Should the Jackets bring the low-wattage energy that they did to Knoxville, Tenn., defeat is almost a certainty. Tech won fewer 50-50 balls than the Volunteers, the first time this season that the Jackets didn’t win that team-charted statistic, all-important to Pastner.
Players made lackadaisical passes, didn’t show urgency in coming to meet passes, factors that led to a season-high 19 turnovers. The Jackets’ energy shortage was exacerbated by its questionable shot selection, notably several ill-advised layup attempts in heavy traffic.
“I take full responsibility,” Pastner said. “I backed off this past week and it backfired on Saturday. We might lose every game we play, but over my dead body are we not going to play to be the most energized team and play so darn hard.”
This past week, Pastner chose to do more game planning for Penn State and Tennessee and stopped practice much more frequently for teaching points. Particularly in Thursday and Friday practices before the trip to Knoxville, intensity lagged, Pastner said.
“I think we were a little tired, but I think overall, it’s more of a mindset, that we know that, Hey, we’ve got to be the first one to punch ’em in the mouth,” forward Quinton Stephens said. “That’s what Tennessee did to us.”
After the Tennessee game, Pastner and his staff decided that the team, among the least experienced in the country, would be better off using practice time to maintain its intensity than go deep on its opponent.
“It’s mostly trying to bring the energy every day instead of just to the games is one of the keys we need to focus on,” center Ben Lammers said.
Tech had its first practice for VCU on Sunday, and it was mostly spent scrimmaging. Players who did not meet Pastner’s effort standards were once again remanded to Taylor’s custody. Offending players are required to go 60 seconds on a climbing machine at 180 rpm, or else repeat it again, then have to jump back into practice without a chance to catch their breath.
“I was sending guys to Dan left and right,” Pastner said.
The Jackets will have another energy matter to handle. Final exams begin Thursday, upon the team’s late-night return from Richmond, Va. Lammers, a mechanical engineering major, had two finals scheduled for Thursday, as well as a computer project due Tuesday. One of the exams on Thursday was for a computer programming class teaching students to calculate complex equations, he said.
“It’s not going to be a fun next couple of days,” Lammers said Monday.
Further, Pastner was unsure Monday if point guard Justin Moore, who started the first six games before missing Saturday’s game with a stomach virus, would be available to play.
“If he does, great,” Pastner said. “If not, the next guy’s got to be ready to get the job done.”