Tech falls at buzzer

020513 ATLANTA: Georgia Tech guard Macus Georges-Hunt reacts to turning the ball over to Florida State in the final minutes of a 56-54 loss to the Seminoles during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

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020513 ATLANTA: Georgia Tech guard Macus Georges-Hunt reacts to turning the ball over to Florida State in the final minutes of a 56-54 loss to the Seminoles during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

One of Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory’s most frequent observations this season has been that four or five possessions can decide a game. He had reason again Tuesday night to bring it up.

The Yellow Jackets dropped a 56-54 decision to Florida State when Seminoles guard Michael Snaer drove to the basket for the game-winner as time expired. Left behind, once again, were frittered possessions on both ends of the McCamish Pavilion floor.

After taking a five-point lead early in the second half, Gregory said, “we didn’t play, again, unfortunately, with the poise and sense of urgency that you need in games like this when you’re playing a team that is tough and physical and has a big-time player.”

Two days after fighting for a 66-60 win over Virginia in which they stayed honed in for the duration, a few lapses on the defensive end cost the Jackets against FSU. More than Snaer’s buzzer-beater, Tech’s inability to defend a screen-and-roll play midway through the second half tugged at Gregory.

Rather than rolling off their men to help, Tech defenders stayed with their marks, enabling FSU center  Boris Bojanovsky to roll unimpeded for dunks. Starting at the 14:34 mark until 11:16 remained, FSU scored on six consecutive possessions, enabling the Seminoles to flip from a three-point deficit to a two-point lead. Rather than possibly packing onto the lead in front of a boisterous late-night crowd, Tech found itself in a back-and-forth tussle until the end.

“Just our coverage on that (screen-and-roll) wasn’t as tight as it needs to be,” Gregory said. “You can look at a lot of different things, but our coverage on that particular play probably costs you the game.”

For the game, Florida State shot 20-for-40, Tech’s poorest defensive field-goal percentage game of the season. With 10 fewer shots than the Jackets, the Seminoles made one more basket. FSU’s defensive play, tight and aggressive, gave Tech problems. Logging heavy minutes, the Jackets’ starting five shot a combined 12-for-37 after making 17 of 36 against Virginia.

At the halfway point of the 18-game ACC schedule, Tech is 12-9 overall and 2-7 in the ACC. FSU, like Tech a team with a reliance on freshmen, is 13-9 and 5-4. Tech is four points from two more wins, the overtime loss to Virginia Tech and a three-point defeat to Clemson.

“I know, being a senior leader, that I’m going to keep pushing, keep telling these guys it’s never over,” guard Mfon Udofia said. “We’ll keep fighting and practicing hard each and every day so we can be the best team possible. If I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out strong and lead by example.”

Udofia was involved in three critical plays at game’s end. Down 54-51, Udofia took possession from guard Chris Bolden after he missed a jumper and scrapped for the rebound. Udofia banked in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 54 with 1:02 to play. After Snaer turned the ball over by mishandling a pass on the perimeter with 42 seconds remaining, Udofia missed a 3-pointer with 33 seconds to go, allowing the Seminoles to set up for the last shot with a timeout at 19.9 seconds.

The ball came to Snaer, with Udofia pressed up on defense. Near midcourt, Snaer shuffled his pivot foot in an apparent traveling violation and then began his charge to the basket, at which point Udofia fell backwards. Help didn’t arrive quickly enough and Snaer drove the lane, flipping a shot off the glass as time expired. After the game, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said he thought Udofia slipped, but Udofia said he was pushed.

“He pushed off and the referee had a chance to make a call and he didn’t make the call,” Udofia said.

It was Snaer’s third buzzer-beater in two weeks and his fifth since last January.

Said Gregory, “We should have had better help on that. That’s it.”

Tech showed merit, though, in being in the game at the end. The Jackets fell behind 13-0 in just over seven minutes at the game’s start, committing four turnovers, missing five shots and giving up six second-chance points.

However, Tech began to assert itself with considerable assistance from the bench. Subs Brandon Reed, Pierre Jordan and Stacey Poole scored nine of the next 11 points for Tech to help the Jackets draw to within 15-11. The Seminoles answered with a 7-2 run, finishing with a Snaer 3-pointer with the shot clock running down, before the Jackets went into a frenzy.

Tech scored nine in a row as center Daniel Miller assisted on two baskets, scored a third on a dunk in transition and forced turnovers with help on double teams away from the basket. Bolden’s two free throws tied the game at 22 with 3:29 to go, a little more than 10 minutes after the Jackets had fallen behind 13-0.

Tech closed the half with a vicious Miller dunk over two Seminoles with five seconds remaining on a feed from Udofia. Reed’s nine points at the half, all on 3-pointers, were as many as he had scored in a game since a nine-point effort against Chattanooga Jan. 2.