It remains to be seen what Georgia Tech can accomplish in 13 remaining ACC games, starting tonight against Boston College (9 p.m., ESPNU). The first five games have been something less than a fount of hope.
But I think the answer, or as much as an answer exists at this point, might be center Daniel Miller putting the team on his back from a scoring standpoint. Coach Brian Gregory said as much after Tech’s loss to Miami Saturday. Miller took five shots, tied for fourth most on the team, making three. He and forward Kammeon Holsey were 6-for-10 and the rest of the team was 7-for-34.
“When he gets the ball in the paint, we need him to be aggressive to score,” Gregory said. “And I think hopefully he’ll see that when we show it to him on the film and he’ll understand how important it is for him to get (shots). The rest of the season, he should be getting nine to 12, 13, 14 shots every single game.”
Miller is averaging 7.1 shots this season with a high of 11. From a points-per-shot perspective, Miller has the highest ratio (1.48, just ahead of Trae Golden at 1.42) but the second-lowest shots-per-minute average among available scholarship players after guard Corey Heyward.
Obviously, the more shots Miller takes, the less efficient he’ll almost certainly become. But he’s clearly Tech’s best scoring option right now. If you’ve followed his career, you know this has been something of a theme. To his credit, Miller is team-first to a fault and only wants to take good shots. The thing is, I think, a poor shot by his estimation is still probably better than a lot of the shots that are going up.
Gregory addressed the matter further Monday, prior to the team’s departure for Boston. Post players not getting enough shots, he said, is typically due to a combination of guards not getting them the ball enough and the post players themselves not being assertive enough. He said what can help is that players like Miller score not just off passes into the post, but on offensive rebounds, drive-and-dish plays and in transition.
But, he said, “you’ve still got to be disciplined enough to feed the post.”
If players had been watching last night, they might have found some inspiration or at least example in N.C. State. The Wolfpack played without T.J. Warren, the league’s leading scorer, who was out with a sprained ankle. They scored 20 points in the first half and shot 22.2 percent from the field. Sounds familiar.
However, down 29-20 at the half, N.C. State outscored Maryland 45-27 in the second half to win 65-56.
“In the first half, we looked a little lost offensively, trying to figure out how we’re going to do this because we do rely on T.J. a lot,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “In the second half, we just kind of settled down and said, ‘All right, let’s go. Here’s who’s on the floor. We’ve got to play. We’ve got to score.’”
I should say that it’s not like Tech has been groping around in darkness since Carter’s injury. The Jackets played well for a half at Duke. They beat Notre Dame. They were up at halftime against Pitt. They just flopped against Miami.
The other thing is, part of the solution to playing without Carter depends on 3-point shooting, and Tech has been abysmal from 3-point range. The Jackets rebounded better against Miami than they did against Pittsburgh. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt and Golden, while they didn’t shoot well against Miami, drove to the basket to get to the line.
The right ideas are there, it would seem. It’s a matter of making it happen, and that would start with Miller.
Unrelated: I confess I didn’t know that, until this morning, former Tech guard Mfon Udofia is playing in the NBA’s D-League. He is playing with the Delaware 87ers and averaging 8.5 points and 2.0 assists per game. Stat page here.