In the end, Tech trumps both the Terps and its fallible self

Greivis Vasquez grabs Iman Shumpert after the game-clinching swipe. (AP photo)

Greivis Vasquez grabs Iman Shumpert after the game-clinching swipe. (AP photo)

Greensboro, N.C. — Here we had it all. On the same night we finally bore witness to the Georgia Tech we’ve been awaiting, we were also confronted by the Georgia Tech of which we’ve seen too much. In the first half we saw a team of Final Four power and depth. In the second half we saw why a team of such gifts had come within 20 minutes Thursday of missing the NCAA tournament altogether.

How can a team this potent turn pathetic in the time it takes an opponent to order up a full-court press? How can a team capable of building a 19-point lead — it was 16 at the break — against Maryland, which tied Duke atop the ACC standings, manage to waste almost every smidgen of it in six second-half minutes? How can you win a game in which you make more turnovers (25) than baskets (24)?

Somehow Tech did. It squandered all but two points of that massive lead, and nine times Maryland had a chance to tie or pull ahead. Nine times the Jackets buckled down and blunted the Terrapins, the last and most spectacular stop coming on Iman Shumpert’s strip/block of ACC player of the year Greivis Vasquez. And get this: Tech was actually trying to foul Vasquez on the play so as not to yield the tying 3-pointer.

And that’s Tech in a nutshell. (Emphasis on the “nutty” part.) Just when you think the Jackets have figured it out, they turn an inbounds pass into a lost art. Just when you’re certain they’ve blown the game completely, they make enough big plays to win. This isn’t the greatest team in the history of basketball, but it’s fast becoming the favorite of psychoanalysts.

The first half was simply magnificent: offensive precision matched with defensive resolution. Tech limited the Terps to six baskets in the first 16 minutes. Even when Vasquez or one of his mates would slice down the lane, nobody could finish. Tech’s big men blocked three shots and altered a half-dozen more.

Moe Miller, Zachery Peacock and Brian Oliver — three Jackets subs — scored 19 first-half points, only six fewer than the entire Terrapins roster. Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors had 15 rebounds in 20 minutes, more than the Maryland team. For the first time in … what, five years? … we could say we were watching Georgia Tech play beautiful basketball.

Then beauty took a hike. Tech turned the ball over nine times in the second half’s first five minutes. It would finish the astonishing half with 16 turnovers. What, Paul Hewitt was asked afterward, was his experience in winning games in which his team made 25 turnovers? “Not frequent,” he said. “But we’ve done it before.”

Lo and behold, it did it again. Try as it might, and it tried mightily, Tech never yielded the lead. “That was important,” Shumpert said. “We wanted to keep it at a two-possession game. We kept saying, ‘A stop and a rebound, a stop and a rebound.’ ”

There weren’t many baskets for either side down the stretch. The game was stuck at 62-59 for three minutes and 17 seconds, whereupon Miller threw up a shot that didn’t hit the rim but Favors jammed it home at the shot-clock buzzer. (On the night, Favors had 11 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and eight turnovers.)

And then, finally, it was done. Tech had played its way into the ACC semifinals and surely now into the NCAA field, and it had survived not just the Terps but its schizo self. “It’s not going to be pretty all the time,” Hewitt said, and only half of this was. But so long as the Jackets keep extending the season, there’s always the chance they’ll eventually figure out how to inbound the ball.

If they ever manage that, the sky’s the limit for this gifted bunch. The sky, and maybe the ionosphere.

352 comments Add your comment

techster

March 12th, 2010
10:03 pm

first baby first

GT Trumpet

March 12th, 2010
10:04 pm

jeff c

March 12th, 2010
10:05 pm

sonnydays

March 12th, 2010
10:06 pm

GT Trumpet

March 12th, 2010
10:06 pm

Great prediction mark. I honestly didn’t think we could hold it together against a team this solid, but it seems as if my Jackets might finally be gelling when it counts. See you tomorrow at 3:30! (I’ll be there in the band, hence my name)

jeff c

March 12th, 2010
10:06 pm

Next time I’ll post before I read. Go Jackets!!!

eleventh

March 12th, 2010
10:08 pm

Tom

March 12th, 2010
10:08 pm

let's hope

March 12th, 2010
10:09 pm

more worried about playing Florida St on Saturday than Duke on Sunday but yeah good job, wish this team played this way all season…the big men got the job done on defense under the rim when it counted at the end..

Tom

March 12th, 2010
10:09 pm

GREAT WIN JACKETS! One more Saturday!!

Eric C.

March 12th, 2010
10:09 pm

Great win…this team could easily reach the sweet 16

lucky thirteenth

March 12th, 2010
10:11 pm

Eric C.

March 12th, 2010
10:12 pm

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 12th, 2010
10:12 pm

“It’s not going to be pretty all the time,”

Are you kidding me?

When has it ever been pretty in the last 5 years?!?

BigFish

March 12th, 2010
10:14 pm

When a big time college basketball team keeps making the same mistake just trying to get the ball inbounds it’s coaching !
Tech is without a doubt the most talented, worst coached team in the ACC , if not the entire country.

old Tech fan in NC

March 12th, 2010
10:16 pm

Glad Tech won. To see a team commit so many errors in such a short amount of time is just about impossible to describe without cussing….

BigFish

March 12th, 2010
10:16 pm

You’re right Eric, this team has the talent to not only advance to sweet 16….but final 4 as well. But with this coach, we’ll lose by 20 the first game of the tournament.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:16 pm

Kudos, Techster. And say hey to me tomorrow, GT Trumpet. I’ll be the tall guy looking bewildered.

Reid Adair

March 12th, 2010
10:17 pm

Fortunately for Georgia Tech, the only thing worse than their ability to protect the basketball was Maryland’s shooting.

This win should eliminate any doubt of Tech getting an NCAA bid.

Paul in RDU

March 12th, 2010
10:18 pm

I don’t think I have ever seen a college basketball game like that. Heck I can only think of a couple of games in any sport that were like that. Talk about a game of 2 halves! It was up there with Liverpool-AC Milan in Istanbul in the Champions League final.
I don’t know which GT team will show up tomorrow but I have no doubt that they can win against either FSU or NCSU – the question is will they.

Kay

March 12th, 2010
10:19 pm

Tech never wins pretty.
It’s always a struggle.

jojatek

March 12th, 2010
10:19 pm

Unbelievable! I don’t quite know what happened to the up-tempo style that we rode to the NCAA Championship game in 2004 (our half-court offense has been hard to watch most of the time over the past 5 years, and we haven’t handled a press all season), but you have to be happy for Hewitt and this bunch if they manage to keep winning and realize their full potential. Hewitt and Favors (and Lawal) will be gone after this season, but it looks like we might have a little fun before it’s all over and we start all over again next year…

Go Jackets!

jacket

March 12th, 2010
10:23 pm

Terrible free throw shooting!

Good win, though

UGA75

March 12th, 2010
10:24 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team that is so strange, when they concentrate they play at the highest lever in the country. Then they lose focus, and play worse than many Rec. League teams. They have so much more raw talent than most of their competition, yet they seldom play two halves in the same game. This team’s play is aging their fans and Coaching staff faster than bad opera. Good luck Teckies!

Paul in RDU

March 12th, 2010
10:26 pm

UGA75 – Classy post. Good luck against Vandy

MorningJacket

March 12th, 2010
10:27 pm

Agree with let’s hope….More worried about Florida State’s size/NC State’s quickness than Duke. We’ve shown we can beat Duke. If you shut down their 3s and have honest officiating, you can stop them. We lost twice to FSU and nearly blew it at home against the Pack.

Dubious

March 12th, 2010
10:27 pm

ugly…ugly…ugly…..but beautiful…..beautiful…beautiful…..

Can we salute Moe Miller? In the home win against Duke in early January he did not play a second, coach’s decision…he hung in there, came back from oblivion and had 13 huge points tonight in 27 minutes….Good for Moe

BillMurrayGT14

March 12th, 2010
10:27 pm

Hey. I’ll take it. Go Jackets.

SoWeGa Jacket

March 12th, 2010
10:28 pm

There’s no dominant team in the country. Every team has warts. The
challenge is to make the other guy’s show more than yours. Perfection
is not achievable. Tech’s had a 20 win season, but has difficulty in locating
a consistent point guard. Under Cremins it rained point guards everyday,
but he’s in Charleston now. This team does have outstanding talent…
Can anyone reading this make their teenager do what they want them to do?

Jim Harberson

March 12th, 2010
10:32 pm

Tech cannot win without better play at point guard. Inbounding the ball requires throwing the ball to someone who can get open, not lose the ball to a defender and dribble or pass the ball downcourt. Then the game opens up and our big guys can take over. Alas I don’t think we have such a guard.
Still Tech did win so we play on.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

March 12th, 2010
10:35 pm

Does anyone believe that this team can put together 40 solid minutes of BB? I, for one, do not. Hewitt is terrible. He found one out of bounds play that seemed to work for the final 10 minutes (except when they were too slow setting up and a five second call was the result), but why do we only have ONE in-bounds play? And why does our shortest player, Miller, throw it in-bounds? I just don’t understand. As I have stated before, there are many coaching youth ball that are better.

Wreckmaniac

March 12th, 2010
10:39 pm

Its unbelievable. A great first half followed by one of those far-to-typical meltdowns which was then followed by one of Tech’s favorite routines, in-bound passing with blindfolds. Also inept was the down the stretch free-throw shooting (Favors missed 4 in a row). So how did Tech win ? Check Maryland’s shooting %.

Racing Jacket

March 12th, 2010
10:41 pm

Tech makes the Sweet 16—bank on it! Tech is rolling at the right time, when it matters. Bet the house on Tech!!!

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:42 pm

No offense, Racing Jacket, but I wouldn’t bet your house on Tech.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:42 pm

Liverpool-Milan, eh? Great antecedent, Paul.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:43 pm

Moe Miller was the player of the game, IMHO.

GT 93

March 12th, 2010
10:44 pm

Mark – Watching our inbounds plays and free throws, I don’t think you’ll be the only tall guy looking bewildered tomorrow… Ugliest basketball victory I can remember.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:45 pm

And that’s the thing, GT 93. It was a big victory.

Mark Bradley

March 12th, 2010
10:48 pm

Need a little help here, folks: Some guys in the press room are suggesting the ball was in Favors’ hands when the shot-clock buzzer went off on the follow dunk. I had a terrible view of it — the ref was standing in front of me — and didn’t see a replay. Did anyone?

BIG BEE

March 12th, 2010
10:49 pm

When you cannot do something as simple as inbound the ball, it has to be coaching. Far too many mistakes fot this team. Poor coaching. Great win for the kids, bad for GT, ’cause we will probably have CPH forever, especially if he keeps winning. Is that bad? Yeah, I think so.

GT 93

March 12th, 2010
10:51 pm

It was still in his hands. They showed the replay more than 10 times (not joking) and practically said that the officials cost Maryland the game because of this play. They even showed it twice right after the game.

Basitball Jones

March 12th, 2010
10:51 pm

Certainly a very hot/cold team in which coaching is questionable. They played very well with pressure at the end and never folded. Also…they are FREE throws,please relax and drop them in.

NoCoach Blewitt

March 12th, 2010
10:51 pm

I gotta say I was impressed with the team not to allow Maryland to quite get over the hump ….. most of the time in that situation (having blown a 16 pt lead) most teams would just roll over

CBI Cadet

March 12th, 2010
10:52 pm

Lots to like, in particular the aggressive and physical defense. Miller and Oliver stepped up. Team played hard and with some heart. Lots to hate. Poor FT shooting (again) and maybe more troubling is the inability of the Jackets to do something so basic as get the ball inbounds. Hewitt could be seen on TV yelling “cut” to his guards, who promptly lumbered to a spot and acted as if they were boxing out in an effort to get the ball. Feel free to move to the ball. And even on the last play, Tech players were supposed to foul; no one listened and Shumpert made a great play but nearly could have been whistled for three free throws. Take home the title Tech!

Phil The Cucumber

March 12th, 2010
10:53 pm

At least you’re tall, Mark. I’m just bewildered.

Paul in RDU

March 12th, 2010
10:55 pm

Mark – Favors did not get the shot off before the 35 second buzzer went off. It didn’t matter, because the refs thought it touched the rim – which it didn’t.

Innocent Bystander

March 12th, 2010
10:56 pm

What time is the game tomorrow? ESPN doesn’t list a time yet.

NoCoach Blewitt

March 12th, 2010
10:56 pm

Technophobia

March 12th, 2010
10:57 pm

Last night I posted that for most of our games we played about 15 minutes of good basketball and about 25 of bad basketball. Tonight we played 25-30 minutes of very good basketball and 10-15 of not so good basketball and beat a good team. We moved the ball better and played better defense and the bad spells weren’t quite as bad as they have been. I hope we get FSU tomorrow because we owe them and it’s hard to beat a team 3 times in a year. Then it’s on to Duke and we owe them too. Duke would be more rested having played one fewer game but they rely on the jump shot so fatigue might affect them more.

GT 93

March 12th, 2010
10:57 pm

Hey fellow GT fans – I know we’re all way past frustrated on the free throws and turnovers. But look at it this way, every inbounds play is going to be exciting and we’ve explored more than 1000 ways to brick a freethrow! We don’t have to wait until the end of the game anymore to get anxious about every play. Looking forward to more entertainment tomorrow.