get it – he had no blocks – yet Georges-Hunt was knocked off balance enough by the big guy and a couple teammates that he didn’t get off a clean shot.
No foul was called, and the ball went off N.C. State and out of bounds. It took video review to confirm that.
Then, Georges-Hunt had another shot at it.
He received the ball near the Tech bench and drove from the left high elbow into the lane.
Next thing you know, he and Anya were down on the floor and at least one whistle blew with 1.9 on the clock.
“It was a good call,” Georges-Hunt said. “I kind of fell off balance a little bit, and … they called a charge. It was a good call.”
That may be Georges-Hunt’s personality – he’s a nice guy – bubbling up.
While he may have stumbled, Anya was not set as Georges-Hunt contacted him. The NC State defender was back pedaling.
It says here the order there should have been no call or blocking on Anya.
It wasn’t, though, and onto overtime they went after Lacey missed a long shot.
Raw numbers don’t always tell the entire story, of course. Timing matters and pre-text often does as well.
Tech made 11-of-12 free throws in regulation. In overtime, the Jackets were 6-of-9.
Charles Mitchell, who had a fairly splendid game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and just one turnover in 35 minutes, split a pair of free throws soon after overtime began.
The odds of Tech winning were great after Jorgenson made two free throws with 19 seconds left in overtime. The Jackets led 80-76. Georges-Hunt made two with 43 seconds to go to give Tech the lead, 78-76.
Lacey got loose to drive the lane for a layup with 6.9 seconds left, though, when the Jackets were gearing hard to stop the long ball.
“They were pushing up on us to make sure we didn’t get a three off,” Lacey said. “We ran them off and Cat found me, and I was able to get a quick bucket.”
Knowing the Wolfpack would quickly foul, Gregory subbed out Corey Heyward, Mitchell and Demarco Cox, and inserted Chris Bolden, Josh Heath and Quinton Stephens, “because he [Stephens] is an 80 percent free throw shooter.”
Actually, Stephens entered with an 83.3 percent mark from the free throw line. A deeper look at the numbers reveals, however, that Stephens’ opportunities have been limited.
He hasn’t been that situation very often, making 10-of-12 free throws in the Jackets’ first 20 games. Only twice had he gone to the line in ACC games, making one.
Saturday, he missed both. Cody Martin rebounded the second, and got the ball to Lacey in the middle of the floor. After a couple dribbles, he pulled up and let fly from about 25 feet, over Jorgenson and Heath. It was good.
Gregory said, “You can look at 10 things here or there that cost us that game, not just those free throws.”
The coach has a point, or points.
Tech’s rebounding numbers were, on their whole, glorious.
What the Jackets did with those rebounds wasn’t always so. They scored 21 second-chance points off their 22 offensive rebounds. That’s an OK number, as Gregory says a point scored per offensive rebound is roughly equivalent to a C grade.
The Jackets had plenty of chances near the rim, scoring 38 points in the paint. A look at their shot chart tweaks the narrative. Tech took 27 shots at the rim, either layups, dunk tries or tip-in tries.
“We did a great job on the offensive glass, particularly in the second half,” Gregory said. “Our offense generated good looks. So that makes it easier to offensive rebound. We got good post touches and good hard drives to the basket.”
The Jackets converted 13-of-27. NC State was good on 7-of-7.
Gottfried surmised that one of the reasons his team was so badly beaten on the defensive glass was because the Wolfpack was trying too hard to block shots (they had four) that they pulled themselves out of rebounding position.
Perhaps. But the Wolfpack also disrupted enough shots as to make Tech miss too many for their own good.
With 12 points and a Tech career-high 10 rebounds, Demarco Cox helped. After scoring in double digits in just five of 102 games for Ole Miss, he’s done that 10 times for the Jackets, and in two straight.
His tip-in of shot missed by Chris Bolden gave the Jackets a 68-66 lead with 51 seconds left in regulation.
He had a rough day, though, making 5-of-16 shots. The `Pack swarmed him like yellow jackets every time he had the ball. Three of his shots were attempted from the paint (misses). All others were rim shots.
Strong as he is, Cox is shooting 45.6 percent in ACC games (31-of-68).
He and the Jackets (10-11, 1-8 ACC) will go back to work. They play at Duke (18-3, 5-3) Wednesday.
“Losing like that, yeah, it hurts,” Georges-Hunt said. “But I’m not going to sit back and, you know, put my head down and dwell and complain,” Georges-Hunt said. “I’m just going to keep pushing the guys, and we’re going to come back on Monday and get better, get ready for Duke.”
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