UPDATED, 7:30 p.m. Georgia Tech sought confirmation of its strong nonconference start. It received, instead, a kick in the pants.
In their ACC opener, the Yellow Jackets were outclassed by Miami, absorbing a 62-49 defeat Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. Tech lost patience on offense, was broken down on defense and had no answer for the hot shooting of guard Rion Brown.
“I think you’ve just got to look in the mirror and say, ‘At this particular point, on Jan. 5, they’re a better team than we are,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said.
Tech (10-3 overall, 0-1 ACC) was unable to build on the promise it showed in the first 12 games, mostly against a weak schedule, and saw its six-game winning streak come to a finish. Miami, a rugged bunch heavy with seniors, led for the final 25 minutes of the game, at one point breaking away for a 23-point edge.
Before a crowd of 7,614, Tech held Miami (10-3, 1-0) to a reasonable 41.5 shooting percentage, but had trouble producing at the other end. The Jackets shot 32.7 percent, their season low, and were outrebounded 40-29.
“We just haven’t played bigs like this all season,” said center Daniel Miller, who had a strong defensive performance but shot 2-for-7 for six points. “We prepared and all that good stuff, but we’ve got to get used to playing in the ACC.”
Said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, “I thought we came up here and played very, very good defense for 40 minutes.”
For Tech, the challenge only intensifies. The Jackets’ next game is Wednesday at N.C. State, the preseason favorite to win the ACC.
Said guard Mfon Udofia, “If you don’t bring it, this is what’ll happen to you.”
The game was tied at 17 when forward Robert Carter took his second foul with 6:36 remaining in the first half and headed for the bench. He joined Miller, also with two fouls, leaving the Jackets without two of their most effective players for the rest of the half. Miami closed on a 16-6 run as the Jackets turned the ball over four times, rushed shots and failed to box out.
“We gave up two offensive rebounds in the last three minutes (of the first half) for layups,” Gregory said. “So if you just take care of the board work, it’s a two-possession game.”
Down 10 at the half, Tech failed to make any headway. In a typical stretch, forward Kammeon Holsey scored against a double team to cut the lead to eight with 14:43 to go, but then Tech left Miami guard Durand Scott alone under the basket to return the lead to 10. Carter scored on a goaltend to trim the lead to eight again. Gregory clapped emphatically from the bench, exhorting the Jackets to buckle down defensively. Brown, from Hinesville, Ga., freed himself up for a 3-pointer. On Tech’s next possession, a steal by Miami guard Shane Larkin turned into a layup for a 13-point lead.
“We were never able to get those two or three stops and then two or three good offensive possession, as well,” Gregory said.
Down 23, Tech scored the final 10 points of the game, sparked by guard Solomon Poole.
Brown, the son of former Tech star Tico Brown, scored a career-high 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Brown had come into the game having missed his past 15 3-pointers, but found his form in an 8 a.m. pregame shootaround. With about 40 family and friends in attendance, Brown came off the bench and made his first seven shots, including three 3-pointers.
“It’s always great to see your son do something really well,” said Tico Brown, now an insurance agent in Hinesville. “He played really well (Saturday). Of course, it’s always bittersweet when you’re going against Georgia Tech, but fortunately, this only happens a couple times.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog