(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