Hope all are well. An eyebrow-raising result against Duke for Georgia Tech has led to an intriguing pair of games for the Yellow Jackets. They’ll go on the road to play N.C. State Wednesday and then Maryland Sunday.
A couple thoughts on the 81-74 loss to Duke on Saturday. It’s still a loss, the fourth in a row, but it was about as well as Tech has played this season. Duke missed some shots it normally makes, I think, which helped the Jackets stay in the game after falling behind by 18. Still, Tech showed resolve, made some plays at both ends and had a chance to tie the game with 2:58 to play. Considering that Tech had lost its three prior games, including one to Fordham (Sagarin rating: 242), it was not exactly what I’d expected coming in.
A terrific game from guard Glen Rice Jr., 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
“Once he got going, he really was really good,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said following the game.
Point guard Mfon Udofia and backup Pierre Jordan played well, and I think other players had their moments, like center Daniel Miller, forward Kammeon Holsey and guard Jason Morris, but were uneven to varying degrees.
“I do think Pierre helped us out quite a bit,” coach Brian Gregory said. “He’s a guy that gave us 14 really good minutes.”
Anyway, I think they make the two games ahead this week a little more worth paying attention to. One thing Gregory had said last week prior to the Duke game was that focus had been lacking in the losses to Mercer, Fordham and Alabama, and that he wanted to see the team play and fight harder. The conditions for the team to focus and fight were optimal Saturday and may not be better for another game the rest of the season. Duke was a top-five team and Tech was playing at home in its first ACC game. It would have been difficult for the Jackets to not be at their best from a motivation standpoint.
“You scratch your head and say, ‘How can you have 22 turnovers against this team?’ or ‘How can you get out-rebounded by that team?’ and, being honest with you, that’s where we’re at right now,” Gregory said. “We need to continue to do it every day to find that consistency as a program.”
N.C. State is 12-4 and beat Maryland in its ACC opener Sunday. The Wolfpack have beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat and lost to the teams they’re supposed to lose to, with the possible exception of a win over Texas.
Maryland is 10-4 and has beaten Notre Dame and played Illinois close, but isn’t overwhelming. The Wolfpack and Terrapins also have new coaches (Mark Gottfried and Mark Turgeon, respectively) and were picked just ahead of Tech in the preseason ACC poll. (N.C. State at 8, Maryland at 9 and Tech at 10.)
If the Jackets can play with the energy that they showed Saturday, they have a shot. If they don’t, they really probably don’t. Whether Tech can re-produce that level of effort will be a telling progress report, perhaps even more so than the Duke game.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges we have right now, is when you rely solely on talent, you’re going to be inconsistent,” Gregory said. “We have some talented players and we’re going to keep bringing in talented guy, but it’s that daily work ethic and that commitment to each other, that is the difference between the (best) teams. Always has been, always will be.”