Georgia Tech nets season-low 42 in home loss to Miami
ATLANTA — It would be one thing if Georgia Tech — hardly a fully formed product right now under coach Brian Gregory — was struggling to keep pace with the dynamic, upper-crust clubs of the super-sized ACC.
But four games into the conference season, at a time when the league ranks only fifth nationally — just percentage points ahead of the Atlantic 10 — there is little consolation or hidden upside to a morbid re-start in January.
That lethargy carried over to Saturday, as Georgia Tech was summarily whipped by Miami, falling 56-42 at McCamish Pavilion. For the Jackets, it was easily their lowest scoring output of the season.
"It was very disappointing, on a lot of fronts. We didn’t really do a lot of things well (Saturday)," said Gregory in his post-game media address, a comment that came before he pored over the ugly truth in the box score.
For the day, Georgia Tech connected on only 13 of 44 shots from the field (30 percent), including just four of 20 three-pointers.
The Jackets also lost the battles with rebounding (31-27), turnovers (13-11) and free throws made (13-12) — so much it really didn’t matter that Miami accounted for only three triples (14 attempts) and just four assists.
Think about that for a second. A middling road team comes into an ACC venue and walks away with an easy triumph … on just four assists.
"I’ll take it," said Hurricanes coach Jim Larranga, with a wry smile. "(Of course) I’d like to have more assists, but the victory was most important."
Without the services of Travis Jorgenson and Robert Carter Jr. (knee injuries), Georgia Tech is essentially muddling through with an eight-man rotation. Against the ‘Canes, not a single Yellow Jacket produced more than three made baskets.
That includes the trio of Marcus Georges-Hunt (10 points, six boards), Daniel Miller (nine points, eight rebounds) and senior guard Trae Golden (12 points, one assist), who combined for 9 of 27 shooting.
"We’ve got to get back on track … and compete with a higher intensity that we had (against the ‘Canes)," said Gregory, lamenting his team’s across-the-board needs to improve with shooting, rebounding, passing, moving without the ball and defending.
He then added: "We need Marcus to play better, and we need Daniel to play better."
Citing the same RPI numbers, Georgia Tech was also languishing 42 slots behind Miami, a prime indication of how the Jackets’ season of budding promise (read: NCAA tournament contention) has been indefensibly disappointing.
And frankly speaking, it’s quite possible the Yellow Jackets (now 1-4 in the 15-team ACC) haven’t even hit rock-bottom yet. Of their next five games, the club has a home date with North Carolina (Jan. 29) sandwiched between four roadies against Boston College (Jan. 21), North Carolina State (Jan. 26), Wake Forest (Feb. 1) and Clemson (Feb. 4).
At the time of this writing, UNC, N.C. State and Boston College boast only one conference victory apiece. But entering Saturday, the same held true for Georgia Tech and Miami … and the Hurricanes — from first impressions, at least — are superior to the Yellow Jackets.
For the game itself, Miami shook off a sluggish start before proffering a 15-0 run that covered the end of the first half and beginning of the second.
During that stretch, Georgia Tech missed 11 straight shots, while Miami coolly pulled away with a balanced flurry of short-range jumpers, put-back shots inside the paint and one Rion Brown three-pointer, which extended the Hurricanes’ lead to 34-17 at the 16:46 mark.
After that, Tech turned up the full-court pressure after hitting the occassional three-pointer — momentarily breathing life into the home crowd. For the most part, though, the result had become academic after Miami’s 15-0 spurt.
In short, it was a game-changing sequence.
To be fair, Georgia Tech did slice Miami’s lead to single digits with roughly eight minutes remaining, but it would go no lower than that. A pair of Manu Lecomte free throws, followed up with a Lecomte layup, essentially put the game on ice.
Speaking of which, off a TV timeout and trailing by 13, Georgia Tech execucted a perfect three-point opportunity for Golden, with the Tennessee transfer coming off a textbook double screen from beyond the arc.
But the shot rimmed out, an apt description of how Georgia Tech could muster few breaks against Miami’s 2-3 zone that emphasized pressure on all wing and baseline passes.
For the day, the Yellow Jackets made just four treys on 15 shots — not a recipe for winning at home … or anywhere else, for that matter.
"That was a real tough zone, tough to get good looks; and if you did, you gotta knock (shots) down," said Golden. "(The Hurricanes) scouted us really well, they’re really long in their zone — active."
Larranaga was pleased with how his club shared the ball, regardless of the low assist tally.
"Fortunately, we came away with a nice victory."
When he asssumed control of the program (2011-12 campaign), there were barely enough scholarship players to get through a week of long, full-scrimmage practices — let alone compete in arguably the nation’s toughest conference, from top to bottom, year-in and year-out.
That aside, it’s fair to lament how this current group, full of young veterans and upper-class anchors like Miller, Golden and Kammeon Holsey (eight points, two steals), could be blitzed by a Miami team that had already fallen to Central Florida, George Washington, Nebraska, Virginia Tech and St. Francis (New York).
Especially with Georgia Tech just days removed from a hard-fought and close loss to No. 22 Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 in ACC entering Saturday).
"I came away very impressed with Georgia Tech (in the Pitt game). It came right down to the wire," said Larranaga. "I was very, very concerned if we could defend (Tech) and score on ’em."
Citing one Saturday plus, the Yellow Jackets did corral 10 offensive rebounds, a pleasant building block for Gregory and his staff. However, it’s still not enough.
"(Our seniors) have to step up at crucial times and make some plays. It’s a lot to ask … but they’ve got to do it."