3 takeaways from Tech-Louisville

On the off chance you feel like reading more about Georgia Tech’s 52-51 loss to Louisville Monday.

1. One more gut punch of a loss. Tech was up 43-28 at the nine-minute mark and let Louisville slip off the hook. Just an awful way to lose.

Louisville is undoubtedly a worthy opponent, but the Yellow Jackets’ poor decisions and play, again, led them down the path. With 3:51 left in the game, forward Charles Mitchell grabbed a defensive rebound. Tech appeared to have weathered the storm after the Cardinals went on an 11-0 run to cut a 41-28 lead to 41-39. The Jackets now led 45-42.

They had nine more possessions left in the game. On five of them, they weren’t able to even get the ball on the rim.

1. On the first possession, Mitchell somehow lost control of the ball going to the basket (possession No. 1 without the ball getting on the rim).

2. After picking up his dribble in a no-man’s land in the middle of the floor, Josh Heath tried a high-risk path to forward Marcus Georges-Hunt in the paint, leading to a turnover (2).

3. Georges-Hunt was fouled and made one of two free throws.

4. With 1:12 left in the game, and the score now tied at 46, Georges-Hunt dribbled the ball off his foot (3). Terry Rozier scored a go-ahead basket on a drive.

5. Guard Tadric Jackson nearly lost the ball dribbling, and then Demarco Cox and Georges-Hunt almost lost it a second time on a handoff, then Jackson missed a 3-pointer.

6. After Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku missed a free throw, Georges-Hunt raced down court and tied the score on a layup in which he may have been fouled with 24 seconds left. But with no one stopping him, Rozier jetted back down the court to score – coach Rick Pitino was screaming at him to pull back and play for the last shot – to give Louisville a 50-48 team.

7. Georges-Hunt, who fell into the photographers row on the previous shot, got back on the court and received a throw-ahead pass, but then lost the ball again, this time dribbling in the lane (4). Tech lost its chance to tie and fouled Harrell, who missed the front end of a one-and-one with 13 seconds left.

8. Guard Travis Jorgenson drove to the basket and had his layup blocked by Onuaku, missing a chance for a drive-and-dish play to center Demarco Cox, whom Onuaku was guarding and left to block Jorgenson’s shot (5).  Wayne Blackshear recovered the block for Louisville with five seconds left and made two free throws after getting fouled to put the game away.

9. Jackson made a 3-pointer with less than two seconds left to cut the lead to 52-51, but the Jackets weren’t able to foul on the inbounds pass, and time ran out.

The Jackets obviously played well enough and exploited an off game by Louisville enough to lead by 13 points with nine minutes left. And more goes into a loss than what happens in the final minutes. And the Cardinals were doing their best to win, too. And the team must feel immense pressure. But all the Jackets needed was to replace one mistake (if that was the first time in his college career that Georges-Hunt dribbled the ball off his foot, it wouldn’t surprise me) with a winning play, and perhaps the night ends with the student body celebrating on Cremins Court, in front of ESPN’s cameras, no less.

“There’s nothing to say,” Mitchell said. “We’ve just got to keep working and hopefully that time will come.”

Louisville, meanwhile, was hardly the picture of efficiency, but made a couple big plays. One, it secured two offensive rebounds to produce a 3-pointer by Blackshear that tied the game at 46 with 1:50 to play. Two, Rozier exploded up the court to take the lead back after Georges-Hunt had tied it up with 24 seconds to go. Tech was either caught off guard or simply defend the play poorly. Rozier had a fairly clean drive to the basket.

“That’s why they’re a top-20 team,” Gregory said. “They made timely threes and got timely offensive rebounds, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the same.”

2. As typically been the case, a number of strong performances went for naught. Mitchell tied his season high with 14 rebounds in just 18 minutes. He played only four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He scored on a putback with 4:14 left that made me think that the Jackets just might pull it off. (This was just after Louisville had gone on an 11-0 run and closed the 13-point deficit to two points. Mitchell’s attempt off a Georges-Hunt miss bounced around the rim and nearly fell out of the cylinder before dropping. It was the sort of shot that has haunted the Jackets in their nine losses by five points or less or in overtime. But it dropped to give the Jackets a 45-42 lead, and Mitchell almost lost his balance celebrating the basket as he went back upcourt. However, it merely served to delay the seemingly inevitable.)

Going into halftime, Mitchell said, “I knew I had to do something for my team outside of just me fouling. So I felt like I’ll just focus on just going out and trying to get every rebound I can every second I play.”

Demarco Cox had a double-double with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, a season-high 11 rebounds (four offensive) and three assists (tying his career high).

The Jackets tied their season high with 19 fast-break points. That was probably the best part of their game, particularly in the first half. Tech pushed the pace whenever it had the opportunity, even after made baskets, in order to obtain as many easy baskets as possible against a Louisville defense that is ranked No. 6 in the country by kenpom.com. In the category of “difficult to believe,” undefeated Kentucky shot just .9 percentage points better against Louisville in its December win over the Cardinals than Tech did Monday night.

On one such break, Tadric Jackson made ESPN SportsCenter’s top play of Monday with his dunk over 6-foot-10 center Chinanu Onuaku at the end of the first half. (Georges-Hunt also made the list with a block on a Louisville fast break.)

 

Georges-Hunt scored in double figures for the 10th straight game with 13 points, but was an uncharacteristic 3-for-8 from the free-throw line and also turned the ball over six times against Louisville’s pressure. (The Cardinals lead the ACC in turnover percentage.)

“We’re putting Marcus in position not only as a go-to player but to be one of the best players in this league,” Gregory said. “That’s a new challenge for him and along that road, there’s going to be some bumps in the road. The one thing about that kid is he’s a tough enough kid, he’s got enough confidence in himself but more important, the confidence comes from working as hard as anybody or any player I’ve ever had. So you know that eventually good things are going to happen for him.”

3. This will go down as one of the strangest seasons in Tech basketball history. Monday’s game may have been the topper.

Tech is 1-9 against RPI top-50 teams, the lone win over Georgia in the season opener. The Jackets led in overtime against No. 48 N.C. State, led at No. 27 Notre Dame with 19 seconds left in regulation, were down by one to the Irish with one minute left, were tied with 24 seconds left against No. 17 Louisville (after being up by 13 8 ½ minutes earlier) and were down three with one minute left at No. 37 Pittsburgh. And they lost all five.

It’s difficult to fathom.


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