Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire voices frustration after loss

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, January 23, 2024, in Atlanta. Pittsburgh won 72-64 over Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, January 23, 2024, in Atlanta. Pittsburgh won 72-64 over Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire stressed that the team’s inability to finish games was the difference maker in its conference record on Monday. He added that he wanted freshmen guard Naithan George and forward Baye Ndongo to take over more down the stretch, like they did in wins against Duke and Clemson.

Pittsburgh beat the Yellow Jackets to the punch during Tuesday’s back-and-forth battle, though, beating Tech 72-64 at McCamish Pavilion. Although Ndongo and junior guard Kowacie Reeves Jr.’s early second-half surge improved their chances at victory, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Panthers’ collective effort.

This was Tech’s fifth ACC loss decided by single digits.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to sustain our energy, our effort and our play because right now it’s too roller coaster,” Stoudamire said. “I’m always saying big picture, but why does it have to be big picture when if you just execute the game plan it can be today?”

After a poor shooting performance in the first half, Tech’s offense looked like it found its rhythm early in the second half.

Ndongo and Reeves scored eight straight points for Tech out of the break, giving the Jackets a three-point lead. The two tacked on six more points minutes later for a six-point lead — the Jackets’ largest of the game.

However, when the Panthers began to warm up again from the field, the Jackets couldn’t cool them down. Reeves said Tech’s shot selection was crucial in moments like this if the Jackets want to stop game-changing runs.

“The momentum of the game shifted and with that you have to get really good quality shots,” Reeves said. “I can get better as a leader getting the guys organized and helping them get the right shot at the right moment to stop those kinds of runs (Pittsburgh) was having.”

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Stoudamire pointed to Pittsburgh’s Guillermo Diaz Graham’s two 3-pointers in less than two minutes as the turning point. Graham’s second triple at the top of the key erased Tech’s six-point lead, forced Stoudamire to call a timeout.

Although senior guard Kyle Sturdivant’s alley-oop to Ndongo out of the timeout provided hope, Pittsburgh would hold on for the rest of the game.

Diaz Graham, who scored two points and played three minutes in the first half, dropped 10 more in 13 minutes of play in the second half.

“We were always one step away, one rebound away from having the game shift in our favor,” Sturdivant said. “We messed up on a few defensive assignments, Diaz hit two big threes in the second half that kind of gave them a little cushion and it felt like we were just fighting back for the rest of the game.”

Although Tech has lost only one conference game by double digits, Tuesday was another exposé of the bunch running out of steam. Before Tuesday, they led by double digits in their last four conference losses — 16 points against Boston College, seven versus Notre Dame, 10 against then-No. 10 Duke and 11 versus Virginia.

Stoudamire harped on the team needing to figure out “what they want out of this,” especially after falling in a similar way several times this season.

“This is about the fourth or fifth time I’ve come up here and it’s the same thing. So at some point, you got to get tired of it,” Stoudamire said. “I haven’t figured out who to lean on because right now when I’m looking at guys in their eyes I don’t collectively see it.”

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