Thoughts and observations from Georgia Tech’s 81-80 loss to N.C. State Saturday. Myajc story here. (The ajc.com version got replaced by the myajc version. For those interested in re-living it, I’ll include the text of it below.)
1. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt is in the best playing form of his career. Georges-Hunt made seven of 15 shots against N.C. State and was 8-for-9 from the free-throw line for 23 shots. He’s shooting 60 percent (24 for 40) in the past three games and has scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. The last Tech player to do that was Gani Lawal, in the 2009-10 season.
He’s also averaging 7.3 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists in that time. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the run is that he was shooting 38.1 percent from the field before the Boston College game. Tech has needed a consistent offensive threat, and, at least for three games, it looks like maybe it has one. It seems he’s been more efficient with drives to the basket. I’d say a 60 percent shooting rate is a bit unsustainable, but even dropping off to 45 percent would be more than sufficient.
Also notable: Georges-Hunt is making 77.1 of his free throws, a nearly 10-point improvement from his rate last season. Further, in ACC games, Tech is No. 2 in the league in free-throw shooting, at 74.5 percent. The Jackets are shooting 68.2 percent for the season, which is almost identical to the same rate as last season.
Were Tech to finish the regular season taking and making free throws at the same rate it has been in the ACC season, it would finish at 69.9 percent. It would be one made free throw under 70 percent and also Tech’s second highest season free-throw rate since the 1995-96 season. (The 2007-08 team shot 70.0 percent). The Jackets’ improvement at the free-throw line lends something of an ironic twist to the final five seconds of the game.
2. I don’t know if inexplicable is the right word to describe the loss, because when it happens over and over, you could say it’s entirely explicable. That said, it is remarkable that the Jackets keep living out variations of the same nightmare over and over.
There were, of course, a lot of ways this could have turned out differently. Center Demarco Cox had a great game rebounding on the offensive end, but that was at least partly due to the fact that he was gathering up a lot of his own misses. Cox, a 53.7 percent shooter before the game, was 5-for-16. According to the shot chart, he was 4-for-12 on shots at the basket.
On the final possession of regulation, Georges-Hunt drove to the basket and missed, and the ball went out of bounds to Tech with 4.7 seconds left. He got the ball again on the inbounds pass and was called for a charge. Two misses chances to win the game.
In overtime, Chris Bolden couldn’t get to Ralston Turner as ran him through screens to free himself for a 3-pointer that tied the game at 72 with 3:21 to go. To go to the start of the game, the Jackets didn’t even get the ball on the rim in the first four possessions as they ultimately fell behind by 14 on five different occasions before starting their comeback.
The rally was impressive and would have stood up as the largest comeback in a win in Gregory’s tenure. But, the accumulation of mistakes and missed opportunities, culminating in Quinton Stephens’ two missed free throws with 4.9 seconds left and the Jackets up two, set the stage for more heartbreak.
3. There is considerable balance in the conference this season. The weekend’s games offered considerable evidence. Of the seven games, five were decided by five points or less and/or went to overtime. Two ranked teams, No. 23 Miami and No. 8 Notre Dame, lost to unranked teams.
On the ACC teleconference Monday, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the league is as tough top to bottom as it has ever been. For better or worse, Tech has done its part to demonstrate that balance, losing one-possession games to Notre Dame (twice), Syracuse and N.C. State, all in the RPI top 70, according to warrennolan.com.
For Tech, it was Tech’s fourth game in a 10-day span, starting with the Virginia loss. In the other three, the Jackets routed Miami and lost by a combined three points to Boston College and N.C. State.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to keep finding a way to bounce back,” Gregory said. “But our guys have been great. I believe in them and they believe in what we’re doing, so we keep plugging away.”
Georgia Tech suffered the cruelest cut Saturday, losing 81-80 in overtime to N.C. State on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Wolfpack guard Trevor Lacey.
Tech forward Quinton Stephens missed two free throws with 4.9 seconds left and the Jackets ahead 80-78 to give the Wolfpack the chance to win the game. Stephens entered the game as an 83.3 percent free-throw shooter. Coach Brian Gregory had put into the game with 6.5 seconds to play after Lacey had brought the Wolfpack to within 80-78 on a layup.
It spoiled a Tech comeback from 14 points down in the first half and a furious rebounding performance by the Jackets. A chance to build on the team’s 70-50 win over No. 23 Miami, which ended a seven-game losing streak to open ACC play, fell by the wayside.
Tech (10-11 overall, 1-8 ACC), which trailed 17-3 and 19-5 early in the first half, cut the deficit to nine points by halftime and then used a 16-3 run midway through the second half to take a 58-52 lead with about 7:30 remaining. N.C. State (14-9, 5-5) was led by guard Anthony Barber’s 23 points.