The next fix for Georgia Tech: Better play out of timeouts

Among the many subjects upon which Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is happy to discourse is how precious every possession of a game is. That was the case Tuesday, when the Yellow Jackets went to overtime at Notre Dame and came up one point short in a 73-72 loss.

With one more stop or one more basket, Tech would have returned to Atlanta with a hard-fought win, but instead played the foil as the Fighting Irish earned their first ACC win of the season and Tech fell to 0-9 at Purcell Pavilion since the schools have played as ACC members.

One area where Tech could have done more – possessions coming out of timeouts. In 12 possessions where the Jackets initiated live action after a timeout or at the start of a new period, the Jackets scored seven points. Notre Dame, meanwhile, had six such possessions and scored five points. Pastner said earlier this season that the team’s goal is to average 1.05 points per possession and limit opponents to .95 points per possession.

“We didn’t do a good job on that, so that also cost me a lot of sleep,” Pastner said Friday of the plays the team calls “ATO’s” (after timeout). “Just a lot of agonizing because we take great pride in producing on ATO’s.”

Tech (8-8, 1-5 ACC) plays Pitt (11-6, 4-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at McCamish Pavilion in another game that again could be influenced by the Jackets’ effectiveness coming out of timeouts. It is an area where Pastner said that Tech has produced consistently in his tenure.

“We’ve been really good at that,” he said.

Possessions out of timeouts can be subject to particular scrutiny because coaches have a stop in action to huddle with their players and draw up a play. It would stand to reason that those possessions would have a higher probability of success. Not so for Tech on Tuesday night as the Jackets lost another ACC game.

Since Tuesday, Paster has tried to determine if he was not as clear in the huddle as he should have been or whether he did enough to make sure his players understood their assignments.

“I’m pretty good about going through everything four, five, six times,” he said. “I don’t know if I did that (against Notre Dame). That falls on me.”

At the end of the first half, Tech may have caught a bad break as Pastner tried to manage the clock. With the Jackets ahead 29-27, Tech called for a timeout with 12 seconds left and gave guard Miles Kelly the ball, but he was called for an offensive foul. That left Notre Dame with 3.1 seconds left, which coach Mike Brey used to call a timeout and draw up a play for a 3-pointer that was good as time expired. In a rarity, Pastner stayed on the court after halftime to argue with officials about the call on Kelly and also to contend that a carrying call was missed against Fighting Irish guard J.J. Starling.

That possession aside, Tech was called twice for a shot-clock violation on after-timeout plays, most critically with the score tied in the final minute of regulation. In that possession, Pastner called timeout with 47.5 seconds on the game clock and 26 seconds on the shot clock. Tech inbounded and tried to run its offense before Pastner called another timeout, this one with 28.7 seconds left and the shot clock down to seven seconds.

While Kelly has delivered last-second heroics previously, he dribbled into a double team, picked up his dribble well beyond the 3-point arc and with the shot clock about to expire, launched a desperation shot that hit the corner of the backboard, resulting in a shot-clock violation.

The shortcomings after timeouts continued a theme of the season, that the Jackets will have a few players perform well and others falter, or improve play in one facet but lapse in another, often leading to defeat.

“We’re good enough to win a lot of games, but we’ve got to do it for 40 minutes,” Pastner said.

The challenge could be heightened Saturday, as both guard Deivon Smith and forward Ja’von Franklin, who have been two of Tech’s more effective players, have been ill. Pastner said that they were questionable to doubtful to play against the Panthers. Forward Jalon Moore, who missed Tuesday’s game with a thigh contusion, will be available.

The Jackets have lost four of their past five games.

“I think it’s very important,” guard Kyle Sturdivant said of Saturday’s game. “I think it’s almost like a championship game because there’s a lot at stake. I feel like every game within the ACC we should win, so I feel like it’s very important.”

Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant drives up court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP