Feb. 10, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Perhaps a fan wouldn’t usually sweat the notion of Boston College visiting Wednesday, but in a season where nothing is assumable the idea that Trae Golden of all players might not play against the Eagles is more disconcerting.
The guard is not only the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer, but he nearly by himself saved Tech’s tail in a 68-60 win at B.C. a few weeks ago.
He scored eight of his season-high 24 points in the final 2:16 to thwart a Boston College comeback, and the biggest part of Golden’s game – the dribble-drive – is both especially important against B.C.’s defense and something the Jackets don’t do particularly well beyond the senior transfer.
Tech (12-12, 3-8 ACC) know so much about injuries and being short-handed that they could write a manual on it, and Boston College (6-17, 2-8) have experienced extra shares of frustration as well in the form of several narrow losses.
The knowledge that sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. will play for the second straight game after missing 10 following knee surgery is good.
Not knowing whether Golden will play through his groin pull is not.
Do not be surprised if the Powder Springs, Ga., native sits out his second game in a span of three. He played 18 minutes in Saturday’s 64-45 loss to Virginia and was not effective. Golden did not score nor register an assist.
“Trae is questionable, I think,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “He’s a tough kid, and wants to play. But you’ve got to be careful. If he can’t play with the explosiveness that he’s accustomed to playing with, then frustration sets in.
“He’s trying to do everything he can. He’s lives with [athletic trainer] Richard [Stewart]; he’s with him every waking minute. We’re going to have to play that by ear.”
Gregory said that Golden felt good entering the Virginia game, where the Jackets were tied through 30 minutes before running out of gas, but that his groin tightened up gradually.
“With him at the point, if he’s in there with Corey [Heyward] you can live more with Corey’s emphasis on defense,” Gregory explained. “If you have Trae and Chris [Bolden in the backcourt] you have two guys who can put the ball in the basket.
“[And Golden’s] experience of recognizing defenses and knowing what to do to attack them is a big deal.”
Given the way the Eagles switch up their defenses, they can on a good night make it tough for opponents to make entry passes to players like Carter, Daniel Miller and Kam Holsey (Miller scored but four points at B.C. on four shots).
That heightens the value of driving the ball straight at the defense.
“You have to be able to [drive] from the top, and from the wings. Against the zone, you want a paint touch off the dribble or off the pass,” Gregory said. “We wouldn’t have won that game if it wasn’t for Trae . . . we’re a much different team with Trae.”
If Golden does not play, the starting backcourt will again be freshman Heyward and sophomore Bolden – one noted defender, and one noted shooter.
That changes the way the Jackets attack, but that’s nothing new. With all the injuries they’ve had, Tech’s approach has been particularly fluid in approach. All but gone are the dreams of being an up-tempo team.
“The challenge is . . . first with Travis [Jorgenson], with Robert, and when Jason [Morris] went down, we had to kind of go to playing a different way with different rotations and things like that,” Gregory said. “Now, the challenge is when those guys come back, you have to kind of re-invent yourself again.”
Carter was good for five points and two rebounds Saturday in 16 minutes, and while at times he appeared to wobble, the sophomore forward was more solid with nearly each passing minute.
He figures to play more Wednesday.
“His [issue] was rust,” the coach said. “We just need to work that out with reps in practice. I think he’ll be good to go. He felt pretty good [Sunday].”
While the Jackets are likely to again have their hands full trying to slow down B.C. sophomore sharpshooter Olivier Hanlan, their offense has been a bigger concern of late.
Golden is not the only Jacket who can dramatically change the way Tech looks at that end of the floor.
When Bolden is on, the Tech offense is able to spread out and that helps even in the inside game.
As he hit 4-of-5 shots in the first half Saturday against Virginia, including three 3-pointers, the Jackets built a 30-29 lead against the No. 20 team in the nation.
Bolden went 1-for-7 in the second half, when the Jackets were 6-for-23 and were outscored 35-15.
“We need him in better rhythm on offense,” Gregory said. “At times he’s shows glimpses, but not for a full game yet.”
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