5 observations from Georgia Tech’s loss to Georgia

Handcuffed by foul trouble, Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt played 25 minutes and scored 11 points against Georgia, nine on free throws. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Handcuffed by foul trouble, Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt played 25 minutes and scored 11 points against Georgia, nine on free throws. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Hoping to continue to build its non-conference resume, Georgia Tech fell flat Saturday in a 75-61 loss to Georgia on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum. The defeat ended a four-game winning streak in the series for the Yellow Jackets and gave coach Brian Gregory his first loss in the rivalry.

Foul trouble for forwards Charles Mitchell and Marcus Georges-Hunt contributed to the defeat, but Tech (7-3) was complicit with ineffective defense and clunky offense. The Bulldogs (5-3) shot 49 percent from the field, well above their season average of 42.5 percent. Having to initiate offense after made baskets slowed Tech’s transition game and boxed the Jackets into their half-court offense.

Here are five observations about the Jackets from the game:

Tech hampered by fouls. Foul trouble staggered the Jackets early. Mitchell picked up his second foul at 9:21 and played only seven minutes in the half. Georges-Hunt sat down for the half at 6:27 with his second foul. As a result, Tech's top two leading scorers and its top rebounder (Mitchell) played a combined 16 minutes and scored a total of four points. It was to Tech's credit that it finished the half still ahead 34-33.

Mitchell compounded the problem by committing his third foul 19 seconds into the second half, reuniting him with the bench. Mitchell, arguably Tech’s most consistent player this season, played only 15 minutes, contributing only four rebounds and no points.

It was the first game this season that Mitchell did not record a double-double, ending his streak at nine games.

Big scorers for Bulldogs. Often slipping free from defenders and hitting from the perimeter, Georgia forward Yante Maten carried the Bulldogs with 11 points in the first half, on his way to 17 points. Slippery guard J.J. Frazier took the baton in the second half, scoring 22 of his 35 points after halftime.

Georgia repeatedly burned Tech on ball screens set for Frazier, whose quickness and hot shooting exploited Jackets players playing extended minutes because of the team’s foul trouble. He was 6-for-9 from 3-point range and was 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.

Sub-standard defense for Jackets. A game after playing one of its better defensive games of the season, Tech offered one of its poorest. Georgia beat Tech down the floor for easy transition baskets. In the half court, the Jackets misplayed screens, lost 50-50 balls and couldn't stay in front of Frazier.

After holding VCU to 32.4 percent shooting from the field Tuesday, Tech allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 49 percent, which was the second highest rate for a Tech opponent this season.

“We were a step slow a little bit in everything,” Gregory said.

Tech was off its game. The Jackets didn't handle the challenges well. As the Bulldogs built momentum and the Stegeman crowd threw its support behind Georgia, Tech players grew frustrated, both with themselves and each other. Tech has played one other true road game this season, against Tulane, but that was in front of 2,005 and the Jackets led for most of it.

“Adversity hit during the game, and we tried to stick together, but just certain things kept hitting us, hitting us and you see people putting their heads down,” Georges-Hunt said.

Tech played in front of an announced 8,011 Saturday and didn’t respond to the challenge of Frazier’s hot shooting and its foul trouble. Tech was still in it (barely) late, down seven with 1:44 remaining, but then turned the ball over on its next three possessions.

“We weren’t as crisp and sharp as you need to be when you’re on the road, there’s no doubt about that,” Gregory said.

All that said … Losing to the Bulldogs is always a bitter experience, but it doesn't discount wins over Tennessee and VCU, nor does it keep Tech from finishing the non-conference portion of the season strong. There will be no shortage of teaching points from the loss; it will be up to players to absorb the lessons and not render the trip to Athens a complete waste.

“It was one game,” Gregory said. “You’ve got to take a little (grief) for a day or, maybe if you see Georgia fans at the mall, more than a day. But we’ve been able to feel pretty good the last four years, so maybe it’s time we take a little, but then go on with the season.”