Late in a close game, Georgia Tech’s football team figures its coach will think of something. Late in a close game, Tech’s basketball team is pretty much on its own. Because Paul Hewitt won’t have any timeouts to call, and even if he did, what’s he going to say?
How many times have we seen the same game that played out at Tech on Sunday? Heck, we’ve seen it three times over two calendar years against Florida State alone. Tight down the stretch, plays to be made … and darned if Leonard Hamilton’s guys don’t make them every time. Coincidence?
In December 2007 Tech lost to FSU here on a length-of-the-court drive even though the Seminoles were missing all their big guys that night. In the ACC tournament in March the Jackets lost when Hamilton drew up a beautiful inbounds play for the winning layup. This time it should have been different — the Seminoles no longer have Toney Douglas and Tech has a passel of gifted freshmen — but was not.
How many times have we seen it? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred fifty? Tech falls behind because it can’t run its offense. It rallies on defense and desperation and sheer talent. Then it loses at the end. The belief in this space is that no other ACC team — not Carolina, not Duke — can match these Jackets in manpower, but against an FSU team that had lost by 16 to Florida and by 13 to Ohio State manpower wasn’t enough.
“We have the ability [to go places],” said Gani Lawal after a game in which he made one basket. “We’ve got to do the things it takes.”
To watch Tech these past several seasons has been to see two different entities — the halting bunch that falls behind and the daring crew that finally decides, “Heck with this.” The Jackets rallied against Florida State only because Zachery Peacock, who needs little encouragement to shoot, started shooting every time he touched the ball.
There aren’t many teams in the land who have a Peacock as a sixth or seventh option. But if the team’s ACC opener was any gauge, the longstanding question remains: Can this coach get the most out of his many good men? Hewitt missed the 2003 NCAA tournament with Chris Bosh, and he made it only as a 10th seed in 2007 with four players who would move on to NBA rosters. This team is deeper than any he has had, but can Hewitt find a mesh?
“We’ll fit together,” Lawal said. Then this: “It doesn’t matter if we fit or don’t fit if we aren’t doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Lawal and Derrick Favors should be the nation’s finest 5-4 combo. They combined for 12 points on 15 shots against FSU. Thwarted underneath by the tall and quick Seminole defense, the Jackets lacked all form and function. Something’s wrong when Glen Rice Jr., a freshman who doesn’t start, takes more shots than Favors, projected as the second player taken in the 2010 NBA draft. But weren’t we saying the same seven years ago, that Bosh (the No. 4 pick in 2004) didn’t get enough shots?
About the timeouts: Hewitt spent his last in regulation with 3:02 remaining to set up his press, which did help Tech pull even. And he burned his one in OT with 2:52 left because, he said, “Zach asked me to call it. He had a cramp.” And the timeout thing wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it didn’t happen as a matter of course.
This should be a big season for Tech hoops, and it still could be. (To be fair, FSU wasn’t an easy league opener, even at home.) But anyone expecting a bold new look Sunday went away disappointed. This was, sorry to say, the same old Tech.