Georgia Tech faces Iowa in final ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Tech’s final game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be, fittingly, a strenuous challenge. On Tuesday night, the Yellow Jackets will be on the road to play Iowa, a team that has been to the NCAA Tournament three of the past four seasons and has one of the conference’s best players in Kris Murray.

After losing both games at their neutral-site event last week in Fort Myers, Fla., the Jackets will have to play far better to have a chance.

ExploreComplete Tech coverage from the AJC

“It was a big reality check for us,” guard Miles Kelly said Monday.

Tech fell behind 23-4 to Utah before coming back to take the lead in the second half but fell short 68-64. Against Marquette, the Jackets were out of sync on offense (shooting 33.8% from the field), which opened up transition scoring for the Golden Eagles in an 84-60 loss. They were down 18-4 in that game and trailed the rest of the game.

The Jackets looked better in an 80-61 win over North Alabama on Saturday, but the Lions also finished last season with the worst record in the ASUN Conference.

Through the loss to Marquette, Tech shot below 40% from the field in four consecutive games, ending that streak against North Alabama. The Jackets go into Tuesday’s game ranked 272nd in field-goal percentage at 42.0%. Coach Josh Pastner said there is a “heightened alert” on improving offensive play.

“We didn’t play well offensively in Fort Myers, and I don’t blame that on the players, on the student-athletes,” he said. “That’s on me. I didn’t do a good enough job.”

Tech is 9-12 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, including 3-3 in Pastner’s tenure. The ACC announced Monday that this year’s series will be the last, with the conference picking up a new series with the SEC beginning next year.

Television contracts led to the end of the 23-year series (15 for women’s basketball) that has provided many early-season matchups between the most prominent teams in college basketball. As a broadcast partner for both conferences, ESPN broadcast all of the games in the event. But with the Big Ten’s new TV contract with Fox, ESPN has no rights to any Big Ten home games, leading the network to create a new event with the SEC and ACC beginning next season.

Daily Jackets: The AJC presents a daily look at one news item about Georgia Tech athletics to start your morning.