3 takeaways from Tech-Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt had a career-best game from the free-throw line but struggled shooting from the field. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt had a career-best game from the free-throw line but struggled shooting from the field. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Thoughts and observations from Georgia Tech’s 70-65 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday. Story here.

1. It’s been a strange five games for Marcus Georges-Hunt. In the game prior to the start of ACC play, Georges-Hunt delivered the game-winning basket in Tech’s 67-66 win over Charlotte with three seconds remaining. They were the last of his career-high 25 points.

Since then, he scored 20 points, but was a very pedestrian 7-for-19 against Notre Dame and was unable to get the potential game-winning shot in regulation on the rim. Against Syracuse, he scored nine points, ending a run of five consecutive games with double-double figure scoring and turned the ball over four times. His minutes were limited against Wake Forest because of foul trouble, and he was an uncharacteristic 5-for-11 from the free-throw line.

In the second Notre Dame game, he was 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, but was limited in the first half because of foul trouble and failed to score a field goal for the first time in his career. Saturday, he was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line – the most makes he has had from the line in a game without a miss – but was 2-for-9 shooting the ball and missed his last four shots when the Jackets were trying to get back in the game. He was called for a  charge with just under five minutes to go on a call that could have gone either way.

I might guess that the burden of being the first scoring option on a team that doesn’t score well is not an easy one. Both his two-point and three-point field-goal percentages (44.2 and 19.0) are lower (barely, in the case of the former) than either of his season-ending averages from his first two seasons.

YEAR 2PT% 3PT% Min./Att. 3FGA/FGA FT/FG Att. PT/FG Att.
2012-13 47.2 33.3 3.1 33.2 3.2 1.16
2013-14 44.3 34.1 3.2 26.6 2.4 1.21
2014-15 44.2 19.0 2.9 23.3 1.9 1.22

A couple observations about the chart. His 3-point shooting percentage is way down, although he’s taking fewer 3-pointers. (A higher percentage of his shots are coming from inside the 3-point arc. The fourth column is the percentage of shots that are 3-point tries).

I thought he would be taking more shots than in prior seasons, but, in a typical game, it’s about one shot’s difference. That is partially explained by the fact that he’s getting to the free-throw line more frequently. (I didn’t include this, but his free-throw percentage is up dramatically. His percentages have gone from 62.9 to 67.4 to 77.7. As noted above, he was 9-for-9 Saturday.)

That said, despite the fact that he’s getting to the line more often and shooting much better from the line, his scoring efficiency from a perspective of points per field-goal attempt, is similar to his first two seasons. I think part of it is that he gets keyed on a lot, but it speaks to the efficiency challenges that this team faces on offense.

I did a little (emphasis on little) digging into players and their points per attempt ratios. I think it can be a hard thing to improve, though hardly impossible. These are the ratios for a few contemporary players similar to Georges-Hunt.

Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame: 1.35, 1.29, 1.27, 1.19

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson: 1.21, 1.21, 1.35 (McDaniels left Clemson after his junior season)

Dez Wells, Maryland: 1.31, 1.37, 1.50, 1.18

Conclusion? Georges-Hunt is in a bit of a funk.

2. I mentioned it in the game story, but a five-possession sequence midway through the second half did Tech in.

Quinton Stephens hits a 3-pointer to increase Tech’s lead to 49-45 with 11:42 remaining.

Chris Jones responds with a jump shot at 11:21 to cut the lead to 49-47.

Josh Heath tries to feed Stephens again outside the arc, but his pass to Stephens is too hot and high and goes out of bounds.

Josh Newkirk misses a jumper.

Tadric Jackson’s pass to Stephens on the perimeter isn’t completed and stolen.

James Robinson misses a jumper.

Stephens misses a jumper.

Young scores on a layup and is fouled by Charles Mitchell to tie the score at 49 with 9:21. Young misses the free throw.

Robert Sampson and Marcus Georges-Hunt, standing feet away from each other, apparently miscommunicate and lose the ball.

Jamel Artis scores a second-chance basket to give Pitt the lead 51-49.

Mitchell sends a bounce pass to Travis Jorgenson on the wing, but Cameron Wright jumps the passing lane for a steal and scores on a layup, giving Pitt a 53-49 lead with 7:50 to play.

In five possessions, Tech managed just one shot, a missed attempt.

“For us, we’re shooting the ball better and we’re shooting well at the free-throw line when we get fouled and we’re an exceptional offensive rebounding team,” Gregory said. “And so we’ve got to get the ball up on the rim. And when you turn the ball over, especially at that time, unfortunately, you can’t make those mistakes. What it does is it just keeps putting so much pressure on your defense and on your defensive rebounding.”

The confounding part of it is that none were caused, from my perspective, by Pittsburgh. The final steal was a good read by Wright, but probably avoidable. The other three were entirely avoidable. If Tech had avoided two of the four turnovers and attempted shots in three possessions instead of one, it’s not unreasonable to think the Jackets would have come away with two or three more points, which is essentially what the game was decided by. (Tech was down three with a minute to play when it started fouling.)

“We cut down those, we already win the game,” Sampson said.

3. The rather strange thing about Tech right now is that the Jackets, statistically speaking, are actually not playing terribly. They were 17 for 20 for the line and have shot 80 percent or more in five of the past six games.

To put that in perspective, Tech had four such games in the 2010-11 season (Paul Hewitt’s last), eight in 2011-12, two in 201-13 and five in 2013-14. The Jackets are No. 8 in offensive rebounding percentage. Tech had 35 misses (including free throws) and the Jackets took 16 of those, nearly half. Tech finished better against Pitt than it had been previously, with 19 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds. Its 14 assists on 21 baskets is a pretty good rate. Pittsburgh shot 2-for-11 from the 3-point range. Tech is ranked No. 27 in defensive 3-point percentage.

The four turnovers aside, Sampson had a strong game, as did Stephens. Jorgenson had five assists against two turnovers. Tech, which had been ranked last in 3-point field-goal shooting, was 6-for-14 and is now making 42.1 percent of its 3-point tries in the past three games.

However, Saturday, Tech was killed by its 15 turnovers, particularly because Pitt only had six. The Panthers had 14 points off turnovers compared to two for Tech. The Jackets also shot 39.6 percent from the field. Against Notre Dame, it was abysmal second-half shooting. Against Wake Forest, it was getting drilled on the glass. Against Syracuse, it was (again) the shooting. Against Notre Dame in the first game, it was letting the Irish shoot 53.3 percent from the field.

“We all know we’re right there,” Sampson said. “It was a couple mistakes that we made in the game (that was the difference). Our fight is there. Pretty much (have to) keep on fighting until it breaks down the wall.”

How much fighting that will take remains to be seen.


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