Thoughts and observations from Georgia Tech’s first-round win at the ACC tournament Wednesday night over Boston College. Game story here.A post on Tech-Clemson will be coming shorty.
1. It was not like the first two games against Boston College. Tech shot 40.4 percent from the field after shooting better than 50 percent in the two regular-season games. The game seemed more physical and Tech did not have the same open looks it did in the regular season, it appeared.
The Jackets were also not the team that had functioned much better in the four games to end the season, when they averaged a 1.97 assist/turnover ratio. It was 10/12 Wednesday night, and Tech made a number of careless plays with the basketball, which is not what it had been doing recently.
Most notably, Tech was 0-for-4 with a turnover in the final five minutes of regulation when the Eagles made up a 12-point deficit to force overtime. It continued into overtime. The Jackets started overtime 0-for-3 with a turnover and didn’t’ score a field goal until their seventh possession of overtime, guard Trae Golden’s go-ahead basket and bonus free throw with 35.3 seconds left, although forward Marcus Georges-Hunt had scored four points on six free throws.
“I don’t think they were doing anything,” Golden said. “I think we missed some shots that we normally take.”
I think, at first, they may have been a little tight. They rushed shots early, not scoring on their first five possessions and once in their first eight. In the first half, they had seven turnovers in 30 possessions.
What won them the game, in my opinion, was their play on the offensive glass in the second half. Tech scored 13 second-chance points in the second half after scoring none in the first half. Boston College had two in the first half and six in the second half. The Jackets fought for rebounds and were clearly the more aggressive team for a stretch when they made a 9-2 run to take a 46-36 lead, which was the largest at that point in the game. Seven of the nine points were off the offensive glass after rebounds by forward Kammeon Holsey, Georges-Hunt and Daniel Miller.
In the second half, Tech claimed 40 percent of available rebounds on the offensive end. Pretty good rate.
2. With forward Robert Carter and Golden back in the lineup, “we’re a different team, there’s no question about it,” coach Brian Gregory said. “We still make some of the same boneheaded mistakes, but the game is mistakes, and we make less of them now than we did before and we have guys that can make some plays to kind of cover up some of those mistakes.”
Carter was 7-for-15 – 2-for-6 from 3-point range – with 13 points and two blocks. Golden was 4-for-13 for 14 points – he made all five of his free throws – and had six assists against one turnover. In his past three games, Carter has a 17-1 assist turnover ratio.
“It’s a great feeling (to win), and you do feel a great sense of urgency just knowing that it could be your last college game, and you obviously don’t want to go out in a negative way,” he said.
On the game-winner, Golden was defended by guard Patrick Heckmann on the perimeter. He drove along the lane and lofted a shot high off the glass that banked in with the foul.
“The shot that he made to win us the game, and you can ask him, two weeks ago he couldn’t make that play (because of his groin injury),” Gregory said. “You can still see it sometimes, he’s not as explosive as he was earlier in the year, but at least every once in a while he was able to turn up the gear and he was able to do that on that play, and that was a big one.”
3. Holsey gave some tough and energetic minutes off the bench. He was 4-for-5 from the field, 4-for-6 from the free-throw line (including 4-for-4 in overtime when it counted most) and had six rebounds in 19 minutes. He came up with a number of crucial plays.
Holsey started the 9-2 Tech run by fighting for a rebound after Golden missed a jumper from the elbow. Holsey scrapped for the ball and had the strength to take the ball back up despite Garland Owens hacking at it, and put the ball in with a foul called. Holsey released a primal scream and flexed his muscles, which I guess is becoming his signature move. I know I’ve seen it at least once before.
Holsey’s energy was infectious, it seemed. He definitely seemed like he didn’t want to be playing his final college game Wednesday night.
4. Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan scored 16 points, but needed 14 shots to do it. Hanlan, who had made 69.2 percent of his shots in his first five games against Tech, was 5-for-14 and defended well most of the night by guard Corey Heyward. What Heyward did was stay with Hanlan and not give him many free looks at the basket.
5. This would have been a rough way to go out. Tech was playing well at the end of the regular season, and this would have been an ugly loss, particularly with the 12-point lead at the five-minute mark. It would have dampened a lot of the optimism created by the win over Syracuse. But, even though it was rather ungainly, it’s still an ACC tournament win and it puts the Jackets into the second round to play No. 6 seed Clemson. I think that’s all that matters at this point.
Tech broke a four-game ACC tournament losing streak and gave the team’s seniors their first tournament win.
“We’ve done a lot of good things,” Gregory said. We win three straight against Georgia, we’ve beaten some ranked opponents on the road, and now one thing that wasn’t up there was to advance in the ACC Tournament. And so I think our guys have done a good job of setting some short-term objectives, and then when they meet them, still hungry enough to try to set another one.”
6. An important member of the Tech party was not present. Team dentist Aaron King, who has served the Jackets football and men’s basketball teams since 1965, was back in Atlanta recovering from a surgical procedure. I’ve gotten to know Dr. King a little bit; he travels with both teams and attends most, if not all, of the football team’s practices. He is always congenial and someone who makes the Tech athletics program what it is.
Gregory mentioned him in his opening remarks after the game. Wednesday’s game was the first Tech ACC tournament game that he has ever missed.
“There’s nobody who loves Georgia Tech or Georgia Tech basketball more than Dr. King, and it’s been hard this year without him being around,” Gregory said. “But I know he listened and watched, and he’s feeling very proud right now, so it’s important that we give a shout-out to him and let him know that all the guys, all the coaches are thinking about him.”