Tech’s win over Carolina: Aberration or a turning point?

Iman Shumpert slams home two of his 30 points over North Carolina's Tyler Zeller. (Curtis Compton)

The Jackets' Iman Shumpert slams home two of his 30 points over North Carolina's Tyler Zeller. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated at 2:04 p.m. Monday)

Amid another Georgia Tech losing streak, continuing grumbling over Paul Hewitt’s rollover contract and a “home crowd” punctuated by empty seats and a few thousand fans wearing Carolina blue, the Jackets went and threw everybody for a loop Sunday night.

They won a game. In the ACC. Over North Carolina. By 20 points.

Sure, who didn’t see that coming? A team that loses to Kennesaw State, Siena and most recently Clemson by 25 points proceeds to make North Carolina look like . . . well, Georgia Tech?

“It’s sports,” the oft-maligned Paul Hewitt said afterward. “How did the Jets beat the Patriots today?”

Point taken. Pretty sure nobody has been calling for Bill Belichick’s head, though.

Here’s another anomaly: The Jackets have now won four straight games over North Carolina. Or, to put it another way, Roy Williams has now lost four straight games to Hewitt. This begs the question: Are Tar Heels fans grumbling about Williams’ buyout?

In Georgia Tech’s 78-58 win over North Carolina, the generally dreadful-shooting Jackets shot 53 percent in the second half, outworked the Tar Heels and even outscored them in the paint 38-22. North Carolina shot 27.6 percent, their worst percentage since 1955.

Williams took it well: “We didn’t come frickin’ ready to play. I’m mad at the world. We stunk. I’m so mad I’d fight somebody with a chainsaw right now.”

Actually, for Tech fans, this comment probably best illustrates where Tech is at: “It seems like they make more shots against us than they do anybody else.”

Yes. Like Kennesaw State.

If Georgia Tech is a team of multiple personalities, the Jackets would be best to hold onto this one for a while.

I know what you’re thinking: Aberration. That’s fair.

The Jackets had lost three straight and seven of 10 before the UNC game. This team had done little to instill confidence with the fan base, this following a 23-13 season that nonetheless led many to believe the Jackets had underachieved with NBA draft picks Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal. Hewitt’s popularity seems at an all-time low. Conversation often centers less on the team than it does his six-year rollover contract and the estimated $7 million payoff.

That’s not a healthy situation.

Hewitt and the Jackets realize converting fans will take more than one night. For starters, they’ll need to follow up Sunday’s win with a solid effort Wednesday against Wake Forest, which is the worst team in the ACC

Is it too much to think this could be a turning point?

Hewitt kept repeating, “We’re getting better.” He said, “We may not look clean all the time but we’re always working hard.”

That was true Sunday but it really hasn’t been the case at times this season. Even his players say so. Iman Shumpert (30 points) and Glen Rice (24) both alluded to the players’ lack of effort at times this season.

Shumpert: “We’ve got to drop the egos, drop the attitude and give the effort. Then we’ll be fine.”

The other troubling sign against North Carolina was the crowd. It’s not uncommon for the Tar Heels to bring a lot of fans. But Alexander Memorial Coliseum had several empty sets, which used to be unheard of for a UNC game, and at least one-third of those in attendance were North Carolina fans. A lack of fan support generally equates with a lack of belief.

Hewitt isn’t happy with the empty seats. But he also understands why.

“We have some guys here who deserve people’s support,” he said, “but I guess we just have to go out and show it.

“We haven’t produced. We gotta produce. We’ve got to string some wins together and people will show up.”
By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

134 comments Add your comment

Tech Man

January 16th, 2011
11:22 pm

First! Go Jackets!

GT Trumpet

January 16th, 2011
11:25 pm

Good win Jackets! Hope it’s a trend and not an abberation but I fear it may not be…

Andy

January 16th, 2011
11:33 pm

This team could finish anywhere between 4-12 and 10-6 in conference. And with 5 of our next 7 games coming at home, now is the time to go get those wins.

Keep in mind, this team lost to Syracuse by only four points in Atlantic City with a big game by Brian Oliver. If they can beat UNC by 20 with only one 3-pointer from Oliver, they can beat anyone in the conference. I have some renewed hope.

JSS

January 16th, 2011
11:36 pm

Left you note on the other blog…
That’s they play the game, A-Sun is looking better everyday! Belmont, Campbell and ETSU, bank on it!

JSS

January 16th, 2011
11:39 pm

REPOST
Left you (a) note on the other blog…
That’s (why) they play the game, (The) A-Sun is looking better everyday! Belmont, Campbell and ETSU, bank on it!

Tron5000

January 16th, 2011
11:39 pm

Um, yeah, you gotta produce, Mr. Hewitt. If I was a horrible comedian that offended everyone in the crowd, would I just expect people to keep paying money to come see me anyway? Heck no.

Well, Mr. Hewitt, your team has played horribly and I often find it quite offensive, so you can’t expect me to just shell out the money I work hard for to come be abused by my own team.

JSS

January 16th, 2011
11:41 pm

JSS

January 16th, 2011
11:36 pm

Left you note on the other blog…
That’s they play the game, A-Sun is looking better everyday! Belmont, Campbell and ETSU, bank on it!

* Link
* Report this comment

JSS

January 16th, 2011
11:39 pm

REPOST
Left you (a) note on the other blog…
That’s (why) they play the game, (The) A-Sun is looking better everyday! Belmont, Campbell and ETSU, bank on it!

* Link
* Report this comment

Tron5000

January 16th, 2011
11:39 pm
“Um, yeah, you gotta produce, Mr. Hewitt. If I was a horrible comedian that offended everyone in the crowd, would I just expect people to keep paying money to come see me anyway?”

Doesn’t stop Andrew “Dice” Clay or Jeff Foxworthy…

GTBob

January 16th, 2011
11:53 pm

It could be a minor turning point because it will be a huge confidence booster. This is a team that was 12-4 and 2-0 in conference play. It’s our first win this season over a decent team. Our guys have to be thinking we can compete now. I still expect some bad losses though as our team is always inconsistent but maybe the season will turn out better then Tech fans were expecting.

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 16th, 2011
11:57 pm

Hewitt
Fans want to back the players, but the Coaching is what we have an issue with. The PRICE we are paying for average at best coaching is the reason fans don’t want to be in the seats.

Tron5000

January 16th, 2011
11:58 pm

GTBob, the only way this season could turn out better than I expect is if Hewitt somehow got canned during it.

HMMM

January 17th, 2011
12:00 am

DONT CARE DONT CARE

Tron5000

January 17th, 2011
12:01 am

HMMM, perhaps my memory’s hazy, but to which of Gonzaga’s national championships do you refer? And I don’t really think UConn qualifies as a “half a$$ school” in the basketball category.

Kahle

January 17th, 2011
12:15 am

a few things from this blog that stood out to me…

1.”Roy Williams has now lost four straight games to Hewitt, which begs the question: Are Tar Heels fans are grumbling about Williams’ buyout?”

2.”Williams took it well: “We didn’t come frickin’ ready to play. I’m mad at the world. We stunk. I’m so mad I’d fight somebody with a chainsaw right now.”

3.”Hewitt:”“We have some guys here who deserve people’s support, but I guess we just have to go out and show it,” he said.

Good win tonight Jackets…Bring that same EFFORT & Lets do it again Wednesday! GO TECH!!!

GTBob

January 17th, 2011
12:16 am

HMMM, are you drunk?

Kahle

January 17th, 2011
12:18 am

Oh and i forgot another thing…

Good Stuff Schultz!

GT93

January 17th, 2011
12:26 am

I’m a lifelong GT fan who grew up in NC hating the Tarheels … so obviously tonight’s victory was sweet for me. But I have to say “aberration” until GT proves they can win like this on a regular basis. I also say that this in NO WAY simmers the fire under Paul Hewitt’s butt to produce more victories or get lost.

Tech's Win

January 17th, 2011
12:38 am

was not a turning point. They just happened to be driving down the part of the road that didn’t have any bumps. The good road doesn’t last long though and there are many more bumps coming up quick.

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
12:49 am

Andy — A good start would be following this up with a strong effort against an awful Wake Forest team. Win the games you’re supposed to win.

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
12:49 am

JSS — Yeah, it makes it more interesting when they play the games.

Jeff Schultz

January 17th, 2011
12:50 am

Thanks Kahle.

StingerSplash

January 17th, 2011
1:47 am

That they play hard isn’t an issue. That the Jackets play smartly, which is a reflection of their coaching and preparation, well ….

Butts Wagner

January 17th, 2011
3:12 am

This team could finish anywhere between 4-12 and 10-6 in conference.

How often has Hewitt finished .500 in conference?

Stinger2

January 17th, 2011
3:39 am

This was a great but very surprising win. Hopefully it will give this team the confidence it needs to turn the
season around. The goal is consistency. Wake will be a good test because they, like GT,are not a good team.

Realistic Fan

January 17th, 2011
3:51 am

THis team can finish between 1-15 and 4-12. I really think 3 wins is all they will get.

rocket

January 17th, 2011
5:17 am

totally a fluke…. this too shall pass.

Ted M

January 17th, 2011
5:36 am

SanDiegoJacket

January 17th, 2011
5:43 am

I know why I don’t go to the games anymore…….bad coaching leads to bad loses leads to fan apathy. I’ve been so frustrated by Hewitt’s teams of late, I just don’t have the energy to get up for the games anymore. It took a long time for Hewitt to lead us to this state of affairs and it’ll take just as long if not longer to bring us fans back from abject apathy. When you’ve slumped liked TECH has over the last few years, a win like this one is like lighter on charcoal….whuff, the flame rekindles. But if we lose Wednesday night playing badly, it would have been better to have been blown out by the Heels.

Life is funny that way, Mr. Hewitt, you got us to this state and you only have yourself to blame. Dig us out and the fans will come. Coach like you have for the last three years, and $7 million is worth less each year to buy you out. DRAD notices the empty seats too.

Ted M

January 17th, 2011
5:46 am

This was the first GT game I’ve seen this season. You’d think that GT was pretty good and NC pretty crappy from this sample but that’s not the case. GT always has good players so every now and then they’ll win…big deal.

What’s DRad thinking now? Scary stuff if its “I found my coach”

Ted M

January 17th, 2011
5:49 am

Even if 100% of NC fans were wearing C Blue there were still more then a 1/3 NC fans at the game.

RomeDawg

January 17th, 2011
5:50 am

Congrats on the win. I think the problem with Georgia Tech is the inconsistency. My guess is that as long as Hewitt is your coach that will that will ALWAYS be the issue.

Old Gold

January 17th, 2011
6:41 am

Carolina must really be bad!!

Ozzy

January 17th, 2011
6:42 am

I agree Ted M. I’d say 2/3 NC, 1/3 Tech. Maybe even 3/4 – 1/4.

I know I gave my tickets up this year. I still pull for the Jackets though, and I’ll give Hewitt props for the win, since I’m pretty quick to criticize him. I’d like him a lot better if he was at St. John’s.

One and Done

January 17th, 2011
6:47 am

Need to extend Hewitt’s contract now – big guaranteed money mixed in, similar to the contract now.

Gordon

January 17th, 2011
7:06 am

13-18 (5-11) at best. Maybe I’m wrong if all the other teams we play shoot 27%. Congratulations on the win, but I’ve just seen too much in the last 5 years to get excited by one game. I will say this team does play hard even when things aren’t going well.

Matt

January 17th, 2011
7:17 am

Aberration. Look at the body of work for Hewitt, it speaks for itself in his pitiful overall record in ACC play. Sorry, Hewitt needs to go NOW.

SuperB

January 17th, 2011
7:20 am

UNC wasn’t very good last year and they aren’t that good this year either. They will get some wins since the ACC is the weakest it’s ever been. Duke and some fo the Big East schools are getting some of the blue chippers UNC used to get.

south

January 17th, 2011
7:54 am

Maybe now D-Rad will understand what a good coach Hewitt is. I hope we’ve heard the last of the naysayers.

Dr. C

January 17th, 2011
8:05 am

The turning point could well be Georgia’s win over Kentucky (and I am a Jacket!). A great season by the Dogs would help D-Rad see the light that actual coaching can help elevate a team.

GT

January 17th, 2011
8:19 am

Tyler Hansbrough brought a blue collar mentality to UNC. Bobby Cremins did the same with his Tech teams. I don’t think you can be in an arena for five minutes and not realize Cremins is coaching. He was loved but he could and did make the tough decisions. When he first got to Tech he took several scholarships away, didn’t want jerks on his team. He conveniently transferred players out of his system that didn’t fit. I flip over to the College of Chaleston games on the cable, and there are all the Cremins mask on the students and a pure love affair with this Irishman.

Tyler Hansbrough was the same way. A Secretariat in human form. His nose splattered in that Duke game and him coming up for more after bouncing off the floor like it was a trampoline. He walked on the court as a freshman saying I am the adult in this crowd follow me and he was big enough to back it up and in the early years had to with his own team mates more than once.

Now Tech has one of those coaches that drift through a season practically unknown. UNC has those players that looks like they were made in factories, which they really were, the Stepford wives in basketball form. Tech has a dull coach that make more money than three Bobby Cremins. UNC has players the treat the game of basketball like Elizabeth Taylor treated her dozen husbands. Just another rodeo, yet they expect the fan to be the sucker that pays for all this. It broke down in Atlanta a lot quicker than it will break down in Chapel Hill, which still has Duke to get them emotional no matter who the players or coaches are. Once upon a time Tech basketball was special.

John

January 17th, 2011
8:22 am

Looked like the Tech of the 80’s and 90s. Might as well enjoy versus worrying about the future.

Tech played so well that even the scum bag ref Karl Hess couldn’t make UNC win-

Ted Striker

January 17th, 2011
8:30 am

Good win for the kids and the school. Excellent job. And a good coaching job for that game.

That said…it’s sort of like a win during Dennis Felton’s run in the SEC tourney the year he should’ve been canned: nothing more than a mirage of undeserved hope in a desert of desolate underperformance.

Jackets Back!

January 17th, 2011
8:36 am

The yellow jackets are back! Hewitt’s got it turned around. Look for the jackets to make a deep ncaa run with this new focus. Hewitt’s contract should be extended soon before he starts looking around for another job.

Yurtle_the_turtle

January 17th, 2011
8:38 am

Good win, but bad for us in the long run. I’m actually hoping to lose so that Hewitt is fired. He’s a moron, and I don’t want to hear about how well he can recruit. His recruiting hasn’t been that impressive. Not bad, but not impressive. Only by losing now and firing Hewitt can the program move forward.

GoJackets!

January 17th, 2011
8:39 am

Shumpert looked like an All World guard last night. It wasn’t just 30 points he dropped. He did everything. He made the “number 1″ freshman in the country look like a nobody. He was the leader. I hope he remembers how it feels to win like this every time he plays and continue playing like this. If he can play consistently this team could do some damage. For some reason, that’s not easy under coach Hewitt.

eBuzz

January 17th, 2011
9:01 am

Aberration. (is he gone, yet?). Unfortunately, they will win a few with the style and class they showed last night and lose many more through total ineptitude. They’ll stay at the mediocre level, and Hewitt will blab about the few good wins as an indication that they will begin to gel NEXT year, and he’ll be baaaaaaaack. First time in my life (42 year alumnus) that I’ve ever pulled against my beloved Tech, to hasten Hewitt’s departure. If that doesn’t tell you something, nothing will. Hey, how was the crowd? Lots of empty seats for what would traditionally be a sell-out and scalpers paradise. Speaking of scalpers, I’ll bet they were giving tickets away with $20’s to the takers.

UGA bball

January 17th, 2011
9:07 am

Nice win Tech…Keep it up so you can bolster the Dawgs’ RPI!

jerry

January 17th, 2011
9:10 am

Sonic Boom

January 17th, 2011
9:12 am

Nobody really cares, but good try Jeff. GT basketball has become totally irrelevant and always will be as long as Hewitt is the coach. I used to get excited about watching a GT – NC game (or a GT – Duke game, or a GT-Maryland game, or Clemson, etc.) but now I couldn’t care less. With Hewitt there, GT basketball has no future. Who is afraid to play GT? NOBODY !

GT man

January 17th, 2011
9:15 am

GT beat them at home, now beat someone on the road!!!!!

BartBuzz

January 17th, 2011
9:17 am

GT 78 – UNC 58. I won’t badmouth Paul Hewitt this day. But I won’t be duped into optimism either. Congratulations Jackets! Keep working hard. Build on this win.