March 5, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Saturday afternoon’s game may be the last in McCamish Pavilion for five Georgia Tech seniors/graduate students, but there isn’t much room for sentimentality as the Yellow Jackets prepare for Pitt.
If Tech (17-13, 7-10 ACC) upsets the Panthers (20-9, 9-8) to close out the regular season with six wins in the final eight conference games, the Jackets will earn a bye through the first round of the ACC Tournament.
They would be the No. 10 seed, and can earn the same pass even if Pitt wins and Florida State (17-12, 7-10) loses to Syracuse (19-11, 9-8).
Senior Charles Mitchell, who transferred to Tech last season after spending a couple years at Maryland, hasn’t been reminiscing.
“It donned on me that I’m a senior, but not that it’s my last home game,” he said. “Just go out there and play. I really want to go out there and get the win so we can get ourselves ready for the ACC Tournament.
“I really feel like the aftermath is going to hit me after the game, when I’m walking off the court.”
The Jackets were pretty good the first time they played Pitt, on Jan. 8, at least when it came to shooting the ball. They made 33-of-68 shots, including 10-of-20 3-pointers, and scored 84 points.
Problems were, the Panthers were even more efficient, making 29-of-59, including 6-of-13 treys and most importantly 23-of-30 free throws. It helped the home team, too, that they turned the ball over just four times to Tech’s 10.
Pitt won 89-84 to drop the Jackets to 0-2 in the ACC.
Senior Marcus Georges-Hunt has a better feeling about this contest.
He said the Jackets will apply lessons learned in that first meeting, and play with “More energy, more activity on the defensive end. Watching film, they got whatever they wanted. It seemed like we were a step slow.
“I feel like we are overall a lot better than we were at the beginning of conference play. We’ve grown as a team.”
The Jackets could play again in McCamish this season if they earn a bid to the NIT, but they have a bigger tournament in mind after the ACC.
Their chances of earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament may increase if Mitchell has another game like he did at Pitt, where he scored 20 and grabbed 17 rebounds. He’s more concerned with what the Jackets do without the ball.
“We’re going to play defense,” he said of the plan. “We tried to outscore each other. I feel like nobody played defense; we didn’t get consecutive stops.”
The fact that this could be the last home game for Mitchell, Georges-Hunt and senior transfer Nick Jacobs and for graduate student transfers Adam Smith and James White matters less than winning it. They’re all from metro Atlanta and will have extra support from family and friends on hand.
That thought is secondary for now.
“Just knowing that it’s my last . . . probably after the game there’s probably a lot more that will come to me,” Georges-Hunt said.
“A lot of my family and friends already come to the games. They’re going to be there and I feel like they’re going to be as loud as possible,” Mitchell said. “I think they’re going to be emotional knowing it’s my last game.
“It means a lot to both teams, but I feel like it means more to us. We have to make it mean more. We have to go out there with the effort to get the job done. I feel like we’re going to have the home court advantage.”