Georgia Tech didn’t have much going for it Tuesday night going into the game and it showed in the Jackets’ 56-37 loss. A few thoughts:
1. Tech was unable to handle Clemson’s man-to-man defensive pressure. The Jackets needed a guard, Mfon Udofia, Brandon Reed or Pierre Jordan, who could split a double team or swing the ball to the weak side, but none could accomplish it enough to force the Tigers to back off. This has been the Jackets’ struggle for much of the season. It happened repeatedly that one of Tech’s bigs would screen for one of the guards, leaving a double team on the guard as the big rolled away, and the ball got stuck in the double team.
“We have struggled all year long, it’s no secret, with teams that have pressured us and were able to pressure the ball,” coach Brian Gregory said.
Tech handled the absence of Glen Rice Jr. fine on Saturday, perhaps because the Hokies played in a zone and gave the Jackets more room to get into their offense. It was not the case Tuesday.
2. The effort was there, particularly in the first half. Clemson didn’t score on its first six possessions but Tech only got ahead 4-0 in that span. The Tigers didn’t have an offensive rebound until the 3:56 mark of the first half, but still led 22-13 at that point in part because of Tech’s slew of turnovers and poor shooting. (I think I’ve written this before.)
The Jackets wore down in the second half, no doubt in part because they were playing with seven scholarship players (not counting former walk-ons Nick Foreman and Derek Craig) and had played a taxing game against Virginia Tech Saturday.
In the second half, Tech handled the ball better and had more open looks, but shot 25.0 percent from the field.
“It’s hard,” Gregory said. “You’ve got to give the guys a little slack because defensively, it’s hard to keep going back and trying to get stops when you’re not scoring any points at all.”
3. Guard Jason Morris deserves praise for trying to play on a mid-foot strain suffered in the Virginia Tech game. He started, played 17 minutes and did not score.
“That was, again, a guy who was just trying to give everything he has, but you could tell he was slowed, he didn’t have that explosiveness,” Gregory said.
4. I’d say that Tech hasn’t had two back-to-back games where it gave a good account of itself since the beginning of the ACC season, when it lost to Duke and then beat N.C. State on the road. I think it’s just how this team is. One thing I’ve heard Gregory mention multiple times is the team’s small margin of error. There isn’t a player who can create a lot of easy chances for his teammates or a player who can throw the team on his back for five minutes at a stretch or who can grab a defensive rebound, head upcourt and finish at the basket.
There are players who can do those things, but not consistently.
Everything, or nearly everything, has to go right for the Jackets to have a chance.
It happened against Virginia Tech and the Jackets had the game in their hands. It didn’t happen on a number of fronts Tuesday and the result was Tech’s lowest-scoring game since 1980.