Tech finally steps up, and maybe even turns a corner

Zachery Peacock enjoys the spoils of victory. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Zachery Peacock enjoys the spoils of a major victory. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Finally, here it was — the game Georgia Tech needed to establish its bona fides. Goodness knows it was the game I needed to prove to myself I haven’t been hallucinating.

Operating under the assumption that this is one of the most talented teams in the land, I could find little in the way of corroborating evidence. Heck, the Jackets had lost to Georgia, among the least gifted teams in the SEC,  four nights earlier. But now the same Jackets — the same, but also radically different — unhorsed regal Duke on Saturday.

Here was Mike Krzyzewski, the best in the business, on Tech: “They’re a very talented basketball team, and deep … They have a great three-man rotation with their bigs. [Zachery] Peacock could start for a lot of teams, and the other two [Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors] will be playing basketball for a long time. And that gives a team strength. Even if you’re young on the perimeter, knowing you have those big guys gives you confidence.”

But Tech is more than just big; it’s also skilled. What we witnessed Saturday was the first blush of what could/should be a cohesion of resources. Lawal was terrific. Peacock was the off-the-bench force Duke couldn’t match. The freshman guard Mfon Udofia made half as many 3-pointers as the entire Duke roster. The Jackets as a team stared down the Dookies and Coach K in the final minutes and made the winning plays.

And none of this seemed a fluke. As Lawal said afterward: “We thought this would be a win. Not an upset, but a win.”

The Jackets revved the pace from the start, which didn’t pay immediate dividends but had an aggregate effect. Duke’s Kyle Singler missed 11 of 13 shots; he also played 38 minutes. Jon Scheyer missed 11 of 19; he played 39 minutes. No Jacket worked more than 34. What did Coach K say about Tech being deep?

For once, this wasn’t Paul Hewitt using his depth just for the heck of it. This was a game plan and a substitution rotation with a clear purpose: Press the Devils and wear them down. It worked. Tech was fresher — Peacock’s stickback off a Udofia air ball put Tech ahead to stay — and stronger at the end. And  Lawal held it all together and nailed the second-biggest hoop on a turnaround.

Lawal’s shot, we must note, was a play called during Hewitt’s final timeout, which came with 1:24 remaining. I’ve tweaked Hewitt for deploying timeouts to no purpose, but this one got the needed result.

Indeed, that was the theme of the impassioned day: Hewitt coached a fine game, and his men played one. They outrebounded Duke 26-12 in the second half and helped induce the Devils to miss 22 of 28 treys. They got Duke out of its rhythm, always a tough chore.

Krzyzewski: “You’ve got to dance around the ring [in a high-energy] game. You can’t stay on the ropes … They played well. They were the team that deserved to win.”

Coming off the Georgia loss, this was almost a step-up-or-shut-up game for the Jackets. They stepped boldly.  Hewitt again said his team didn’t need this victory to prove anything — “I think they know how much they can do” — but you can’t really know until you do it.

And now Tech has done it — once. Skeptics among us will suggest the Jackets will backslide forthwith, but I don’t think so. I think this victory will change the parameters of an entire season. I think we’ll be referencing this game deep into March as the one where Tech began to tap the vast resources within.

Then again, I thought as much last summer, and last month, and Tuesday night in Athens. And I was, I confess, beginning to doubt my eyes if not my sanity. But now I’ve got my proof. Beat Duke and you can play with anybody. Beat Duke and you can go places.

207 comments Add your comment

tc

January 9th, 2010
6:36 pm

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:38 pm

Mr C.

January 9th, 2010
6:39 pm

haywood...

January 9th, 2010
6:39 pm

Don

January 9th, 2010
6:40 pm

Great to see the classiest coach in the game get a win….hewitt’s job is to graduate students, get his kids good gigs. And that he does!

haywood...

January 9th, 2010
6:40 pm

mark,

any SMART or POLLACK comments regarding DC???

Asheville Dawg

January 9th, 2010
6:42 pm

Mr C.

January 9th, 2010
6:43 pm

Oh well. Missed out on first.

I’m not sure Paul Hewitt and his team has turned a corner. The guards couldn’t get the ball to the big guys. Favors was a non-factor. I don’t see this team winning on the road.

Gani Lawal has really turned a corner. He will be a lottery pick if he keeps performing like he’s been doing.

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:44 pm

Don, I agree…..I’m tired of all this talk of getting rid of him. He is good for Tech and his players.

Bank TOs

January 9th, 2010
6:44 pm

I still do not understand Hewitt’s timeout strategy. It drives me crazy calling timeouts right after you score a basket for no apparent reason and he does it all the time. If anything it is a momentum killer. It would have been nice to have an extra timeout the last few seconds when Duke was pressing. Great win none the less.

LJ of UGA

January 9th, 2010
6:45 pm

Asheville Dawg

January 9th, 2010
6:45 pm

I can’t even count right. Sorry but I missed seeing this game. Could not resemble the zombie GT that played in Athens on Tuesday. Hopefully Hewitt figures out what to do with all that talent.

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:46 pm

It counts as a win in the ACC and we need to now take care of Virginia. I’d take 2-1 in the ACC after those 3 games.

Jacket Salley

January 9th, 2010
6:47 pm

It was good to see Salley and Price at the game.

Paul in RDU

January 9th, 2010
6:48 pm

Enter your comments here

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
6:48 pm

This may not be a popular thought but we are stuck with Hewitt so let’s make the most of it.
I was there and at the VT game.
Both were lots of fun.
Those who stayed home because of the weather or whatever, too bad.

Mr C.

January 9th, 2010
6:48 pm

If Hewit’s job is to just to graduate students and get them good gigs, the school doesn’t need to pay him Millions for that. They can put anyone in that position to make sure the athletes graduate

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
6:49 pm

Glad Wommack is gone as are most fans.
Great thing about assistants is u don’t have to pay them anymore after u fire them.

Jacket Salley

January 9th, 2010
6:51 pm

Mr. C,
I think Don means to make them better people, not just good pros in the NBA.

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
6:51 pm

Those of you who want Hewitt gone should find some way to get after Braine for giving him that contract.

Jacket Salley

January 9th, 2010
6:51 pm

Prediction: Groh will not coach at Tech.

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
6:54 pm

haywood. the new dc will be smart. kirby smart.

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:54 pm

Whoever the D coordinator is at Tech will now be interviewed at Alabama, since Smart is going to UGA.

Elmore Spencer

January 9th, 2010
6:54 pm

73-66 HAHAHAHAHA

How bout them dawgs!!!!

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:55 pm

Willie, have you interviewed at Tech yet? Lay down a good limerick for us ;)

Elmore Spencer

January 9th, 2010
6:55 pm

One thing is for sure. Duke is no UGA

Paul in RDU

January 9th, 2010
6:55 pm

Mark – excellent column.

I thought GT played hard the entire game and, apart from a couple of spells, very well on the defensive end.
On the offensive end I think GT is still spotty – Lawal had to have pleased all of the NBA scouts in attendance with his effort and athleticism, but for a highly ranked player Favors is too passive.

All in all though, a much deserved win – any time you beat Duke you are doing something right.

Whether GT has turned the corner has yet to be determined – it will be interesting to see how GT handles a zone.

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:57 pm

How about Roof as Tech DC?

Is this a football or basketball blog?

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
6:58 pm

Paul, where is RDU anyway?

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:00 pm

Jacket, no interviews with tech. it appears CPJ has his man.

the limericks come to me as inspirations. I’m sure i’ll have one shortly to share.

best, willie

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:01 pm

Have a drink and get inspired Willie!

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:01 pm

Favors needs to think about two years here. At the moment, he is playing like a freshman which is what he is.
I don’t think he’ll play like he can unless he gives us more than one year.
He doesn’t look like a first rounder and like Lawal last year will need more time to develop.

gtbob45

January 9th, 2010
7:03 pm

Correct me if I am wrong Hewitt has not graduated anyone Mario West was a walk on given a scholarship late in his career.

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:03 pm

I’d rather have Tenuta than Roof but i think we can do better than either one.

Big time?? Not

January 9th, 2010
7:04 pm

Four tickets, four hot dogs, four cokes

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:04 pm

you asked me a question my friend jacket
if i was in the tech coach search bracket
it looks like its groh
who’ll get all the dough
this coaching thing is sometimes a racket

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:05 pm

I was hoping for Tenuta too, hope that happens!

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:07 pm

I don’t want to think about buying out Hewitt for 6 or 7 mil so I’m hoping for more of this.
I know some are fed up but unless you want to ante up the dough, let’s pull for a 2003 replay.

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:07 pm

said paul to the coach named dave
son, your job i just cant save
your defense was weak
and a new coach i seek
your career is now in the grave

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:07 pm

Inspiring Willie…..you are the true Willie and not an imposter.

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:08 pm

willie who the heck are u anyway?

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:09 pm

nothing i can think of at the moment rhymes with tenuta

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:09 pm

jacket, you are correct. i am the one, the only true willie.

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:10 pm

You’ll be his buddy now that u both are out of work? Right.

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:10 pm

Willie is the man Jackets2010…..a poet and a former defensive coordinator at UGA.

willie martinez

January 9th, 2010
7:11 pm

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:13 pm

Mark’s not here Willie. He must be driving home from the game.

WNC Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:13 pm

If Tech can play this kind of basketball with Favors not even a factor, imagine what they can be if he starts to live up to his billing. He seems to be shellshocked so far at the pace of ACC action. Udofia seems to be adjusting much better. I’m also impressed at the play of Oliver and Rice.

Jackets2010

January 9th, 2010
7:14 pm

yes what would this blog do without Willie’s limericks?

Jacket

January 9th, 2010
7:15 pm

Tech bball will be OK this year. Perfect mix of seniors and freshman