Georgia Tech collapses in ACC tourney opener

Brian Gregory wanted more time.

Georgia Tech guard Corey Heyward’s last-second attempt at a game-winner in the first round of the ACC tournament was tapped out of bounds by Boston College as time expired, and the Tech coach sought an official review to see if the ball had gone out of bounds with time remaining.

“I would’ve taken a tenth,” Gregory said.

The call was upheld, and the Yellow Jackets’ season was over with a 66-65 loss to the Eagles. Improbably, the loss dropped the Jackets to 0-11 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime.

Gregory may himself have run out of time as well. Upon their return to campus, Bobinski and Gregory will meet to discuss Gregory’s future as the Jackets’ head man. As Bobinski will remain in Greensboro into Wednesday for conference matters, the meeting will not take place before Thursday.

In a season that began with hopes of Tech’s first postseason appearance since 2010, the Jackets finished 12-19 overall, burdened with their inability to win games in the last minutes. After four seasons, Gregory has a record of 55-71.

“I know that we still believe in coach Gregory,” said forward Charles Mitchell, who was relentless with 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We’re behind him.”

Once again, the Jackets’ effort commended them. They were the more aggressive team and ransacked the glass, with 43 rebounds to 26 for Boston College (13-18). Tech claimed nearly as many offensive rebounds (19, for 28 second-chance points) as the Eagles had on defense (19). The Jackets turned the ball over nine times, only their third game this season in single digits.

They did this without their leading scorer and best player, forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who suffered a broken foot March 3 and watched from the sideline.

“We were hungry, very hungry, very angry this game,” said guard Tadric Jackson, who nearly matched his career high with a team-high 16 points.

For a fleeting moment, Tech hearts rose with the possibility that perhaps Jackson had slain the dragon by floating in a jump shot in the lane over Boston College guard Patrick Heckmann to give the Jackets a 65-64 lead with 28 seconds remaining. They were the final points scored by Jackson in a daring effort in which he contributed three critical baskets in the final five minutes to keep Tech afloat.

“So many times, we haven’t been able to get that basket,” Gregory said. “So I’m thinking to myself, OK, we just got that one, maybe for the first time in two months, we’re going to catch a break.”

However, Tech left too much time for Hanlan. Gregory changed up his tactics for the possession, letting forward Robert Sampson get switched onto Hanlan after guard Travis Jorgenson was screened.

“I immediately recognized it and just tried to attack him like I was going to the basket, and I hit him with a step-back (jump shot), just to create space, and had to shoot over,” said Hanlan, who scored six of his game-high 25 points in the final 90 seconds.

The shot was true, giving the Eagles a 66-65 lead, and Tech was left with 10.6 seconds to respond. Guard Travis Jorgenson brought the ball up court and, thwarted on a drive, passed off to Heyward, whose drive at the basket fell off the rim.

Said Heyward, who made two critical baskets earlier in the half but had made only six baskets previously this season, “I thought it was going in. I should have made the shot.”

Tech was in the situation (again) because it faltered again down the stretch. The Jackets led 54-51 with 8:39 to play and came up empty on the next four possessions, squandering a chance to expand the lead. They led 63-57 after Sampson made a high-arcing 3-pointer from the corner with 1:51 to play.

But the Eagles made five consecutive free throws on its next two possessions (guard Josh Heath fouled Heckmann as he took a 3-point try) while Tech turned the ball over on its next two. The latter produced a Hanlan transition basket with 41 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Jackson’s would-be game-winner (and Hanlan’s actual game-winner).

“We tried to compete and do our best, go hard, give it all we got for 40 minutes, and that’s what we did,” Jackson said. “But the results — we got the ‘L.’”