Five observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Boston College

Ahead by 13 points in the first half and four points inside the final two minutes of regulation, Georgia Tech found discouraging defeat. Despite shooting 50.9 percent from the field, the Yellow Jackets lost 80-72 in overtime to Boston College Sunday at Conte Forum.

Hoping to build on a win over Syracuse last Wednesday, Tech (11-12 overall, 4-6 ACC) tripped over familiar obstacles in the loss. Boston College (14-9, 4-6) scored 33 of its 80 points on 3-pointers.

1. Not good enough on 3-point defense

Tech was lax in defending the 3-point shot. The Jackets were attentive in bringing attention to guard Jerome Robinson, who came into the game making 45.1 percent of his 3-point tries, first in the ACC. Robinson took just two 3-pointers (making both), below his average of 5.1 3-point attempts per game, though he still managed to accumulate 19 points.

However, via screens and ball movement, Boston College created numerous opportunities for his teammates. Eagles guard Jordan Chatman inflicted the most damage, bagging five 3-pointers on 12 tries, often when Tech players were late in challenging. He finished with 19 points, tied for the game high with Robinson, who fouled out with 3:11 left in regulation. Chatman was averaging 11.9 points per game in ACC play this season.

“Chatman shouldn’t have been (open),” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “That was part of our emphasis, but we closed out short a couple times. We didn’t run him off the 3, we didn’t take out that 3 as much as we talked about taking the 3 out, and that was the difference in the game.”

Tech actually has improved at defending the 3-pointer. In non-conference games, opponents shot 37.9 percent from 3-point range. Prior to Saturday, ACC opponents were making 31.2 percent of their 3-point shots against Tech, which ranked third in the league. Boston College was only the second team in 10 league games to successfully impair Tech with the 3-pointer, Clemson (10-for-21) being the other. Boston College was 11-for-23 from beyond the arc.

“They have really good players and they showed up (Sunday),” guard Josh Okogie said. “We had a tough time guarding the 3 and we fell short again.”

2. Letting the Eagles off the hook

The Jackets took a 28-15 lead at the 5:03 mark of the first half when guard Jose Alvarado threw in a 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Tech had the chance to gain some distance on the Eagles before the half. However, as has been a weakness, the Jackets permitted Boston College to tighten the gap before halftime.

Boston College guard Ky Bowman hit a 3-pointer from the corner over guard Tadric Jackson and then followed it on the next possession with another 3 when the Jackets failed to challenge him as he brought the ball upcourt. Two B.C. possessions later, Bowman found Chatman open on the backside for another 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 30-24.

The half ended with Tech ahead 36-28, a decent lead but nothing approaching a knockout punch. It was not the first time that the Jackets failed to build on a first-half lead. Last Sunday, Tech led Clemson by 10 points with seven minutes to play in the first half but went into halftime up only two, setting the stage for the Tigers to win it in the second half.

“It seems to be a trend,” center Ben Lammers said of Tech’s mid-game lapses.

The lead was gone by 14:31 of the second half on – surprise – a Chatman 3-pointer in which Tech was late to challenge. Lammers attributed it to a tendency to relax with a lead.

“It’s been a lack of toughness in our area, for whatever reason,” Pastner said. “Teams are going to make runs, but that’s something we’ve dealt with all year round.”

3. A courageous performance

Tech received a major boost from guard Brandon Alston, who has played two games since his father Michael died of a heart attack on Tuesday, the day before Tech played Syracuse. Alston, a graduate transfer from Lehigh, was brilliant in the first half, perhaps his best half of the season.

He scored 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including a 3-pointer. He scored on tough drives with both hands, scoring 11 points in the first half to help Tech to build its first-half lead. It was his first double-digit scoring game in ACC play.

Alston said that he made the choice to play because “I feel like I play basketball because of my dad.” Alston was understandably subdued and said he felt numb. He was to fly from Boston to his home in Virginia for the funeral on Monday and return to campus Tuesday.

Alston handled the situation with admirable maturity. After learning of his father’s passing, Pastner said, Alston told Pastner and said that he wanted to play but that he didn’t want his teammates to know and he didn’t want to be treated any differently than normal. Pastner offered his support and complied, describing Alston’s decision as courageous and remarkable.

4. Missed opportunities abound

In a game where one point in regulation would have been the difference, there was not a shortage of missed opportunities for Tech to rue on the flight home. Playing all 45 minutes, point guard Jose Alvarado was 5-for-12 and turned the ball over four times (against four assists). Also playing all 45 minutes, Lammers tried to find Okogie on a cutter late in the first half but missed. Forward Abdoulaye Gueye was 1-for-3 from the line, including the front end of a one-and-one with 49.6 seconds left in regulation with Tech ahead by three points. On the ensuing possession, Jackson left the 3-point arc to help on a drive. That left forward Steffon Mitchell open for a 3 from the corner, which he hit to tie the game with 35 seconds left.

Midway through the second half, Alston fouled Robinson on a 3-point shot, giving him three foul shots, all of which he made. Off an inbounds pass, Jackson had a wide-open shot at the basket but failed to put down a dunk try. Tech failed to seal the defensive glass well enough, allowing Boston College, second from the bottom in the ACC in league games in offensive rebounding efficiency (KenPom), to gather 13 offensive rebounds against Tech’s 25 defensive rebounds. The Eagles scored eight second-chance points, all in regulation – not a lot, but enough.

Ultimately, Pastner pointed to the team’s 13 turnovers, all but one in regulation, a frequent culprit.

“We’re just not in a position where we can win turning the ball over more than nine times,” Pastner said.

5. Breaking down overtime

Tech didn’t have much chance in overtime. The Jackets had come back from seven points down with seven minutes remaining as Jackson scored eight points in the final 4:35 to lead the comeback that eventually became a four-point lead with 1:50 left. However, Okogie fouled out with 1:36 left in regulation (Pastner tactfully said he wouldn’t comment on the call because he disagreed with it). The Jackets were a bit off their moorings without their leading scorer and engine.

The Jackets took a 72-71 lead with 2:19 left in the extra period on a tough jump hook by Gueye, but Bowman answered with a difficult layup to take the lead back. After Gueye missed on a jump hook, Bowman hit a jump shot over Gueye for a 75-72 lead with 1:08 to play. With 51 seconds left, Jackson missed on a drive – he was 0-for-4 in the extra period with a turnover) – and then fouled Bowman with 46.9 seconds left trying to go for a steal from behind. Bowman’s two free throws began to seal it.

Tech has lost 11 consecutive overtime games in regular-season league play, a streak that began in the 2008-09 season. The Jackets are 3-2 in overtime games in other situations in that time.