Georgia Tech can’t overcome mistakes in home loss to Virginia

Tech's Naithan George makes a move against Virginia. Photo: Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Tech's Naithan George makes a move against Virginia. Photo: Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics

With 1.8 seconds left in the first half and down 31-29, Georgia Tech had a chance to enter halftime with much-needed momentum. The Jackets hadn’t scored in the last three-and-a-half minutes.

But junior guard Miles Kelly’s inbound pass sailed over junior guard Kowacie Reeves Jr.’s head, leading to a buzzer-beating layup for Virginia. The play epitomized Tech’s problems that led to a 75-66 loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday at McCamish Pavilion.

The turnover was the Jackets’ seventh of the half, one more than their assist total. They finished the game with 13 turnovers and 12 assists.

“That was pretty much the tale of the game from that point forward,” Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire said. “We had too many breakdowns, and then when we got to the offensive end, again we started holding onto the ball instead of sharing the ball.”

A day earlier, Stoudamire pointed to ball movement, decision making and making the most of their offensive possessions as keys to beating Virginia’s defense. These would be crucial against a team that has allowed the second-least points per game in the country with 57.8.

And his squad was on pace to do so early. Besides freshman forward Baye Ndongo’s turnovers on two of the game’s first three possessions, the Jackets’ next one didn’t come until the 6:10 mark by Reeves. Although Tech struggled to find the basket at times, the Jackets were able to carve out a lead as much as 11 points.

However, Tech would turn the ball over four more times in the half after Reeves’ miscue. The offense went stagnant as well, scoring just five points in the six-minute span, while the Cavaliers went on a 16-5 run.

Stoudamire felt like the Jackets took their foot off the pedal after gaining control of the game because they thought it would be easy. He added that after upping their lead to double digits, they stopped moving the ball.

“We quit playing the way we got the lead,” Stoudamire said. “The thing that drives me nuts is, we’re consistently inconsistent. We got to be better with that, like it’s got to mean something to you in your soul.”

Turnovers continued to be an issue for the Jackets after halftime. Freshman guard Naithan George kicked off the second half with a turnover that led to a three for Virginia’s Reece Beekman.

Not even four minutes into the second half, senior forward Tyzhaun Claude committed Tech’s 10th turnover of the game. Claude’s mistake marked the sixth straight game where the Jackets turned the ball over more than 10 times and Tech has won just one of those matchups.

George and senior guard Kyle Sturdivant agreed that the 13 turnovers weren’t caused by Virginia, they caused them themselves.

“Virginia wasn’t doing anything special to make those happen,” George said. “If we cleaned those up, we would’ve probably put ourselves in a better game.”

Even with the slow start, Tech was able to cut Virginia’s lead down to five with 1:39 remaining. The Jackets didn’t turn the ball over once in the last eight-and-a-half minutes of the game.

But Stoudamire wasn’t impressed by the comeback. He wanted that same energy when his team was up by double digits and throughout the game.

“In the pros, it’s easy to play ‘come from behind’ when you’re losing by double figures, the game doesn’t have that much meaning at that time,” Stoudamire said. “This is the third home game at least where we’ve had big leads and we just weren’t able to hold onto them ... it’s disappointing because these are winnable games.”