Georgia Tech and Clemson players try to come down with a rebound. The Jackets suffered their sixth consecutive loss to the Tigers.
Photo: The Associated Press
Photo: The Associated Press

Jackets fall just short to Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. - Georgia Tech got the measuring stick it wanted.

The Yellow Jackets came up just short. On the road against an energetic opponent, Tech put a scare into Clemson but succumbed in a 63-60 defeat Tuesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Jackets, trying to build on their most impressive win of the season, led by 10 less than 10 minutes into the game, fell behind by 11 early in the second half and, after scraping their way back in, couldn’t take advantage of chances to tie it up at the end.

“I felt like the game was ours in the last couple minutes,” forward Marcus Georges-Hunt said. “It just got past us.”

It was Tech’s sixth consecutive loss to the Tigers. Seeking the first back-to-back ACC wins in coach Brian Gregory’s tenure, the Jackets were done in by a slew of their own mistakes and an inability to produce consistent offense. Tech turned the ball over 17 times, its fourth consecutive game with 15 or more turnovers. The Tigers (12-8 overall, 4-4 ACC) turned those into 21 points.

“We’re not good enough to play 20 good minutes of basketball and win,” Gregory said.

Tech had come to Littlejohn hoping to break a 10-game ACC road losing streak on the heels of its 82-62 win over Wake Forest Saturday, arguably its best game of the season. Clemson appeared to be a relatively even match for the Jackets after they had taken on the league’s leaders in their first five ACC games (along with Virginia Tech) and started out 0-5.

The game proved that to be the case in a game that went down to the final possession. Tech fought to the end and had two chances to tie in the final 18 seconds, but couldn’t capitalize.

“Give our guys credit,” Gregory said. “They’re as resilient a bunch as I’ve seen, but being resilient means that you screwed up a little bit to start off.”

Down 61-55 with 57.5 seconds to play, Tech scored four consecutive points in the next 30 seconds on free throws by Mfon Udofia and a putback dunk by center Daniel Miller to draw to within 61-59. Udofia then had a chance to tie the game with two free throws with 17.2 seconds remaining, but made one of two. After K.J. McDaniels’ two free throw with 16.4 seconds to go extended the lead to three, the Jackets had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer. Guard Brandon Reed’s 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer was off.

The Jackets started strong, as they often have, pushing the pace and scoring in transition. The Jackets, it seemed, were living on the edge, enjoying hot shooting and chances that might not last. In one sequence, Georges-Hunt grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a long pass ahead that overshot guard Chris Bolden, who ran it down at the baseline and threw it back inbounds over his head. Guard Solomon Poole collected the loose ball, drove and tossed a lob to forward Kammeon Holsey, who scored and was fouled, a play that gave Tech a 20-10 lead with 12:38 to go in the half.

Tech’s margin began to dissipate, however, as Clemson took advantage of the Jackets' turnovers and rebounding lapses. In the half, Clemson devoured Tech on the offensive glass, taking advantage of breakdowns in the Jackets’ interior defense. The Tigers grabbed nine first-half offensive rebounds on 20 opportunities for six second-chance points to none for Tech.

“We did not have the physical and mental toughness that you need to rebound the ball against Clemson,” Gregory said.

Tech also turned the ball over nine times in the half, which Clemson converted into 15 points. Udofia, typically steady with the ball, had four turnovers.

Tech took a 30-26 lead on a Georges-Hunt jumper with 4:59 to go, and it appeared the Jackets might be able to make it to halftime with the lead. However, they were the last points Tech scored in the half. Over the last seven possessions, Tech missed five shots and turned the ball over three times, a collection of wasted chances that gave the Tigers the ammunition for a 10-0 run to close the half with a 36-30 lead.

“Give our guys credit,” Gregory said. “They’re as resilient a bunch as I’ve seen, but being resilient means that you screwed up a little bit to start off.”

After falling behind 43-32 with 16:55 to go, the Jackets began to score out of their half-court offense. Center Daniel Miller, Holsey Georges-Hunt and were particularly effective in that stretch. However, between 9:30 and the two-minute mark, Tech closed to within three points three different times and couldn't get closer, either because of an inability to get a defensive stop or make a shot.

"We executed pretty well, which is hard to do against Clemson because they're very good defensively, but we've got to knock down a couple of those shots," Gregory said.

Down 61-55 with 57.5 seconds to play, Tech scored four consecutive points in the next 30 seconds on free throws by Mfon Udofia and a putback dunk by center Daniel Miller to draw to within 61-59. Udofia then had a chance to tie the game with two free throws with 17.2 seconds remaining, but made one of two. After K.J. McDaniels’ two free throw with 16.4 seconds to go extended the lead to three, the Jackets had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer. Guard Brandon Reed’s 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer was off.

The Jackets started strong, as they often have, pushing the pace and scoring in transition. The Jackets, it seemed, were living on the edge, enjoying hot shooting and chances that might not last. In one sequence, Georges-Hunt grabbed a defensive rebound and threw a long pass ahead that overshot guard Chris Bolden, who ran it down at the baseline and threw it back inbounds over his head. Guard Solomon Poole ran it down, drove and tossed a lob to forward Kammeon Holsey, who scored and was fouled, a play that gave Tech a 20-10 lead with 12:38 to go in the half.

Tech’s margin continued to dissipate, as Clemson exploited turnovers and rebounding lapses by the Jackets. In the half, Clemson devoured Tech on the offensive glass, taking advantage of breakdowns in the Jackets’ interior defense. The Tigers grabbed nine first-half offensive rebounds on 20 opportunities for six second-chance points to none for Tech.

“We did not have the physical and mental toughness that you need to rebound the ball against Clemson,” Gregory said.

Further, Tech had nine turnovers in the first half that Clemson converted into 15 points. Udofia, typically sure with the ball, had four turnovers in the half.

Tech took a 30-26 lead on a Georges-Hunt jumper with 4:59 to go, and it appeared the Jackets might be able to make it to halftime with the lead. However, they were the last points Tech scored in the half. Over the last seven possessions, Tech missed five shots and turned the ball over three times, a collection of wasted chances that gave the Tigers the platform for a 10-0 run to close the half with a 36-30 lead.

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