Feb. 10, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
The final minutes were unkind to Georgia Tech Monday night, when the Yellow Jackets’ grip loosened late in a 65-63 loss at Virginia Tech.
With the ball, a 10-point lead and 4:23 left in the game, Jackets went on to fall as the Hokies scored on their final eight possessions and won on Malik Muller’s 3-pointer at the 18-second mark.
An ACC season marked by tight games saw another go against Georgia Tech.
“They took the ball to the basket, they got to the free throw line and got a couple calls there down the stretch,” said Jackets coach Brian Gregory. “Our defense in the last five minutes wasn’t where it needed to be . . we had a defensive breakdown at the end.
“We left a man in the corner and you can’t do that when you are up two. That was disappointing that we did that.”
The Jackets went up 58-48 on a trey by Tadric Jackson with 5:09 left, the last of the freshman guard’s 10 points.
Christian Beyer’s steal from Marcus Georges-Hunt with 4:23 led to a 3-pointer by Justin Bibb to trigger the Hokies’ 17-5 closing blitz.
Virginia Tech made 5-of-12 3-pointers overall, including 4-of-7 in the second half.
The Jackets (11-13, 2-10 ACC) were done in equally by short-range shots as the Hokies scored on four consecutive layups before Jalen Hudson made a pair of free throws with 35 seconds left to pull Virginia Tech (10-14, 2-9) within 62-61.
That, actually, was the Hokies’ plan in the waning minutes.
Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams wanted his team to find its way to the free throw line. So, they attacked the basket. They didn’t get fouled much.
“We were just trying to isolate certain things they were doing,” Williams said. “We were also in the bonus so when we were down ten with four and a half minutes to play, obviously we want the clock to stop and to get to the free throw line. I think Jalen is our best downhill guy when he wants to be.
“So we had Jalen [drive], if he gets fouled or gets Malik’s [defender] in help, pitch it [to Muller].”
Muller’s final trey from the right corner, on an assist from the driving Hudson, gave the Hokies a 64-62 lead.
Reserve forward Charles Mitchell led the Jackets with 17 points and eight rebounds as Georgia Tech outrebounded Virginia Tech 39-27 and grabbed 19 off the offensive glass. Jackson added 10 points and three rebounds while the Jackets’ bench outscored Hokies’ reserves 36-15 and win 19-8 on the boards.
Mitchell missed 2-of-4 free throws in the closing stretch, however, and Georgia Tech missed three of its last four shots in that time on the way to shooting 37.7 percent (23-of-61).
Georges-Hunt made a layup and a pair of free throws in that stretch to score 11 points while Chris Bolden added 10.
The Jackets didn’t have enough in the offensive tank to survive the Hokies’ closing rush.
Georges-Hunt’s heavily-contested close-range try with three seconds missed, and the Hokies added a free throw to wrap it up.
“We wanted to take the ball to the basket. It’s a tough, bitter pill to swallow,” “But we wanted the ball in Marcus [Georges-Hunt]’s hands. He’s our go-to guy, that’s who’s going to win the game for us in the end.”
That was a problem all along.
Georgia Tech was outscored 38-36 in the paint, and managed 19 points off of its 19 offensive rebounds. Add that to the Hokies’ 56 percent shooting in the second half (14-of-25), including 4-of-7 treys, and the result was sour.
“We didn’t score in the post very well. Demarco [Cox] got five shots and only made one of them, and Marcus didn’t shoot the ball well,” Gregory said. “They changed up their zone and gave us a little problem here and there, but I thought for the most part we got some good looks and didn’t make them.
“With 19 offensive rebounds you’ve got to capitalize a little more than that and you’ve got to get to the free throw line more than 19 times [making 13].”