Georgia Tech began the second half of its ACC schedule Sunday, hoping for a re-set after its hapless first half. The resemblance was too great to the first nine games for the outcome to be any different.
No. 17 Miami took its turn in giving the Yellow Jackets an early lead before taking control of the game in the second half, handing Tech a 75-68 defeat at McCamish Pavilion. The Jackets played some of their weakest defense of the season. The Hurricanes shot 49.1 percent from the field, the highest for an opponent at McCamish this season.
“To have them shoot 49 percent is a little too high for us to try to be successful,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said.
Tech (12-11 overall, 2-8 ACC) gave up too many slashes to the basket and suffered other malfunctions that produced dunks and other unfettered attempts, handing Miami (18-4, 7-3) more assistance than it required. Hoping to gain some momentum during a three-game homestand, Tech has now dropped the first two legs, a fall-from-ahead loss to Duke Tuesday and Sunday’s defeat to the Hurricanes.
Tech shot 50 percent, just the fourth time in Gregory’s five-season tenure that the Jackets have done that in an ACC game. However, the Jackets sabotaged themselves with 14 turnovers in 65 possessions, an atrocious rate and well above their ACC average of 9.3 per game.
Here are five observations from the game.
1. Uneven offensive play
One possession midway through the second half typified Tech’s often plodding offense. After guard Marcus Georges-Hunt missed two free throws, center Ben Lammers kept the possession alive with a tap-out offensive rebound. It was extended again when Miami guard Sheldon McClellan bailed out Georges-Hunt by fouling him beyond the 3-point arc at the end of the shot clock. With the lifeline, the Jackets went ahead and committed an actual shot-clock violation.
“There were some (turnovers) where our lack of assertiveness with the ball cost us,” Gregory said.
2. Off from the line
The Jackets’ sloppiness with the ball was paired with atypically poor free-throw shooting. Tech shot 9-for-16, with two misses at the front ends of one-and-ones. Tech entered the game shooting 71 percent from the line, on track for the team’s best season rate since the 1994-95 season. However, as seems to be the Jackets’ plight, they found another way to fall short.
“It just comes down to concentration,” said Georges-Hunt, usually a solid free-throw shooter who was 4-for-7 Sunday.
3. Dagger shot
Down 63-60 with just under two minutes to play, Tech had forced Miami into the final seconds of the shot clock when the ball found Hurricanes guard Ja’Quan Newton. With Tech forward Charles Mitchell, in his words, “basically hugging and kissing him,” Newton tossed in a fade-away 3-pointer for a six-point lead that the Jackets could only reduce to four the rest of the way.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be good and then sometimes you’ve got to be lucky,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “In that particular case, he was both.”
4. Not feeding the post
Another example of how Tech’s offense was off-kilter: The Jackets big men — Nick Jacobs, James White, Lammers and Mitchell, who have the team’s four highest field-goal percentages — didn’t score a basket between the 5:24 mark in the first half and the 3:53 mark of the second half. Tech’s guards and wings took 25 of the 28 shots in between, making 11. Tech’s offense typically operates with an inside-out flow, with an objective of getting the ball into the post.
Jacobs made his fourth basket out of six shots at the 7:19 mark of the first half, but took only three shots the rest of the game. Miami’s post defense was a factor, particularly center Tonye Jekiri, but Gregory acknowledged that “we got him the ball a couple times (in the second half) but probably not as much as we need to.”
5. Coming up short again
Tech is now 5-23 in ACC play dating back to last season. Of the 28 games, 22 have been decided by nine points or fewer. The Jackets are 2-20 in those games.
“(Miami) just waited for us to either make some mistakes on offense or for us to have some breakdowns on defense, and just kind of extended the lead,” Gregory said.