The chance for an upset leaked away from Georgia Tech in the final six minutes of its loss to N.C. State on Wednesday. Last week, it was a 6 1/2-minute stretch at the end of the first half against Miami that cost the Yellow Jackets.
Virginia Tech, the Jackets’ opponent Saturday at McCamish Pavilion, is not nearly as imposing as Georgia Tech’s first two ACC opponents. Regardless, the Jackets would do well to avoid the lapses that eliminated their shots at beating the Hurricanes and Wolfpack.
“They’re doing what they need to do for 40 minutes,” center Daniel Miller said of the opposition. “In order to match that, to stick with them, we have to do it for 40 minutes.”
In that regard, Tech showed improvement against N.C. State. The Wolfpack made a push to separate at the end of the first half Wednesday, but Tech responded and actually led at halftime, 38-37. It was only at game’s end that a few missed shots and breakdowns on defense finally gave the game to N.C. State. However, Tech has run into this problem in losses to Illinois and California in addition to N.C. State and Miami. Further, the Jackets weren’t 100 percent locked in during wins over teams such as Chattanooga and North Carolina Wilmington.
“Some of it has to do with youth,” coach Brian Gregory said. “Some of it has to do with (the fact that) we’re playing pretty good teams during those four losses, and we’ve just got to get better during that time.”
Tech could use a win. The Jackets are 10-4 overall, but 0-2 in the ACC. After the Hokies, Tech will have road games against No. 1 Duke and North Carolina. While the Tar Heels are down, should Tech lose Saturday, an 0-5 start in the ACC hardly is out of the question.
Gregory didn’t call the game more important because of his team’s 0-2 start, but said that what was important was matching the level of competiveness that it showed against the Wolfpack after failing to do so against Miami.
“We haven’t always played good, but one thing that we’ve made a commitment to each other and this institution and to the fans here is they’re going to see a team that plays its butt off every second,” he said. “We didn’t have that same kind of effort last Saturday and we did on Wednesday. We need to make sure we play that way.”
The Hokies (9-6, 0-2) have lost four games in a row and lost at home to Boston College, one of the weaker teams in the conference, 86-75 on Wednesday. Virginia Tech does have the ACC’s leading scorer, guard Erick Green, at 24.6 points per game.
Georgia Tech will be without guard Jason Morris, who re-aggravated his plantar fasciitis against Miami and missed the N.C. State game. Gregory also said he intends to give freshman guard Solomon Poole, who enrolled at Tech in December, more playing time as he did against N.C. State, provided he earns it in practice. Gregory acknowledged Poole’s mistakes in six minutes in Raleigh, N.C., but said that “I thought he did some good things.”
The team was hoping for a significant home-court advantage at McCamish. Saturday will be the first ACC home game since the spring semester began Monday. Miller has loved playing at McCamish after a season at Philips Arena.
“(At) N.C. State, they would make a basket, (the fans) would go crazy and they would give (the team) a big boost,” Miller said. “It definitely helps. You want to be sharp for your home crowd.”