In a slide, Georgia Tech may try to simplify schemes



Georgia Tech’s losing streak has extended to seven games despite coach Josh Pastner’s unending efforts to try to find a solution, whether it’s been changing starting lineups, adjusting the offensive and defensive schemes or hunting for some other fix to stop his team’s slide.

“We’re trying different things, and whatever it may be, we’re not standing pat,” Pastner said Monday on the ACC coaches teleconference.

Effective solutions have yet to reveal themselves. Entering their Wednesday night game at Louisville, the Yellow Jackets have been unable to assert themselves at either end of the floor and cratered in an 86-43 home loss to Duke on Saturday, one of the more lopsided defeats in team history. Tech (8-13, 1-10 ACC) owns its poorest league record after 11 games since the 2008-09 season and has lost nine league games by double digits. Before Tuesday’s games, the Jackets ranked 310th in Division I in field-goal percentage (41.6%).

“We’ve got to start scoring at some point, someway, somehow,” Pastner said.

Maybe the solution is doing less. While the usage of an assortment of defenses has been a core element of Pastner’s strategy, as well as its reliance on a Princeton offense, Pastner suggested that simplifying the game for his players could help.

“Whether that’s the answer, I don’t know,” Pastner said. “But I’m trying to say, ‘OK, maybe us doing a lot of different things is just not paying off.’ Where in the past it has, and it’s been really effective for us and it’s won us a lot of games, that hasn’t been as effective this year for us in ACC play.”

It could be that Pastner’s roster might not be best suited or ready for a strategy that relies on complexity, or that, with confidence draining, a streamlined approach could have a steadying effect.

The Jackets have allowed four consecutive opponents to shoot better than 50% from the field in part because of breakdowns on defense. (Tech had six such games all last season.) Also, an inability to run the offense properly has frequently resulted in possessions that drag into the final seconds of the shot clock, leaving players to toss up low-percentage shots to avoid shot-clock violations. Over those same four games, the Jackets are shooting 21.6% from 3-point range, dragging down the season average to 31.2%.

In ACC play, Tech ranks 14th in offensive efficiency and 13th in defensive efficiency (KenPom).

“I think it’s a lot for the guys when you’re thinking about (how to execute the scheme),” Pastner said.

Tech can take some encouragement from knowing that the toughest segment of the schedule is in the past. Entering Tuesday night’s games, the combined conference record of the Jackets’ first 11 ACC opponents was 77-43. They had played each of the teams in first through seventh place in the conference, a total of eight games, and play two of them again in the final nine games.

The combined league record of the final nine ACC opponents is 36-61, which includes Louisville (2-19, 0-10) twice. Tech, in 14th place ahead of Louisville, faces each of the other four teams in the bottom third of the league. Also, Pastner’s teams generally have played better in the back half of the ACC schedule.

“We’re trying to figure things out, be solution-focused,” Pastner said. “There’s no give-up on our end. We’re just trying to find whatever we can do to turn the season around and have a great month of February, whatever that means, and hopefully get some wins along the way.”