Georgia Tech next faces ACC’s last-place teams in Louisville, Notre Dame

Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire watches the action during Tech’s loss to Wake Forest at McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Atlanta. Wake Forest won 80-51. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire watches the action during Tech’s loss to Wake Forest at McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Atlanta. Wake Forest won 80-51. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

If ever there were a time for Georgia Tech to truly, seriously, turn this thing around, it’s over the course of the next five days.

The Yellow Jackets play road games in that stretch against the teams tied for the bottom of the ACC standings in Louisville and Notre Dame, who are one game behind Tech. And while probabilities are slim that the Jackets can rise far enough from the league’s cellar to avoid playing on the first day of the ACC tournament March 12, those probabilities will be shot if they can’t win the next two games.

On Friday, however, Tech first-year coach Damon Stoudamire was in no mood to discuss the opposition.

“This is probably not what you wanna hear, but I’m not really concerned about Louisville. Not from the standpoint of basketball, I’m concerning myself with my own team,” he said. “That’s what we gotta do. We gotta lose ourselves in what Georgia Tech basketball is and what I want it to be and a standard that has to be set.

“The game can’t get strategic until we play hard. Until we play hard, there’s no need to emphasize the different things that Louisville might pose in terms of challenges. If we rebound the ball, which we gotta get back to doing, if we sprint back in transition, which we need to do better, and if we understand the scouting report and we understand the personnel that we’re guarding, we’ll put ourselves in position to have a chance to win.”

Tech (10-13, 3-9 ACC) has lost five of six games since winning at Clemson on Jan. 17. The five defeats engulfed a rather inexplicable victory over No. 3 North Carolina at home Jan. 30.

And two of those losses have been blowouts, by 24 points at Virginia Tech on Jan. 27 and by 29 points Tuesday against Wake Forest at home. That latter result was embarrassingly bad for the Jackets who missed 23 of their first 24 shots in the first half and finished the game with a shooting percentage of .283.

Stoudamire was tasked with exorcising any lingering effects from that performance over the past three days.

“As a coach you get critiqued, you’ll get criticized, I’m all right with that. I know who I am, so I’m all right with people talking about my coaching, if that’s the case,” he said. “But I’m not all right when I get questioned about my effort of team and my guys. I don’t really care about any scouting reports right now. I’m more worried about are we gonna play hard? When we don’t play hard, there’s consequences in not playing hard.

“I didn’t think we’d ever get to this point, but we’re here, so this is what it is.”

The only teams standing between the Jackets and last place in the ACC are Louisville and Notre Dame, and Tech begins its next road trip by playing at Louisville at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Cardinals (7-16, 2-10 ACC) are coming off an excruciating 94-92 loss at Syracuse after having tied the score at 92-all late only to see a game-winning goaltending call decide the outcome.

Louisville has lost seven of its past eight and is one of the ACC’s worst teams when it comes to nearly every statistical category, but notably field-goal percentage defense, scoring defense and 3-point shooting.

“It’s no disrespect to Louisville, but it’s not about Louisville right now. This is about Georgia Tech,” he added. “They’re the next team on the schedule, and we gotta be prepared, but for me, it’s more important to see guys doing the things that I want them to do. It’s not about what they wanna do. Not scared to say, I’m not gonna compromise my standard to try to win no game. I’m not gonna do that. I don’t care. I’m not gonna do that.

“It don’t have nothing to do with an ego. If there’s a loose ball and you gotta chance to dive for it and that other team dives for it, you gotta come out the game. If you don’t (dive for it), the other team is just playing harder than you. I just wanna find five guys that’s gonna play hard, so hard they raise their hand, ‘Sub, I need one, coach.’ That’s all I care about right now.”

After Saturday’s game, Tech will head to South Bend, Indiana, on Wednesday to play a Notre Dame squad (7-16, 2-10) that has lost seven consecutive. But one of the Fighting Irish’s two ACC wins came Jan. 10 when they beat the Jackets at McCamish Pavilion.

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