Recapping Georgia Tech’s win over Boston College

Georgia Tech forward Charles Mitchell applauds on the bench during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Atlanta, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Georgia Tech won the game 63-62. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Georgia Tech forward Charles Mitchell applauds on the bench during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Atlanta, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Georgia Tech won the game 63-62. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Recapping Georgia Tech’s 76-71 win over Boston College Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass. (5 observations, courtesy of freelancer Mike Shalin, is here. I apologize if you’ve been looking for it and couldn’t find it. We’ve been having some technical difficulties.)

Four thoughts

Georges-Hunt impresses again

Another phenomenal game from guard Marcus Georges-Hunt. The line speaks for itself. 7-for-7 from the field (1-for-1 from 3-point range), 8-for-10 from the line, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks, one steal, three turnovers. That is making an impact.

He made a number of critical plays. I’ll highlight two. Midway through the second half, when Boston College had cut the 13-point halftime lead to six points and Tech’s offense had turned the ball over on the previous three possessions, he drove to the basket to pick up a foul and two free throws, which extended the lead to eight points, helping restore order.

With Tech ahead 72-68, guard Adam Smith missed a jump shot with 32 seconds left. Boston College attacked in transition for the chance to cut the lead to two or even one. Guard Eli Carter drove to the basket on Georges-Hunt, who, while his momentum was carrying him backwards, was able to get enough lift to block Carter’s shot, then get the rebound and force Boston College to foul. After that, he made both free throws with 10.7 seconds remaining, moving the lead to six to all but close out the game.

Georges-Hunt made a block like that either against North Carolina or Pitt at the beginning of the ACC season. It struck me as impressive then and Saturday, being able to generate enough lift while backpedaling to get higher up than someone running forward and leaping takes considerable timing and power.

Consider this: In the past two games, he is 15-for-17 from the field (2-for-3 from 3-point range), 16-for-19 from the free-throw line, 48 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists. He has developed such a soft touch around the basket. I remember not so long ago that he was effective at getting to the rim on drives but had trouble scoring when he got bumped, both in the half-court and in transition.

He is now shooting 51.6 percent from the field in ACC play, which is second on the team to center Ben Lammers, and he’s a guard whose shot distribution includes 26 percent taken from 3-point range. I don’t know if it’s quite mind-boggling – ACC guards Malcolm Brogdon and Grayson Allen are in the same territory shooting percentage-wise – but it’s pretty extraordinary.

Strange flow

Kind of a crazy game. Tech shot the lights out in the first half (while turning the ball over seven times in 35 possessions, which is way too many), nearly gave the lead away in the second half, had winning contributions in particular from forwards Quinton Stephens and James White, but gave up way too many open looks to Boston College, particularly in the second half. It was the second closest call that Boston College has had to getting a first ACC win, following its 68-65 loss to North Carolina in which the Tar Heels trailed most of the game.

The Jackets made 16 of 22 shots in the first half, which is 72.7 percent, which is higher than they have shot in any half this season, including any of the four halves in their two 100-point games this season. In the second half, they were 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) and actually scored as many points from the free-throw line (14 of 16) than they did from the field. They turned the ball over 10 times on 33 possessions, which is dreadful.

It’s the kind of game the Jackets have lost plenty of times in recent seasons, and sometimes against Boston College. Tech was rescued at various points by White’s active play – six rebounds, two blocks and two steals, along with eight points in 22 minutes – and Stephens, who did a little bit of everything, including a pivotal 3-point play when Boston College made a push with about six minutes to go.

Lammers made two big blocks in the second half to thwart Boston College fast-break opportunities, one against 7-footer Dennis Clifford that would have cut the lead to four early in the half. (Lammers wasn’t credited, but it certainly looked like a block.) The second was at the 8:52 mark, when Carter tried to answer a Georges-Hunt basket (set up by a Lammers screen) with a transition score, but Lammers blocked him at the basket, leading to a stop that turned into a Smith 3-pointer, a five-point swing.

It wasn’t Tech’s best game by any stretch, and a repeat performance against Louisville Tuesday will result in defeat (for Tech), but Saturday, it was enough.

“I don’t think it was the best-looking win, but, hey, we’ll take it,” Smith said.

Critical mistakes by B.C.

Boston College bailed Tech out three times by fouling when the shot clock was about to expire. With Tech ahead 56-54, guard Josh Heath drove and put up a shot to the right of the lane when guard Matt Milon fouled Heath, sending him to the line for two shots. Heath made both with 9:35 remaining, averting a Boston College possession in which it could have taken the lead.

With the score 63-56, the shot clock was about to expire again when Lammers was trying to attempt a catch-and-shoot attempt while in the air but was fouled by forward Garland Owens at the 6:49 mark. It proved somewhat inconsequential, as Lammers missed the first free throw and then Charles Mitchell killed the second attempt with a lane violation, but it did put Tech in the bonus for the rest of the game.

One possession later, Stephens put up a jump shot as the shot clock drew down, but Clifford crashed into him as he tried to challenge the shot. Stephens made both free throws to expand Tech’s lead to seven points, 65-58. (Curiously, it was a one-and-one, even though Clifford appeared to foul Stephens in the act of shooting. My guess is that Clifford fouled Stephens after the actual shot.)

It’s hard to fault a player too much for defending aggressively – the only thing worse than fouling a shooter at the end of a shot clock is not defending him and allowing him to toss in a desperation attempt at the end of a well-played defensive possession – but Heath and Lammers in particular were in really tough spots to make shots.

In a game in which Boston College had the ball with 30 seconds left and the chance to cut the lead to 1 point, those three plays, which resulted in four points, were pretty critical. Tech was having major problems on offense – when Heath was fouled, the Jackets had scored just one basket in the second half –and was undoubtedly glad to get free throws out of such unadvantageous positions.

It helps explain how Tech had a 33-7 advantage in free-throw attempts from the free-throw line, though not entirely. That is a stunning differential. Boston College’s minus-26 gap was by far its largest of the season, and the Eagles have spent the entire ACC season getting outshot. The average in ACC play coming into the game was minus-9.1.

On to Louisville

Who, three weeks ago, would have thought that this game might mean so much? Tech will play for its fifth win in a row and maybe for its existence as a way-off-the-bubble tournament team. At 17-12, the Jackets might be maybe 2-3 wins from an NIT berth and maybe 4-5 from a spot in the NCAA tournament, and how crazy is that?

Louisville, which is keeping itself out of the postseason due to its recruiting scandal, will be celebrating senior night, and the KFC Yum! Center should be off the wall.

Stat of the game

Tech has now won four ACC regular-season games in a row for the first time since 2001-02. That was coach Paul Hewitt’s second season. That was a long time ago. Every other ACC team had won four ACC regular-season games in a row at least once since 2010, although that might deserve some context. Tech became the 10th ACC team this season to win four league games in a row.

Three quotes

“What we’ve been able to do now is, even during that stretch, in all those close games last year and a couple of them this year, we’ve been able to maybe get a stop, but then not follow it up with a really good execution on offense, or we’ve been able to execute on offense and then not get a stop. During that time, our poise has shown. We’re able to get a stop and then execute well on offense and hten get another stop, and then maybe score again and now the three-point (lead) was back up to nine or 10, and that’s what happened today.” – coach Brian Gregory

“It’s a great feeling. I always say, we tell each other, ‘Write your own story.’ Right now, our story is in the process of being written.” – Georges-Hunt

“You could feel it at the end. They had nothing to lose. They were running and jumping and they hit some big shots toward the end, but we weathered the storm.” – Smith on Boston College

Four factors

A look at how both teams fared in four critical statistical categories, effective field-goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and free throws/field-goal attempt.

Category GT BC
eFG 61.3 57.9
OReb 35.0 33.3
TO 25.0 22.1
FT/FG 82.3 12.3

Just a really strange game statistically speaking. Both teams shot exceptionally well (Tech’s season rate is 49.6 percent and Boston College’s is 47.0; a good average is 53 percent) and rebounded well on the offensive glass (the Eagles did far better than normal), but both teams were also atrocious handing the ball, Tech uncharacteristically so.

The Jackets’ season average going into the game was 15.1 percent, but they’ve been sliding of late. Killing a quarter of your possessions with turnovers – granted, Boston College is pretty good at turning teams over – is not what you’d call winning basketball.

The free throws/field-goal attempt rates are off the charts, quite literally. According to teamrankings.com, the No. 1 team in the country at getting to the line, Howard, is at 49.6 percent. The site also lists the rate for each team in its last game as of Friday. The highest is 71.2 percent. But Tech was more than 10 percentage points higher than that, attempting 33 free throws and 40 field goals. And it wasn’t skewed that much by Boston College fouling late. Tech took just four free throws after intentional fouls by the Eagles.

Meanwhile, Boston College’s rate would have been 340th out of 351. I’d say that’s where the game was won/lost.

Tech opened the game going right into the post, typically a sure way of getting to the free-throw line. The Jackets also benefited, again, from Georges-Hunt’s remarkable knack for drawing fouls. Going into the game, he was averaging 7.17 free throws per game, 31st in the country and third in the ACC.

 

 


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