Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said the difference in his players’ defensive performance against Virginia Tech, and the one in the previous game at Virginia, came down to details.
A game after the Cavaliers became the ninth team this season to hit more than 40 percent of their 3-pointers, the Hokies missed 10 of their 11 attempts in Georgia Tech’s 72-57 victory on Tuesday.
“We’ve been talking about being more aware when you’re off the ball,” Hewitt said. “We have a tendency to lock in on the ball, which is why we get a lot of steals. The second half we did a much better job of recognizing when our man was off the ball and recognizing who the shooters were when they were off the ball.”
Because Georgia Tech sometimes focuses too much on the ball, defenders would lose track of their man, which would allow him to slip into open spots. The Hokies were able to find some of those areas, but they couldn’t make those shots.
No one had a tougher time than Malcolm Delaney, one of the ACC’s most dangerous scorers. Harassed by Iman Shumpert, Delaney missed eight of his 11 shots and finished with eight points, 10.9 points less than his season average. Shumpert said he tried to deny Delaney the ball, often forcing him to go past the 3-point line to catch it.
“I think we played him tough and when I needed help I got it,” Shumpert said. “We played him hard at the basket and we went up there and contested every shot.”
As a team, the Hokies made just two jump shots. In a statistical oddity that’s the reverse of the trouble Tech has had guarding 3-pointers, 52 of Virginia Tech’s 57 points came in the free-throw line or at the free-throw line.
“They played hard and did a good job contesting the shots,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.
In their past three home games, Tech victories by an average margin of 23.3 points, opponents are making an average of 30.9 percent of their field goals.
“The energy you get [at home] really helps,” Hewitt said. “Our student section these last three home games has been really good.”
Tech (10-9, 3-3) will need another performance like that with Maryland coming to Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. The Jackets will travel to Miami on Feb. 3, followed by consecutive home games against Clemson (Feb. 5) and Florida State (Feb. 10).
– Doug Roberson, AJC