Iman Shumpert clamps down, and Tech steps boldly forward

Iman Shumpert puts the clamps on Big Game James Anderson. (AP photo)

Tech's Iman Shumpert knocks the ball from Big Game James Anderson. (AP photo)

Milwaukee – These weren’t the Jackets we’d come to know. These were different Jackets, different and better and more grown-up. Locked into the sort of game they would have bungled away — what, two weeks ago? — they held their nerve and made foul shots and kept defending and now they’re in Round 2 of the Big Dance and acting as if they plan to hang around a good while longer.

What has changed? Said D’Andre Bell: “Outside of trusting and believing in ourselves, the only thing that’s much different is the maturing of Derrick Favors.” But there’s more to it than one gifted freshman coming into his own. There’s a team here that’s coming into its own.

Iman Shumpert is sometimes the sort of point guard who keeps both teams in the game. On Friday he made only one basket, that on an alley-oop, and four assists, and still he kept Oklahoma State from playing its game. He defended James Anderson, who’s known as Big Game James, and limited him to three baskets on 12 shots. Of those three hoops, two came off steals.

Think about that. In the biggest game of the season, Shumpert limited the best shooting guard in the nation to one basket off any sort of offensive set. Bell on Shumpert: “He was spectacular. He did a spectacular job.”

As had happened on consecutive days in the ACC tournament last week, a Shumpert steal was the decisive swoop. With Tech leading by two inside the final 125 seconds, Shumpert flicked the ball from Anderson, got fouled and made both. As he readied for the free throws, you could see the Tech guard had sweated through his gold shorts. That’s how hard he had worked this night.

“I was a little winded,” Shumpert said, “chasing him off all those screens … I think I kept him off-balance.”

Would Shumpert have dreamed he could limit Big Game James to 11 points in this demonstrably huge game? “Yeah,” he said.

Nine days ago there was no assurance Tech would be in this event, but in the Jackets’ minds there was never a doubt they belonged. These are confident young men, and there’s a sense among them that they’re onto something. How else to account for a team that made but 64.5 percent of its free throws on the season making 24 of 25 (96 percent)  against Oklahoma State?

The game plan was excellent. Tech got the ball inside early and late — it drifted a bit in the middle, but that can happen in a pressurized setting — and it defended from the first. Credit Paul Hewitt for having his men ready for the occasion. Credit his men for holding together when a flurry of turnovers handed Oklahoma State a five-point halftime lead.

The second half was a grind. The Jackets’ final basket came with 8:19 remaining, but they never yielded the lead. They would miss a shot and get a rebound and get fouled. Or they would miss a shot and force the Cowboys to miss. Whatever was required, Tech supplied.

Some among you will say, “Well, it wasn’t pretty.” Didn’t need to be. There are no points awarded for beauty in this tournament. All that mattered was that the Jackets were involved and energized from the opening tip. They had 13 turnovers, but they induced 11 from a tiny opponent that had to protect the ball to win.

“With or without turnovers, we’re trying to win,” Shumpert said. “All year we’ve been defending and rebounding. And if we get the other part …”

He meant offensive precision. If the Jackets can find a way to score a few more points, they could be in this tournament beyond this Sunday and maybe the next. For months this team has spoken of its “high ceiling,” and on this winning night someone asked Bell what Tech’s ceiling in the Big Dance might be.

Bell didn’t crack a smile. “There is no ceiling,” he said.

207 comments Add your comment

toolbox

March 19th, 2010
10:41 pm

im first and im a tool

Punting is not an Option

March 19th, 2010
10:42 pm

wow… it’s my first time reading your writing with no comments…

Crump

March 19th, 2010
10:42 pm

KC in Smyrna

March 19th, 2010
10:43 pm

“There is no ceiling”… Perfect comment.

BTW. I’m glad we’re talking basketball and not contracts or statements.

Crump

March 19th, 2010
10:44 pm

Knew I wasn’t going to make first, but the most important difference in this team from two weeks ago is that our passes seem to have a point to them, like we are running an offense.

LOL

March 19th, 2010
10:46 pm

Where has this foul shooting been all year? Congrats Jackets! Congrats coach!

NO 3 MAN RUSH EVER

March 19th, 2010
10:50 pm

third article by ajc that i have read tonight and still no final score that i have seen. good reporting always give the score

GT 93

March 19th, 2010
10:51 pm

In the immortal words of Harry Caray: “Holy Cow!” 24 of 25 free throws???

WW

March 19th, 2010
10:51 pm

Like I said earlier, the madness within the madness.

It is rough watching them play without the traditional dominating point guard.

Robby

March 19th, 2010
10:51 pm

One down! With all the upsets this weekend, lets keep it going vs Ohio St! Congrats Jackets! Lets keep it going!

Hey Mark

March 19th, 2010
10:52 pm

Keep up the great work. Go Jackets. We can beat OSU and Tenn.

TechMom

March 19th, 2010
10:53 pm

Wow! Way to leave it ALL on the court!!

Coach Willies Wife

March 19th, 2010
10:53 pm

I’m too worn out to even comment.

Tech stayed in the game and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. That’s all you can hope for in an NCAA tourney with the parity,etc.

misterwax

March 19th, 2010
10:54 pm

Yes, it was a major change of pace……I would have sworn those turnovers at the end of the 1st half would have the wheels falling off the wreck… I am pleased they recovered.

MalibuGT

March 19th, 2010
10:56 pm

great game jackets! GT basketball is like a box of chocolates….

ben

March 19th, 2010
10:57 pm

I’ve been on Schump’s and Hewitt’s butt all season. KUDOs to both for a great effort and game plan to shut down Anderson. They could have killed us had he gotten off.

JaxJacket

March 19th, 2010
10:58 pm

Best game I have seen them play this year. The “drift” in the middle was short and not nearly as ugly as most. Very solid performance.

jojatek

March 19th, 2010
10:58 pm

Hats-off to Hewitt and the Jackets! I am a critic of Paul Hewitt, no question about it (shaky work from the bench at the end of the game, frankly…), but he and the Jackets clearly deserve nothing but praise after this one. They were solid in every statistical category that has eluded them this season. A great win!!

CPH… please feel free to continue to make me eat my words! If we continue to do the “little things” down the stretch (protect the ball and hit free throws), this could start being fun again…

Go Jackets!!!!

Go Jackets!!!

Flowery Branch Yellow Jacket

March 19th, 2010
10:59 pm

The defensive effort was just what I’ve come to expect from this group, but the offensive effort was by far the best we’ve seen all season … especially at the free throw line. Think of this, if Tech had shot free throws at their season average tonight, and if everything else remained the same, then we would have lost 59 – 56. Absolutely incredible performance tonight! I hope this is the beginning of a 6-game run to the championship.

Buzzzed

March 19th, 2010
11:00 pm

Good D by Shump! Was that a record for free throw shooting?

Tron5000

March 19th, 2010
11:01 pm

Proud of the boys. Happy for the program and fans. But I still need Paul Hewitt to give me a .500+ season more than once every 10 years.

Delbert D.

March 19th, 2010
11:03 pm

Mark, was that you that Paul Hewitt pointed to and blew a kiss right after the game?

Stinger

March 19th, 2010
11:08 pm

Elite Eight baby !!!!!!!!

Effn Amazing

March 19th, 2010
11:10 pm

Wow…what’s that i hear??? Oh nothing, none of the crappy tech haters got a thing to say. nothing about free throws or “blewitt” comments. Good job boys! Keep it going Tech!

GT4LIFE

March 19th, 2010
11:21 pm

GO JACKETS! Thats what hittin your free throws looks like! 24/25 and im still shocked to read that! But man they had poise tonight and had that look in their eyes like they wanted it more! Keep hittin 90+% of the Free Throws and Ohio St will be shakin in their high tops come Sunday!! Shumpert was crazy on D and if he can pull something similar on Evan Turner…LOOK OUT!! Jackets baby! Ramblin wreck!!

Tpkg

March 19th, 2010
11:23 pm

GREAT GAME!!!! ….. Making free throws is contagious….. Total team effort…. As Bell said, they are really coming together as a team….. Can’t wait for Sunday!

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2010
11:23 pm

I’m starting to get a feeling about this team, people. Just saying.

GT4LIFE

March 19th, 2010
11:24 pm

Mark any word on game time for Sunday??

StraightJacket

March 19th, 2010
11:26 pm

MB, where can I find a post-game presser / interview link with the coaches of both teams?

Tron5000

March 19th, 2010
11:29 pm

Mark, I’m getting a feeling about this team as well. But I’ve had the feeling all year that this squad had enough firepower to go far into the NCAA tournament. That is what made the losses (especially the close ones) so difficult to stomach. I saw Favors play in a HS game last year, and even interviewed him and his HS coach for my blog. I knew what this kid was capable of, and his talent seems to have been wasted leading up to the ACC tournament.

I believe there is a quote from Hewitt stating that we aren’t UNC or Duke. I could be wrong about that, but we fans aren’t trying to be UNC or Duke. We’re trying to be GT, and we want to beat UNC and Duke (4-for-5 this year ain’t so bad).

He gets the players, but he doesn’t coach them up. And then they’re gone. I want to have a chance every year, not every 3 years when we have some blue chippers.

85' Bears

March 19th, 2010
11:30 pm

Ohio State is a great team, but UNC put the boot to them earlier this year. I’m starting to think that the ACC was underrated this year.

Tron5000

March 19th, 2010
11:31 pm

Apologies: 4-for-6 against UNC and Duke this year. Crappy ACC final.

85' Bears

March 19th, 2010
11:33 pm

I also think if Tech can get by Ohio State, there is no team that can beat them until Kansas. Tech just defeated the last team to beat Kansas. However, there is no point a og getting ahead of ourselves, just handle one game at a time.

Technophobia

March 19th, 2010
11:34 pm

Fired up! Ready to go! It’s great to be a Yellow Jacket!

Technophobia

March 19th, 2010
11:36 pm

Shump had a very tough night shooting in the first half so he did what his team needed to him to do and focused on defense. Game ball to Shumpert.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2010
11:44 pm

Don’t believe the time has been set yet, GT4life. But I’m back at the hotel already. (I have picked this precise weekend to get my one cold of the winter. Yow.)

IndyGT

March 19th, 2010
11:45 pm

Teams like these (the OSU’s) do well bc they’ve got a 6-6 playmaker – James, Turner that can beat up any little guard player. Well, our guards go pretty big. If we can shut down Turner like we did James.. I could see good things happening against Ohio St. Go TECH!!

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2010
11:45 pm

I don’t know if Shumpert’s defensive work came across on TV, Technophobia, but it was beautiful in person.

Daniel

March 19th, 2010
11:46 pm

Love our squad, love the way we played today.. kudos Paul Hewitt!!

Technophobia

March 19th, 2010
11:50 pm

Mark, it was pretty evident but probably not as clear as in person. It’s great to watch a talented player mature.

James

March 19th, 2010
11:51 pm

Mark,
I am sorry to hear about your cold. But, I have to disagree with you. In Atlanta at least, (in the vernacular), this ain’t winter no more.

Mark Bradley

March 19th, 2010
11:53 pm

I’m in Milwaukee. Guess what’s in tomorrow’s forecast.

Technophobia

March 19th, 2010
11:56 pm

Take the day off Mark, room service and sleep. Gotta be ready on Sunday. And stay away from the team with that cold!

drew

March 19th, 2010
11:57 pm

This team looked more confident than at anytime this year. They actually looked like they knew what they were doing on offense. There defense has been good all year, but hats off to Shumpert and the entire team for the 40 minutes of in your defense that won the game. That, and the 24 free throws! 96% WTF!!!

I’ve been an Hewitt’s butt all year, and I still think if you take into account his total time at Tech, his record is less than impressive. But I guess I can overlook that right now and enjoy the ride. I said last week, this team could be one and done, or they could make it all the way to the final four. Forty minutes of tough defense will carry you a long way.

Technophobia

March 19th, 2010
11:57 pm

Georgia Tech, Duke, Maryland and Wake still in, FSU and Clemson out. Not a bad start for a down year.

GT JJ

March 19th, 2010
11:59 pm

We have a drinking game that has typically been quite difficult to finish – drink on every missed Tech free throw. Tonight was the most wonderful “dry” Friday night that I’ve experienced in a long time.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2010
12:00 am

Can’t take the day off. But I do plan to sleep. Thanks for caring, Technophobia.

Tech vs. Round 1

March 20th, 2010
12:01 am

they only scored 4 more pts than Tech, they’re beatable!

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
12:02 am

If I’m not mistaken, Hewitt’s record in the NCAA’s at Tech is 7-4.

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
12:02 am

Force of habit Mark, I’m a doc. lol