Feb. 13, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– For those who believe in karma, Georgia Tech had Thursday’s win coming – even if the Yellow Jackets’ 74-71 win over Boston College was late arriving.
One game after reaching the home stretch tied with No. 20 Virginia only to have, “the roof cave in,” as coach Brian Gregory recalled of a 64-45 loss, the Jackets closed Thursday’s game with a 10-2 run to win.
They blunted one of the ACC’s most effective offenses on three of its final four possessions, and Marcus Georges-Hunt – who has had an individually frustrating season – scored Tech’s final eight points in the final 69 seconds.
Asked by Gregory to do more recently because of injuries to others, the sophomore swing man has struggled at times. In the past two games, he made but 4-of-22 shots.
He hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 0.7 left on the clock, though, just as he dreamed it up so many times in the driveway or at the park as a younger lad.
Georges-Hunt, too, had it coming.
“I didn’t think twice about shooting it. Coach told me to relax. I was already relaxed going into the timeout. I was focused,” he said. “I used to do that a lot growing up. I did that millions of times … “
It was quite a night to be a Jacket, or a fan of them in McCamish Pavilion because that wasn’t pretend.
Tech (13-12, 4-8 ACC) learned from the Virginia game, where the Jackets were thrashed on the boards. Thursday, the home team whipped the Eagles there by a 36-19 count in a game delayed one day by winter weather.
This happened even though center Daniel Miller had but one rebound to go with his team-high 18 points. He had the misfortune of spending much of his night straying from his usual post near the opponent’s basket to defend rangy B.C. forward Ryan Anderson.
The visitors stuck around by hitting 9-of-17 3-pointers, which is one of their offensive trademarks, and by turning the ball over a mere five times to 11 for Tech. The Eagles had a 19-4 edge in points off turnovers.
It was maddening at times the ease with which B.C. (6-18, 2-9) got to the basket on dribble-drives as Miller was so often pulled away from the goal. Even with Tech post players Miller (18), Kammeon Holsey (15) and Robert Carter Jr. (10) doing bang-up jobs offensively, the Jackets had a modest 36-32 edge in points in the paint.
That’s because Miller wasn’t around as much as usual.
All 32 of the Eagles’ paint points were layups, dunks, or stickbacks. They didn’t make a single field goal on a jumper from within the paint upon trying just four. Basically, they were hitting 3-pointers or scoring from point-blank range with just a couple exceptions – two 2-point field goal makes outside of the lane.
So it didn’t look so good for the Jackets when B.C.’s Joe Rahon gave the Eagles a 69-64 lead on a layup with 3:18 left in the game.
Moments later, it looked worse when freshman point guard Corey Heyward – who turned in a yeoman’s game in the absence of leading scorer Trae Golden (groin) with six points, five assists, four rebounds, a steal and three turnovers in 33 minutes – made one of those turnovers.
Miller, though, made the first two critical defensive plays down the stretch when he intercepted Rahon’s pass at the other end of the floor.
That led to scoring drive by Holsey, who had an especially efficient game while scoring 15 on 6-for-9 shooting and adding a game-high nine rebounds.
Tech drew within 69-66 with 2:07 left, and Gregory called timeout.
He subbed walk-on Ron Wamer in for Chris Bolden for defensive purposes, a move he made on alternate possessions in the game’s waning moments. It kept working, too, as Tech’s younger players played with more composure. They had good examples to look up to, even with Golden out.
“Our guys were really good today about understanding when they made a mistake and what they needed to do different,” Gregory said. “The poise and calmness that Daniel and Kam showed … that helps. And Marcus was the all-league player I think he’s going to become.”
B.C.’s Olivier Hanlan, who torched the Jackets with 41 points in the ACC tournament last spring, missed and Georges-Hunt rebounded with 1:31 left. Again, a Tech timeout. In went Bolden, out went Wamer.
Soon, Garland Owens fouled Georges-Hunt on a drive, and he made both free throws to close the score to 69-68 with 1:09 left.
Again, timeout. Wamer and Heyward both in, Carter and Bolden out as the Jackets went small.
Again, it was Miller time.
Rahon beat the Jackets, and drove to the hoop but this time Miller caught up to the shooter from behind and blocked Rahon’s shot. With 36 seconds left, Holsey rebounded.
“I’d rather be in the paint,” Miller said. “Guarding Anderson, I’m away from the basket a little bit. Sometimes, you can tell who’s going to [drive], and you can time it.”
Timeout. Bolden in, Wamer out.
Georges-Hunt drove the left side and scored to give the Jackets a 70-69 lead. With 19 seconds, another timeout.
Wamer in, Bolden out.
It didn’t matter that time.
Hanlan drove from the left elbow, dropped Heyward, and Miller was a split-second late to arrive down the left baseline. Hanlan’s shot floated over his outstretched fingertips and settled in the net.
With 3.6 seconds left, B.C. led 71-70. Again, timeout. A strange timeout. A Boston College timeout. Tech, after all, did not have any left.
Why call a timeout there?
“When I looked up we have four guys underneath the basket and I didn’t think we were mentally ready to guard,” explained Boston College coach Steve Donahue.
That afforded Gregory time to get busy in his huddle.
“We drew that one up … I wanted Marcus to get the ball. Usually, we have Trae get the ball in that position as the point guard,” the Tech coach said. “Luckily Corey ran the baseline so he could get Marcus the ball.”
Georges-Hunt and Bolden set up in the backcourt as Heyward prepared to inbound.
When the play began, Georges-Hunt and Bolden criss-crossed with Georges-Hunt running right to left. Heyward did the same on the baseline, like a quarterback rolling out to pass.
Once he received the inbounds pass, Georges-Hunt turned upcourt and received a critical screen from Miller near halfcourt. That wiped Hanlan out of the play.
Carter was deep in the right corner.
Georges-Hunt dribbled a few times to the high right side, and let fly as B.C.’s Lonnie Jackson stepped up to defend, and actually fouled.
From 28 feet … swish!
The clock read 0.1 seconds. It would be changed to 0.7, but Georges-Hunt added a free throw for the final margin and it was moot.
“I’ve been waiting [for a game like this],” Miller said. “A lot of times it has happened to us.”
Gregory was happy not only with the way the Jackets competed down the stretch, but the way they executed.
“Daniel set a great screen, Robert stretched the defense, Chris took his man with him and Marcus made the shot,” the coach said. “He was very coachable today. I told him to make the shot, and he did.”
The Jackets had this one coming. Georges-Hunt had this one coming.
“The last two games I didn’t play too well, but after the games I don’t put my head down,” he said. “The next day I just go in and workout, and put up shots and look at film to see what I did wrong. I look at the things that I didn’t do right.
“I go home and look at myself in the mirror. It’s not really frustrating to me. I become a better player from it. Since my role has been changed around a lot, I’m learning a lot of things.”
Hopefully, everybody is learning.
“Needless to say it’s been a really interesting season with all the things that have occurred,” Gregory said. “The guys kept fighting, the guys stuck together, and we made the plays in the last eight minutes that you need to make to win games.
“Sometimes you need some tangible evidence that what you’re doing is paying off … I sometimes say you’ve got to figure out what loses games before you can figure out what wins games. We’ve had our share of the first part, and we need to continue to learn the second part. I thought we did that today.
“Sometimes, you need one of these games to break through. Let’s hope this is it. Marcus didn’t bat an eye about taking the shot. We have a lot of basketball left, and I think this was a game that should help us down the road.”
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