Another game, another failed upset attempt.
This time, Georgia Tech couldn’t steal the win against No. 17 Louisville as the Yellow Jackets permitted a second-half comeback in a 75-71 defeat Saturday at McCamish Pavilion.
The loss dropped Tech to 11-8 overall and 1-5 in the ACC. Four of the league losses have been to teams in the RPI’s top 40, each by eight points or fewer. The Jackets, trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2010, released another opportunity for a resume-building result by giving up a seven-point halftime lead inside of the first three minutes of the second half and then failing to handle the Cardinals’ defense. The Jackets turned the ball over seven times in 31 second-half possessions, giving away too many chances to stay in the game.
“Guys, all of us, we’ve got to find a way to dig in deep, because losing four straight, five games in the ACC, I can’t put into words how bad it is,” said forward Nick Jacobs, who scored 16 points off the bench.
Louisville (16-3, 5-1) pulled out another victory at Tech following its 52-51 win in February.
Here are five observations from the game:
Up against perhaps the top defensive team in the country, the Jackets predictably had considerable difficulty creating open shots against Louisville’s matchup zone and often took possessions into the final five seconds of the shot clock.
“If you have good pressure, it will take its effect,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I always equate it to a boxer going to the body, and you don’t really see any dividends until the 11th round. It’s the same thing with the press. Sometimes, you don’t get anything out of it until late in the game when the shot’s off or they throw the ball away.”
While Tech’s offense typically has been able to get guard Adam Smith clean 3-point attempts, he had few if any Saturday and was 1-for-5 from 3-point range.
Smith made 22 3-pointers in his first four ACC games, but has made two in the past two.
Strong game for Georges-Hunt
Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt continued his strong play, scoring 23 points on 5-for-12 shooting, supplemented by a 12-for-12 performance from the free-throw line. He made two critical baskets down the stretch, a 3-pointer from the corner on a feed from forward Charles Mitchell to give Tech a 60-59 lead and then a traditional 3-point play on a spin move into the lane to tie the score at 65-65 with 4:15 to play. He converted a pair of one-and-ones to keep Tech in the game before fouling out at the 1:01 mark.
“Coach (Brian) Gregory wanted me to stay aggressive,” Georges-Hunt said. “That’s what he wanted me to do. Just tried to take advantage of it at the time when I saw that we were in the bonus.”
More even at free-throw line
Tech’s free-throw disparity had been a decisive factor in its previous ACC losses, with North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech taking 93 free throws to 29 by Tech in the second halves of the four defeats. On Saturday, Louisville took 19 second-half free throws to 11 for Tech, but six of them were taken inside the final minute when the Jackets had to foul to stay in the game.
However, the Cardinals shot 60 percent from the field in the second half (15 for 25), reducing their need for help from the free-throw line. It was Tech’s second highest defensive field-goal percentage for a half this season.
“Our defense just isn’t there where it needs to be on a consistent basis,” Gregory said. “It is in stretches, but not on a consistent basis.”
When the game was lost
After Georges-Hunt fouled out, Tech took possession with 1:01 to play down 71-69. Off kilter without their principal ball-handler in late-game situations, the Jackets kept the ball on the perimeter before guard Tadric Jackson drove and then, getting caught in the air, threw a pass to Smith that was stolen. Forced to foul, Tech put Quentin Snider on the line and he made both free throws for a 73-69 lead with 25.2 seconds left. It put the Jackets in a hole they couldn’t escape.
“It’s tough to put (Jackson) in that position,” Gregory said. “But, really, at that particular time, he’s the one guy (besides Georges-Hunt) that you’re comfortable with trying to make a play off the dribble. He just got caught.”
The plot remained ever the same. Dating to the 2014-15 season, Tech is 4-20 in ACC play. Of the 20 losses, 17 have been by eight points or less, including all five this season. Tech has won just one such game, the upset of Virginia two weeks ago.
Tech goes on the road for two games this week, at N.C. State Wednesday and at Syracuse Saturday.
“All you’ve got to do is take a look around and look at some of the records of teams, and if you don’t play well for 40 minutes, and it’s got to be 40, you’re not going to win,” Gregory said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing – home, away – and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing right now.”