On Saturday afternoon against Miami, Georgia Tech played like a team that can compete in the ACC. The problem was that the Yellow Jackets waited until 12 minutes of the game had elapsed before showing it.
Consequentially, the Jackets absorbed defeat for the eighth time in the past nine games, this time an 80-65 loss to the Hurricanes. After playing with urgency and taking advantage of an opponent with limitations Wednesday (Pittsburgh) to break their seven-game losing streak, the Jackets were themselves outplayed Saturday by a team that was on its mark.
“(Miami) came out and played way better than us, and they came out with a motor that they wanted to win the game, and they outworked us,” guard Jose Alvarado said.
Coming off its open date, Miami exploited gaps in Tech’s 1-3-1 matchup zone and sped to a 30-13 lead in the game’s first 12 minutes. Coach Josh Pastner switched to a man defense for the remainder of the game, and the final 28 minutes were basically played evenly. To take their 30-13 lead, the Hurricanes made 12 of 19 shots from the field (63 percent) with one turnover in their first 20 possessions. For the rest of the game, a stretch of 49 possessions, Miami was 15-for-39 from the field (38 percent), with 10 turnovers.
While Pastner and players credited a smart game plan by Miami that got the ball into the corners for 3-pointers against the zone, Pastner also saw a shortage of energy.
“We weren’t flying around (Saturday) like we have been,” Pastner said. “I was disappointed with our energy that first half.”
Tech (12-16, 4-11 ACC) lost its sixth consecutive road game. Miami (12-14, 4-10) almost got a triple-double from guard Anthony Lawrence (he missed it by one assist) and guard D.J. Vasiljevic buried the Jackets with five 3-pointers in scoring 21 points. The Hurricanes won without guard Chris Lykes, who was Tech’s main priority on defense, contributing much (11 points on 3-for-10 shooting).
Pastner acknowledged that Tech probably spent too much time prepping for Lykes and not enough for Vasiljevic and center Ebuka Izundu (18 points on 8-for-9 shooting).
Tech did get a solid game from forward Moses Wright, his second in a row. Wright, among the team’s more athletic players, has struggled to play with consistency, but followed up a seven-rebound, four-block game against Pitt with 19 points (matching his career high) and five rebounds. He even made a 3-pointer (he was 3-for-20 from 3-point range going into the game).
“I felt real confidence, no hesitation on that 3,” Wright said. “I’ve been putting in work with coach (Anthony) Wilkins, and my teammates have faith in me.”
In a two-minute span in the second half, Wright cut down the baseline to take a pass from Abdoulaye Gueye for a dunk, turned the ball over on an ill-advised lob pass to Gueye that turned into a Hurricanes layup, deflected a Miami pass that led to a steal, then finished the possession by laying in an air-balled 3-point try by Jose Alvarado.
“He’s finally showing his true self,” Alvarado said of Wright.
Alvarado, too, showed good form. After shooting 10-for-59 and scoring a total of 24 points over six games, he is 21-for-38 with 66 points in the past three games. Along with his team-high 20 points Saturday, he also dug out seven rebounds to go with four assists in playing all 40 minutes.
“It’s going in the hoop now,” Alvarado said. “My folks were telling me back home, ‘You’re shooting the same shots, the difference is, it’s going in now.’”
On the whole, though, consistency continues to elude the Jackets. Center James Banks was not up to his standards (two blocks, but no points and four rebounds). While scoring 13 points, Devoe had no rebounds, typically a strength for him and a high priority for Pastner for his guards. The same consistency issue would hold for Tech’s play in the first 12 minutes compared to the final 28.
Pastner was unable to explain the low energy at the start, saying the team practiced well Friday and that players were dialed in.
“Maybe that’s just part of being a young team, that you’re continuing to have them understand about that energy factor,” Pastner said.
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