Dreadful 3-point shooting dooms Jackets in home loss to N.C. State

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner. AP file photo

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner. AP file photo

Another game, another path to the same agonizing result for Georgia Tech. One game after lighting it up from 3-point range but serving up a clunker close to the basket in a home loss to Pitt, the Yellow Jackets rearranged the furniture against N.C. State Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion.

The Jackets attacked the basket much more effectively but were exceedingly errant from 3-point range (and also the free-throw line). Add in a highlight show by N.C. State guard Terquavion Smith, and that was more than enough to secure Tech’s sixth loss in the past seven games, this one by a 78-66 score.

“They hit some tough shots, and we missed a lot of open shots,” coach Josh Pastner said. “That’s the difference in the game.”

Tech shot 2-for-21 (9.5%) from 3-point range, easily its poorest performance of the season from behind the arc and the second-lowest rate by Tech in Pastner’s seven-year tenure. Remarkably, it followed a 12-for-29 effort (41.4%) from behind the arc in the loss to Pitt on Saturday and four games out of five in which the Jackets shot 37.5% or better. The Jackets’ shot selection appeared reasonable, but shot after shot glanced off the rim or hopped in and out of the rim. Tech also was 8-for-19 (42.1%) from the free-throw line, which would be a season-low had the Jackets not shot 0-for-3 against Pittsburgh.

“We make a couple free throws, just make a couple 3′s, we probably win the game,” Pastner said. “That’s the way the game goes. Credit to N.C. State.”

Tech (8-10, 1-7 ACC) owns its poorest record after eight league games since the 2014-15 season. Worse, six of the seven losses have been by double digits. N.C. State (15-4, 5-3), the only team to finish behind the Jackets in the ACC last season, won its fourth game in a row and seventh of its past eight.

Smith, an NBA prospect and the ACC’s leading scorer, shook free of Tech’s defensive attention with 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting, many of his baskets made against strong challenges by the Jackets.

“He’s got no conscience,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said. “I’ll be yelling at him, ‘No, no, no!’ and then the shot’s in the air and I’m like, ‘Man, what a great shot that was.’”

After scoring 16 points in the paint and shooting a season-low 32.4% on two-point field-goal tries against Pitt, the Jackets were more effective in their half-court offense at creating open shots out of their Princeton offense. Tech scored 42 points in the paint, a season high against ACC competition, and shot 52% (26-for-50) inside the arc.

The Jackets took an early 3-0 lead and stayed in front of the Wolfpack through most of the half, taking a 35-30 lead at the 4:12 mark when center Rodney Howard handed off to guard Deivon Smith at the top of the key, freeing him to tear down the lane and throw down a dunk. Tech seemed positioned to go into the half with the lead and to threaten the Wolfpack.

“It was very frustrating,” Keatts said. “We could get within two or three points and just couldn’t get stops.”

However, the Jackets scored only two points the rest of the half as the Wolfpack finished on a 12-2 run to take a 42-37 halftime lead. The Jackets never led after halftime.

During the Wolfpack’s half-ending charge, “I just noticed that we had just a few defensive mishaps which led to them getting that lead,” Tech forward Jalon Moore said. “Because I felt like if we would have went in the half with that lead, it would have been a whole different situation.”

Moore led the Jackets with a career-high 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with a team-high eight rebounds and two steals. Howard had nine points, seven rebounds and a career-high five assists. Guard Miles Kelly, who had hit at least two 3-pointers in 11 consecutive games, was 0-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with nine points. The Jackets also forced 15 turnovers (above N.C. State’s per-game average of 10.4), surrendered only 10 turnovers themselves (below N.C. State’s rate of 14.9 per game) and scored 17 second-chance points to N.C. State’s four.

“When you look at the start of the game, those guys came out and they completely hit us in the mouth and they were ready to play from the beginning,” Keatts said.

All that advantage, though, and the result was a 12-point loss.

“(Losing) can wear on you and your confidence can get shaken and it is a confidence (game),” Pastner said. “So much of everything is between the ears.”

“We just need to play 40 minutes together,” Howard said. “We can’t keep giving these games away. We’ve just got to play harder, really. I just feel like it’s us not playing hard.”

Tech will play Syracuse Saturday at home.

“We’ve just got to have a game where we put it all together,” Pastner said. “I just think we need a game where we kind of get over that hump. Once we do that, I think we can get hot and get going.”