1. On its face, an 80-78 overtime road loss to N.C. State is not the worst thing. Tech brought an undermanned team to Raleigh, N.C., and was one play from winning the game.
Tech did give up an 11-point lead, but battled the Wolfpack down the stretch and came up with a series of big baskets and rebounds. The Jackets re-claimed the lead three different times in the final seven minutes after N.C. State rallied from 11 down to take the lead at 62-61. They played with some grit.
2. That said, the way that Tech lost, repeating patterns it has shown previously this season with ineffective offensive play down the stretch, obviously makes the loss less palatable. Tech scored on six of the first eight possessions of the second half, all against a man-to-man defense before N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried switched to a zone. The Jackets scored on seven of their final 24 possessions of regulation.
Was it all because of the zone? No, but it didn’t help, though. The Jackets had six turnovers in the final 11:37. Some clean shots were missed, other shots were forced. The efficiency that Tech showed in the first half – 10 assists on 13 baskets, 50 percent shooting from the field – gave way to a grind in the second half – four assists on 13 baskets, 40.6 percent shooting.
3. Effort was commendable. With the exception of the Miami game, Gregory is getting that out of this team, at least. Tech outrebounded N.C. State 42-31.
4. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt is struggling to make baskets. He was 3-for-14 but finished with 13 points thanks to 7-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line. Georges-Hunt does have a knack for drawing contact to get fouls, and I wonder if on at least a few of his misses he was creating contact to get a whistle.
Regardless, he is now shooting 32.1 percent from the field in ACC play. His rebounding, though, has picked up – 16 rebounds in the past three games – and only three turnovers in those games despite a lot of time on the ball.
5. If nothing else, Corey Heyward and Quinton Stephens getting considerable time this season as freshmen will be valuable next season. Had Robert Carter and Travis Jorgenson stayed healthy, neither would be seeing the court nearly as much as they are.
Stephens made good use of his quick trigger, making five of seven shots for a career-high 13 points.
Heyward didn’t do a ton offensively, but had only one turnover in 22 minutes. I’d suspect that Heyward will have a pretty good chance at starting next season. (My guess at a starting five – Heyward, Chris Bolden, Georges-Hunt, Carter and maybe Robert Sampson, the transfer from East Carolina.)
6. You could make an easy case that Tech would be 0-6 in the ACC had Golden not transferred in this year instead of 2-4, as he was critical in both of the Jackets’ two ACC wins (20 points, four assists against Notre Dame, 24 points against Boston College). I suppose, though, if we’re going to play the alternate reality game, then perhaps Carter and Jorgenson wouldn’t have gotten hurt if Carter weren’t here or didn’t receive immediate eligibility.
7. I suspect no one is clamoring for an update on Tech’s postseason hopes, but here it is. I think we can say the NCAA is not terribly likely. Tech probably would need to finish 17-14 to have a shot at the NIT. At 11-9, that would mean finishing 6-5 over the final 11 regular-season games. The final 11 – North Carolina, at Wake Forest, at Clemson, Virginia, Boston College, Duke, Clemson, at Notre Dame, at Florida State, at Syracuse, Virginia Tech.
Five of those I could see Tech winning – at Wake, both Clemson games (although the fighting Radakoviches have won seven in a row against Tech), Boston College, Virginia Tech. But to win all five and then steal one from the other six would be a tall order.