Georgia Tech putting it all together at the right time

How did Georgia Tech do in the physical battles Thursday? Just look at this picture. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

How did Georgia Tech do in physical battles? The picture says it all. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

The calendar hasn’t even turned to February, and Georgia Tech just played the kind of basketball game it wants to play in March. Tough team defense. A strong presence inside. Freshmen all over the floor making plays — blocking shots, hitting jumpers, not throwing away the ball — or hope.

And when was the last time things went so well that coach Paul Hewitt used only two timeouts?

Tech didn’t just win an ACC game Thursday. It made a fairly significant statement about avoiding the kind of backslide that has plagued this program the past few years. The Jackets bounced back from a loss at Florida State by leveling Wake Forest 79-58.  In doing so, they held the Demon Deacons to 32.8 percent shooting. They blocked eight shots. Even the opposing coach acknowledged that Tech won the physical battles. (Statistical evidence: Tech dominated the boards in the second half, 27-10.)

“They took us out of a lot of what we wanted to do,” said Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio. “They deserve the credit. They made us miss shots.”

Is this what you’ve been waiting for?

Derrick Favors’ night: Five blocked shots, nine rebounds and 11 points. Gani Lawal: 14 points, nine rebounds and a block. Once again, they sent 22 NBA scouts home happy. (Question: At this point, how much more do they need to know?)

“I’m not sure we can play much better than that,” said coach Paul Hewitt.

And how long have you been waiting for that?

Wake made only 21 of 64 from the floor. They were 3 of 18 from three-point range. (Conversely, the Jackets shot 54 percent.)

Tech held the Demon Deacons 19 points below their 77-point average. Yes, their defense has been solid all season. But look at the results in the four ACC wins: Duke (minus-19), North Carolina (minus-12), Clemson (minus-13) and Wake Forest (minus-19) were held a cumulative 63 points under their averages.

Good timing.

The knock on Tech in recent times has been that of an underachieving, talented team. Thursday’s game represented an opportunity to shed that reputation. After impressive conference wins over Duke, North Carolina and Clemson — all ranked teams — the Jackets lost to Florida State for the second time this season on Sunday. They had the lead and the ball down the stretch in Tallahassee. But Tech’s totals in the final 26 seconds of the game: 0-for-3 shooting, two fouls, one turnover.

“I really can’t get on these guys,” said Hewitt, whose team moved to 15-5 overall and 4-3 in the ACC.  “They’ve been playing their butts off all year. Somebody asked me after the Georgia game if I got on them. I couldn’t. They played hard. The same the other day at Florida State. They left everything on the floor.”

Things started poorly against Wake. The Jackets played weak inside defense and were getting hammered on the boards. They fell behind, 17-10. When the intensity on defense picked up, so did the offense. Favors was slow to get into flow on offense, but he was a monster inside, blocking four shots in the first half (equaling his previous game-high for the season).

Tech went on 10-3 run to catch Wake at 20-all. Continuing with strong team defense and balanced scoring, it built an eight-point lead at 32-24 before settling for a halftime advantage of 35-29.

They built the lead in the second half. Wake Forest, which shot only 32.4 percent in the first half, went cold. Iman Shumpert and Brian Oliver hit three pointers. The Jackets defended and ran some more. Before long, the lead was up to 17 points at 54-37. That was it.

Hewitt laughed when asked about his rare usage of timeouts Thursday.

“Hey, what can I tell you,” he said. “We played well. Now we move on to the next one.”

Something to look forward to.

101 comments Add your comment

Reality Check

January 28th, 2010
9:51 pm

The Count

January 28th, 2010
9:52 pm

Jeff, I love dis story

ASHEVILLE DAWG

January 28th, 2010
9:55 pm

second & so close

Bela Lugosi

January 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

Jeffff, i tink you owe me some royaltees.

Jackets Rock

January 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

First!
Thrillerdome Forever!!!!!!!

Go GTech

January 28th, 2010
9:57 pm

Best game I have seen Tech play in a couple of years. This team has all the tools to be great and tonight they showed what happens when it all comes together.

ASHEVILLE DAWG

January 28th, 2010
9:58 pm

Well Hewitt coached his team well, for a change.

Jackets Rock

January 28th, 2010
10:00 pm

Thrillerdome baby. We back.

watching freshmen play that well

January 28th, 2010
10:00 pm

is fun (this year) and provides a subject to think pleasantly about for next year.

wiley

January 28th, 2010
10:03 pm

Asheville…that kind of thinking got him a life time contract after one national title appearance. Glad to see the team play a complete game. This year is very similar to 2004….many people forget we only went 9-7 in the acc that year. Lets hope they can work the magic again! GO Jackets!

Wardo

January 28th, 2010
10:11 pm

Don’t get too excited. We still have Paul Hewitt on our bench! He is capable of pulling defeat from the jaws of victory at any time. Go Jackets.

chad

January 28th, 2010
10:12 pm

I am sorry but Udofia is getting worse. What is his deal. He looks like he has no confidence. He is having a hard just bringing the ball up the court now. He is definately not a one and done!! Oliver needs more minutes. He and Iman should start in the backcourt.

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
10:12 pm

Reality Check — Gold medal.

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
10:13 pm

The Count — I thought you were off today?

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
10:13 pm

Bela — Speak to my attorney. You’re all a bunch of blood-suckers.

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
10:14 pm

Go GTech– Agreed. If Jackets play defense like this, the ceiling is high.

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
10:14 pm

Asheville Dawg — Sounds like that hurt to say. Correct?

Up with the white and gold

January 28th, 2010
10:15 pm

Best game I have seen in a long time – still have my doubts about Hewitt.

richtreignisover

January 28th, 2010
10:17 pm

WTF are you talking about? We beat a weak wake team and blewitt’s putting it together? Did you not see us shoot 50% from the line and lose to f$u twice? I’d be shocked if we are finish over .500 in the conference. We’ll lead the league in time out usage though….

Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher

January 28th, 2010
10:19 pm

Agree Chad, Udofia makes me nervous when he is tasked with running the offense, he looks lost at times, he is a freshman however, I think Hewitt should bring in Miller for a couple more possessions and allow the game to slow down for Mfon.

GTPHISH

January 28th, 2010
10:19 pm

Jeff,
Excellent column, again. Great time tonight, that was some killer D, we keep that up, we have some serious potential.

chad

January 28th, 2010
10:22 pm

Yes Irwin lost is a good way to describe the way he looks. Ball handling and shooting have fallen off the face of the earth. I was actually glad to see Mo come in when he did. He at least could help bring the ball up court.

Paul in RDU

January 28th, 2010
10:30 pm

Jeff – excellent column.
This was the best GT performance in a long time. This team has played hard all year, especially on the defensive end and had some good moments on offense in some of the games. Tonight they put it all together. I was extremely happy how they attacked the Wake Forest zone – they spaced the court well, moved the ball around crisply, used the big guys and got open shots from the right guys.
That is called coaching.
As far as someone claiming Wake Forest is weak. Aminu and Smith will both play in the NBA and Wake will be in the NCAA this year. They are unbeaten at home and blew out a young, but talented UNC in the Dean Dome.

Thrillerdome

January 28th, 2010
10:38 pm

@ Chad..Udofia is not getting worse. He is getting the fill of playing the wing guard. He got some PG play this game and got ripped once other TO were on passes to big men, which didnt get caught. But overall his on floor presence was good. 4 assists and very active on D. He never was a one and done player so I dont know where that came from. But he has definitely been good for the jackets and will be especially beneficial to their success.

Thrillerdome

January 28th, 2010
10:43 pm

Just to add Udofia played excellent against Duke, I mean he ran the team just fine when Shumpert was out. But you guys will see him develop and then jump on his side.

How bout that D?

January 28th, 2010
10:44 pm

Mfon basically got schooled by a seasoned ACC veteran tonight (Ish). But he never stopped playing hard. He will eventually be a great one….Go Jackets!

Thrillerdome

January 28th, 2010
10:46 pm

I agree with “How bout that D”

white & old gold

January 28th, 2010
10:49 pm

i think we can look forward to the next one, considering its kentucky state. duke looms after that…

by the way, anyone remember clarence moore from the 03-04 team? hes kentucky state’s head coach. good for him

Paul in RDU

January 28th, 2010
10:50 pm

white & old gold – Thanks for the info on Clarence Moore. I wondered why GT was playing Kentucky State and now I know.
I wonder if Clarence still has the ‘locks?

StingerSplash

January 28th, 2010
10:50 pm

That they play hard hasn’t been the issue. Playing smart, however, is — and that’s Hewitt’s responsibility.

chad

January 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

Thrillerdome: By him getting better or playing better then he did before the ACC schedule started I guess that’s why his minutes have gone down considerable. The one and done comment was a slap at how Blewit only recruits them. Yes he will get better with age, but right now he is not as good as advertised before the season started. He definately is not a two guard, his jump shot is terrible. I don’t know what you expect, but I don’t expect a ACC caliber pg to get his pocket picked as much as he does or lose the bal and fall down as much as he does or make you hold your breath in fear when he gets pressured like he does. He has a lot of room to grow at this point and I a lot of room to grow.

Tech Engineer

January 28th, 2010
10:57 pm

Tech is back! Look for Tech in the Elite 8—they are on fire! It’s hard to be humble as a Tech Engineer!!

Bela Lugosi

January 28th, 2010
11:00 pm

Jeff, you forget, i am your attorney!

white & old gold

January 28th, 2010
11:00 pm

Paul in RDU- I actually looked him up on KSU’s athletic site to find out about the hair, and his head is shaved. Anyone know how old Clarence Moore is? he seems awfully young to be a head coach. but like I said, good for him!

Technophobia

January 28th, 2010
11:01 pm

UVa lost tonight so that should put us tied with Wake for 3rd place. A win over Duke at their place would be SO huge.

Thrillerdome

January 28th, 2010
11:02 pm

Wow. Bold statements mad by Chad who obviuosly has not been watching the games. Yes his minutes declined of course with Shumpert’s return and with him playing the wing guard which is not his position. The only time he has gotten “his pocket picked” was tonight his other TO this season are on passes and his own error, he averages 2.5 turnovers a game so check your stats before you start throwing out accusations. And about the hype, he has lived up to it, matter of fact, the only freshamn who was hyped was Derrick Favors so again you are wrong. Clearly you don’t know your basketball so I see where you may be wrong.

Jackets Rock

January 28th, 2010
11:03 pm

Mo Miller has looked good…Sank two FTs @ the end and looked calm closing out the game. Hope to see him more. Love how each game a different player steps up; we are giving opposing defenses big problems. 5 different players in dub figures!

Technophobia

January 28th, 2010
11:06 pm

Clarence Moore is 28. I wondered why we were playing Ky St too. Now we know.

chad

January 28th, 2010
11:16 pm

Thrillerdumb, you are the one that has not been watching. Blewit even said his minutes were being cut because he has lost his confidence on 790 wed morning and the move for him at the wing spot was for him to get in the rythm of the game. That means he isn’t getting the job done at the point at this time. Go back and watch the UNC game, Clempsun game, UVA game, Ugay game and your juvenile mind might be changed. You need to take off the yellow and black glasses and come back to reality. Hey I love Tech as much as the next fan but I am just calling like it is being played on the court. The whole class came as the saving grace for Blewit and the last time I checked Udofia was part of the class so no your wrong the only players living up to the hype right now is Rice and Oliver.

chad

January 28th, 2010
11:20 pm

good night thriller, some people have to work for a living. Hope you make that 2:00 o’ clock class tommorrow.

Yikes

January 28th, 2010
11:23 pm

This Chad character is a bit prickley, no?

Thrillerdome

January 28th, 2010
11:28 pm

Chad I have a Masters Degree from Emory University. Nice talking to a blue collar professional.

white & old gold

January 28th, 2010
11:36 pm

i take back my comment that clarence moore has a shaved head. just short hair

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

GTPhish — Thanks. Phish fan? Is Uncle Ebenezer still in the freezer?

hubbabubba

January 28th, 2010
11:42 pm

Chiming in on Mfon here … was at the game tonight although I got there late. To Chad’s point – Mfon is still struggling a bit shooting the ball, but this kid was a pretty good AAU and high school shooter so I’m hoping it’s a funk. The important thing tonight was confidence … I differ with Chad in that he did play with confidence tonight; his coach showed confidence in him to handle the point and keep him in the game. From the turnover perspective, his were higher than normal but one of them occurred on an offensive foul that was truly an offense … ask the Yellow Jackets fans; they let the officials have it for about 30 seconds after that call. He had only one turnover tonight where you might say ‘his pocket was picked that I saw’. So overall, this was a decent turnaround game for Mfon and good for his confidence (after the FSU game where he sat the second half).

I also thought that Moe played well and he’s probably deserving of more minutes. BO continued to play well and Bell had a nice game. The bigs were awesome and Derrick really threw the Decons play off-balance with his D.

Great defense. Maybe I haven’t noticed before but I liked what Coach Hewitt did by leaving his bigs back during Jackets foul shots to prevent any Decon fast breaks and easy buckets. But besides the defense, the biggest factor in tonight’s win … did anyone else notice … that the Jackets ran an impressive half-court offense. There was, by and large, lots of motion, looks, and shots taken. Hopefully this carries through …

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
11:43 pm

Paul RDU — Thanks for the comments. Yeah, not sure about that other comment. Wake was, what, 14-4 and 4-2 before tonight?

Jeff Schultz

January 28th, 2010
11:43 pm

Bela — Oh yeah. Um, are you on the clock now?

GTPHISH

January 28th, 2010
11:58 pm

Jeff,
ding, ding, ding…..last time I checked (new years eve in Miami), it was definitely cold where the Heat normally play basketball.

Good times inside the T-dome tonight

Technophobia

January 29th, 2010
12:00 am

There IS still room for improvement in the half court offense but this was a big improvement tonight and Jeff is right, the timing is excellent with the whole month of Feb to further refine the half court game. A good defense/transitions type team that can also run a half court offense can go very far.

Diablo69

January 29th, 2010
12:07 am

If you hammer Hewitt when they lose you have to give him credit when they win. Most complete victory we’ve had in a while. Favors is finally looking like he deserved some of the hype, Lawal is playing like he wants to be drafted in the lottery and Shumpert is finally looking like a Micky D’s AA.

Like most I’m still not on board with Hewitt given the past 5 years, but to his credit this team does play D and they seem to play hard (if not smart) every night. Of course that will all be cold comfort if we are not still playing come the last week of March.