Rebounding deficit troubling for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech probably won’t have many rebounding games like it did Tuesday night. However, the Yellow Jackets likely need to redouble their efforts on the glass, lest a crucial element of their identity turn into a weakness.

In their 81-74 loss to Pittsburgh late Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion, the Jackets were out-rebounded 38-18. It was the second-widest margin by which Tech has been out-rebounded in coach Brian Gregory’s three seasons and was the Jackets’ lowest total since at least the 2000-01 season.

“Obviously, we didn’t rebound (Tuesday) worth anything,” Gregory said following the game.

Pittsburgh had as many offensive rebounds as Tech did defensive rebounds, 12. With those extended possessions, Pittsburgh scored 21 second-chance points to Tech’s 11.

“You lose by seven, so you could say that’s the difference in the game right there,” Gregory said.

This was not an accident. Through Sunday’s game, Pittsburgh was tied for 12th in the country in rebounding margin at plus-8.7. Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who failed to collect a rebound for only the second time in his career, said it was the first time he had seen an ACC team attack the glass as Pittsburgh (playing its first season in the ACC) did.

Sometimes, he said, two Tech players were required to keep one Pitt player out of rebounding position, “and there’s another one coming. So they’re all active on the glass.”

Tech prides itself on its own rebounding brawn — the Jackets were plus-5.6 through Sunday, tied for 44th in the country. For Gregory, rebounding toughness is a badge of honor. Under Gregory, Tech is 31-22 when it out-rebounds the opponent, 6-20 when it doesn’t.

But the Pitt game may have revealed far more of the impact of the loss of forward Robert Carter Jr., who likely is out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Carter has averaged 9.3 rebounds per game, best in the ACC through Monday’s games.

Further, Tech was without forward Jason Morris, who suffered a concussion in a car accident Saturday, and guard Solomon Poole, who missed his second consecutive game with a migraine. That was in addition to guard Travis Jorgenson, who has been out for the season since November with a torn ACL. Tech forwards Kammeon Holsey and Quinton Stephens were limited because of foul trouble.

“We just weren’t tough enough to go to the glass,” Georges-Hunt said. With Carter out, “nine rebounds is a lot (to make up), and the guards have to come and get those done and more to help us win the rebounding battle. (Tuesday), we just didn’t do that.”

Tech out-rebounded the opposition in its first 14 games. The last was against Maryland in the ACC opener, the first game without Carter. Duke, statistically one of the weaker rebounding teams in the conference, out-rebounded Tech 33-25 in the Blue Devils’ 79-57 win. The Blue Devils were out-rebounded by nine against Notre Dame in the game before they played Tech and by 18 against Clemson in the game following.

In Tech’s 74-69 win over Notre Dame, the Jackets needed big efforts from center Daniel Miller and Holsey (20 combined) and assistance from the guards (Chris Bolden and Chris Heyward each had four off the bench) to have a one-rebound margin over the Fighting Irish.

As has often been said of Tech, the Jackets operate with little margin for error, especially so with Carter out. Various factors may have contributed to a supremely poor rebounding night Tuesday, but Gregory will need to find more rebounds on his roster regardless.

“You can make excuses with the injuries or whatever the case may be, but you’ve got to fight on the glass,” he said.

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