Gregory keeping message same for Tech

Georgia Tech’s stay in south Florida after beating No. 23 Miami on Wednesday night was extended when mechanical failures grounded the team charter plane early Thursday. The Yellow Jackets bunked in a hotel and flew out later Thursday, returning to campus around 2 p.m., leaving them unable to make the day’s classes.

“They were really bummed out about that,” coach Brian Gregory said, tongue in cheek.

The Jackets will have to overcome that setback Saturday, when they play N.C. State at McCamish Pavilion (noon, WATL-TV). While Tech figures to receive a psychological lift from winning its first ACC game after seven consecutive losses, Gregory doesn’t want his team approaching the game any differently.

“I think one of the things you have to do when you’re in our situation is, messages can’t necessarily change after a win or a loss,” Gregory said. “They have to be consistent. Because if you’re talking about learning, growing and improving as a team, as much as when the sun’s shining as when there’s a thunderstorm, then you have to deliver the same message, no matter what.”

Regardless, as it seeks to recover from its 0-7 start to league play, the Jackets will need to summon the sort of play they put forth to defeat the Hurricanes, starting with holding Miami to 34.5 percent shooting from the field. It was Tech’s second-lowest defensive field-goal percentage rate for the season and enabled the Jackets to score more frequently in transition.

Gregory applauded his team for its on-ball defense and help defense, which led to more challenged shots.

“We had five guys really working as one on the defensive end,” Gregory said.

Tech also will have to respond to N.C. State, which has beaten the Jackets in four consecutive games. Guards Trevor Lacey (41.7 percent) and Ralston Turner (40.7) are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in the ACC in 3-point field-goal percentage. Lacey ranks No. 6 in scoring (16.5 points per game). Forward BeeJay Anya ranks No. 1 in the conference in blocked shots per game (2.8).

The assortment may require Gregory to adjust his rotations again, something he has been doing frequently this season. Against Miami, Tech had success with a small lineup that played small forward Marcus Georges-Hunt at power forward. At the 8:39 mark in the second half, with the score 51-40 in Tech’s favor, Gregory went with a five of center Demarco Cox, Georges-Hunt at forward and Chris Bolden, Josh Heath and Corey Heyward in a three-guard alignment.

With more guards on the floor to counteract Miami’s defensive pressure and ball-screen action on offense, Tech took off. Gregory interchanged guards Travis Jorgenson, Heyward and Heath, but, with that alignment, the Jackets outscored Miami 19-8 until less than a minute remained and Gregory emptied the bench.

“We’ve done that a time or two before and, again, a lot of it is matchups and different things like that, but for us, we’re always talking about the flexibility and versatility (of the roster) and so forth,” he said. “At times, you may see that (lineup).”

Gregory has used seven starting lineups through the first 20 games, with nine players receiving starting assignments. Last season, when the Jackets were hit by a barrage of injuries, he used nine starting lineups in 33 games.

Forward Charles Mitchell started the first 18 games, but has come off the bench for the past two. He averaged 24.6 minutes per game in the first 17 games, but has played a total of 46 minutes in the past three. Bolden has played 61 minutes in the past two games, both starts, and scored 22 points. In the first 18 games, he averaged 18 minutes and 5.7 points. Forward Ralph Sampson, who suffered a hip injury against Miami, is fine, Gregory said.

“Everybody wants to win the game, and sometimes you’ve got to put yourself to the side, and our guys have been great about doing that,” Gregory said.