Hoping to match a men’s basketball win after its football conquest in November, Georgia Tech was denied Tuesday night, losing 60-43 to Georgia at McCamish Pavilion.
The Yellow Jackets fell prey to a Georgia team that was more experienced and better able to harness its emotions during a game that was at times frantic and clumsy.
“I think anytime it’s a sold-out crowd for a game like this, you’re going to have a little bit of jitters,” center Ben Lammers said. “We just needed to calm down a little bit quicker.”
Lammers was a lone bright spot, scoring a team-high 10 points for the Jackets, whose scoring output was the season low by 15 points. Tech (6-4) turned the ball over 10 times in 35 first-half possessions, giving Georgia (8-3) enough margin to overcome its own poor shooting.
“They’ve given me every ounce of energy and effort that they can give you, but we just struggled scoring,” coach Josh Pastner said.
Bad offensive game
Pastner said that he told his staff and team that if Georgia could be held in the 50’s, Tech would win. The Jackets virtually came through, giving up Georgia’s 60th point with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Tech limited Georgia to 37.1 percent shooting, eight percentage points below the Bulldogs’ season average.
Pastner wasn’t counting on his team fumbling through an atrocious night of offensive play. The Jackets missed their first eight 3-pointers and finished 1-for-10. They were 18-for-52 from the field (34.6 percent) and, as has been a problem, missed several close-range shots. They were 3-for-9 on shots at the rim in the first half.
It was Tech’s fourth game of the season under 40 percent from the field, accounting for all of the team’s losses thus far.
Georgia big men Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide challenged shots and the Bulldogs did well retreating in their transition defense to limit easy baskets (Tech scored six fast-break points, two points shy of its season low) but mainly Tech was its worst enemy. Pastner described the offense at times as paralyzed and stagnant.
“It’s just, when you can’t score like that and you miss those layups, it just sucks the life out of you,” he said.
Roughed up in rebounding
Tech also was besieged on the glass. Georgia had a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points, the 17-point disparity neatly matching the final margin of defeat. Georgia had 13 offensive rebounds to Tech’s 26 defensive rebounds, which is a good, though not great, ratio. But the Bulldogs made the extended possessions count.
“It was crazy,” Lammers said of Georgia’s success on the offensive glass. “I think it was mostly due to effort, just guys going to get the ball.”
Where the game turned
Despite its turnover-saturated play in the first half, the Jackets were down just 21-18 with 2:41 in the first half after a pair of Corey Heyward free throws. They had a chance to cut the lead even more after a Georgia miss. However, a turnover by guard Josh Okogie turned into a fast-break basket and then forward Quinton Stephens was called for a charge.
Tech went scoreless in its final five possessions of the half, allowing Georgia to go into halftime up 27-18. On a night when nothing was working offensively, the nine-point halftime edge proved insurmountable.
Rough game for Stephens
Stephens had a forgettable evening. The star of Tech’s 2014 win over the Bulldogs with a career-high 22 points on 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range, Stephens was 0-for-9, including 0-for-4 from 3-point range, for no points. It was the first such game of the season for Stephens, who came into the game averaging 11.7 points per game.
Stephens appeared to be forcing his shots, perhaps feeling the burden of trying to lead his team back into the game. Pastner said that he didn’t find his shots in the flow of the offense.
“He was just trying to do it all at once, and that’s just not his game, and that’s not who he is,” Pastner said.
Tech will play Wofford at McCamish on Thursday night, the Jackets’ final game before being release for a holiday break. The Terriers do not bear the look of giant killers – they are 5-7 – but then again, the Jackets do not bear the look of giants. Tech will need to shake off a brutal offensive game.
Said Pastner, “We can’t let Georgia beat us twice.”