For Georgia Tech, it was the worst night of a difficult season

BG of GT, shown in typical demanding mode. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

BG of GT, shown in demanding mode. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

If the record doesn’t indicate that Georgia Tech is under new management, two bits of data did. Entering Thursday’s game against Virginia, the Jackets ranked 21st among 338 Division I teams in field-goal percentage defense and 29th in rebounding margin. And that told us … what?

That Georgia Tech, without benefit of top-shelf talent, is paying attention to the grunt work — namely, defense and rebounding — and also that Brian Gregory, in his first season as coach, has gotten his players’ attention. He arrived insisting his teams would guard and rebound, and sure enough …

Here we note the difference from, say, last season. The 2010-2011 Jackets ranked 222nd nationally in field-goal percentage defense, 145th in rebounding margin. Which is why Tech needed a man like Gregory to right a program gone egregiously wrong.

Which isn’t, let’s emphasize, to say that Tech is fully righted.

The Jackets managed 17 points Thursday in the first half against Virginia at Philips Arena, the bigger of Tech’s rental-homes-for-the-season. The Cavaliers more than doubled that. Over nine galling minutes they scored on 11 consecutive possessions. (Hey, nobody said defending is easy.)

And then, astonishingly enough, it got worse. Tech was outscored 35-21 in the second half, leaving the final count at 70-38. For mavens of minutiae, Virginia banked its 39th point 67 seconds into the second half, which means the Cavaliers could have gone scoreless the final 18:53 and still won.

The 38 points marked Tech’s lowest output since 1982, Bobby Cremins’ first season, and it was accomplished, if that’s the word, on a night when the Jackets made only six turnovers. “We shot it before we turned it over,” Gregory would say afterward, actually managing to smile.

Thirty-four times in 48 tries, Tech shot it and missed. In its third season under Tony Bennett, Virginia has mastered the many nuances of the Pack Line defense Tony’s dad Dick used to numbing effect at Wisconsin. (The Pack Line incorporates man-to-man and zone principles, the effect being that it seems everybody is being double-teamed all the time.)

In sum, the 15th-ranked Cavaliers looked like a well-coached team that knows exactly what its coach demands. Tech, to no one’s great surprise, isn’t nearly there yet. Tech made eight first-half baskets to Virginia’s 15 and spent 30 seconds of every possession trying to find a decent shot, trying and failing. The Jackets were also outrebounded 45-22 on the night, which means somebody’s going to run some steps.

Gregory called the rebounding, or the lack of same, “abysmal,” and noted his players “weren’t guarding a soul” early. He also said: “Our margin of error is very small.”

Even for a team in flux, it was as bad a game as can be imagined. That said, it was possible to look on these two squads and wonder if, two years hence, Tech mightn’t be the better bunch. Tony Bennett’s teams, like his father’s before him, play a halting style. Big-time recruits enjoy expressing themselves freely and often. If Tech can find enough big-name recruits willing to believe in BG, as Gregory is known, good things can happen here fairly soon.

Toward that end, early returns have been promising. Tech’s signing class is ranked 15th nationally by Rivals.com, and big man Robert Carter of Shiloh is listed as the 28th-best player of this class. Small forward Stacey Poole, who’s transferring from Kentucky, has already enrolled at Tech and will be eligible for the second semester next season. Poole was rated No. 33 in the class of 2010. Meaning: The Jackets in January 2013 will be assured of having at least two players better than anybody on this defoliated roster.

That’s a thought that should keep Tech fans warm through what is becoming a chilly winter. These Jackets had a nice December moment by beating Georgia in Athens, something BG’s predecessor never did, but then they lost at Fordham and to Mercer at Gwinnett, which didn’t augur well for ACC play. An honorable loss to Duke followed by an 11-point victory over North Carolina State in Raleigh offered another sliver of hope, but State is coached by Mark Gottfried, who learned under Jim Harrick, who never cared one whit for defense.

For Tech, Thursday’s wipeout loss in a borrowed arena was the worst night of the season, and surely more drubbings await. (It has to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Jan. 29. Yikes.) But we knew that’s how this necessary changeover would be — difficult at best, painful at worst. This was always going to be the season Tech had to endure for the sake of better seasons down the road.

“As we forward as a program, our ability to maintain and sustain the way you want to play is going to be important,” Gregory said. “Unfortunately, in the position we’re in, there are going to be nights like these.”

If you look hard, there are times when you can see progress being made. Thursday night wasn’t such a time. Thursday was a night to avert your eyes and count the days until Carter and Poole are eligible.

By Mark Bradley

105 comments Add your comment

Goldenrod

January 19th, 2012
11:04 pm

At least we beat Fox’s Hounds.

WE RUN THIS STATE!

We’re now officially a football school.

GT89Iee

January 19th, 2012
11:09 pm

FIRST! You nailed it Mark, this is a rebuilding year. Next year we should be ready to compete with Duke, UNC & FSU. We need to sign a few more McDonald’s All-Americans and we can challenge anyone in the ACC.

Just like Coach Johnson, there is no doubt in my mind that Gregory was the right hire!

TybeeDawg

January 19th, 2012
11:14 pm

While I root for the Dawgs in football, I do pull for GT basketball but Goldenrod, your comments are out of line.

You in no way “RUN THIS STATE” and you sure aren’t a football school, you might not be a basketball school and you sure ain’t Clemson!

Go Dawgs!

derrick

January 19th, 2012
11:16 pm

You wanted a new coach, all you TECHIES, you got one. You also get your loses.

Ron Jirsa

January 19th, 2012
11:20 pm

Buzz2011

January 19th, 2012
11:22 pm

The Dawgs are a big factor in SEC basketball aren’t they?

Goldenrod

January 19th, 2012
11:22 pm

Hey derrick, WTH is “loses”? Go back to your job taking the new BK fries out of the grease you lousy leghumper from the cesspool up north!

UGag fans are such IDIOTS!

NiquePhotog

January 19th, 2012
11:23 pm

TybeeDawg,

Was it that hard to realize the sarcasm in Goldenrod’s comment?

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:24 pm

‘This coach makes Dwayne Morrison (coach prior to Cremins) look like Adolf Rupp………What a joke of a hire. My kid’s Upward basketball team can score 38 points- and she’s 9.

Paul in NH

January 19th, 2012
11:24 pm

Mark – I think you wrote a pretty accurate summary of the current status of GT b’ball. They play hard but just don’t have the horses to compete with many of the teams in the ACC. We’ll just have to see how well CBG can recruit and coach.
I am chalking tonight up as “one of those games” where a team just doesn’t have it – like UNC vs FSU last week or UNC vs GT last year.

Paul H.

January 19th, 2012
11:25 pm

derrick: Thanks….

David Robinson

January 19th, 2012
11:26 pm

Coach Gregory played with me at Navy when we went to the Elite Eight. He will succeed and has the potential to be the third best coach in the ACC. MUCH better alternative than Paul Blewitt.

Beat Army!

Reggie Ball

January 19th, 2012
11:28 pm

Do you guys know how to post videos, to Facebook?

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:30 pm

Reggie, you can post videos in 4 easy steps…..or was that 3 easy steps……I’m confused………

GTBob

January 19th, 2012
11:31 pm

You wanted a new coach, all you TECHIES, you got one. You also get your loses.

If we were 0-18 right now I would still rather have Gregory.

Zach Klein

January 19th, 2012
11:32 pm

This just in – Georgia Tech failed to score 40 points. The lowest point total since the 81-82 season. 1 of 15 shooting from behind the 3-point arc.

OkieDawg

January 19th, 2012
11:33 pm

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:34 pm

GTBob-

Just wait til next year, you may get your wish. 0 – 18 that is…….

Hey GTBob

January 19th, 2012
11:37 pm

I would rather go 9 out of 10 in football than 0-18 in basketball!

#PleaseKeepAlGrohsDefense

GTBob

January 19th, 2012
11:38 pm

Just wait til next year, you may get your wish. 0 – 18 that is……

Our team will be completely different next year. We will probably make the NCAA tournament.

Reggie Ball

January 19th, 2012
11:38 pm

RealityCheck this isnt the Poughkeepsi Journal-we know who Morrison is. Go over to Junkyard Blawg! If your kid was any good she’d be playin for her school and not some uppity soccer Mom league!

GTBob

January 19th, 2012
11:42 pm

OUCH!

Ouch is knowing that this GT team smoked UGA in Athens.

GTBob,Jr.

January 19th, 2012
11:43 pm

Dad: Get ‘em. We will make the ACC tournament but we miss Reggie at QB dont we?

GTBob,Jr.

January 19th, 2012
11:45 pm

Dad: Google how many times Tech has won the last 10 and then catch a bubble!

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:46 pm

Reggie Ball – my kid could take you and your sorry basketball team to the rack any night of the week. Now get back to Basic Math Fundamentals you moron before I take that crack pipe away from you…….

Is it 3rd down…..oh,wait a minute, is it 4th down…..oh, wait, I don’t know…….here let me throw this in the stands. Don’t hate because your team sucks. You should be used to it by now……

CMR Fan Club

January 19th, 2012
11:47 pm

GTBob Jr.- Ask pops his boyz record in football the past 10 year vs us. LOL

Sad Dawg Fans

January 19th, 2012
11:47 pm

Talking trash about basketball?! Really? 68-56.

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:48 pm

Reggie Ball- You know what comes after 4th down right?……another UGA victory…..now get back to Fundamental Math Class…..

Michigan State

January 19th, 2012
11:51 pm

Fun bowl game guys. Thanks for not being imposing or fast like those other scary SEC teams. You gave us a run there. Good try!!

GTBob

January 19th, 2012
11:52 pm

Talking trash about basketball?! Really?

It is pretty silly isn’t it? I’m not sure there are 5 UGA fans on earth who can name the current starting lineup for the UGA basketball team.

The Iceman

January 19th, 2012
11:53 pm

Both UGA and Tech are transitioning this year and were expected to lose ball games. This loss shouldn’t be huge news to GT, as UGA’s league play shouldn’t come as a shock to it. These teams are going to be interesting to watch grow under their coaches and compete against one another in the future.

Go Dawgs

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:56 pm

You Nerds won’t be laughing when my Dawgs win the National Championship this year. Murray and Crowell will be the best tandem in football.

RealityCheck

January 19th, 2012
11:56 pm

Nice try Reality Check imposter. I’m not that delusional……..

CMR Fan Club

January 20th, 2012
12:00 am

Heck yeah Reality! This is our year. We’re definitely better than LSU and Bama! Go Dawgs – 2012 National Champs!!

duronimo

January 20th, 2012
12:01 am

I think Tech has a good coach. They have had some pretty good wins this year already.
They will get better. Can’t get worse.

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:01 am

Nope, just another boring, ho hum 10 – 11 win season with victories over Tenn, Fla, Auburn, and-of course – GT…..but no National Championship. That will be The Tide – Again.

Zach Klein

January 20th, 2012
12:05 am

This also just in – Tech beat UGA 68-56. Now what’s that say about my dawgs?!

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:06 am

Maybe GT should hire Javaris Crittenton – I hear he’s a hell of a shooter……

ignition

January 20th, 2012
12:06 am

While George Mason just keeps on Winning !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ha Ha..
Udolfia and Glen Rice JR were both high recruits 4 stars
Julian Royal & Daniel Miller 3 stars..
You GT fans let the humped back buffoon Mark Bradley chase off a good coach (PROVEN SUCCESS)
for a coach that can’t coach offense.. AT ALL !!!!! Check the stats for Dayton and why they had no love lost for him..

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:09 am

Can’t believe my Dawgs lost to Michigan State! Also can’t believe I’m wasting time talking Tech basketball with a bunch of Tech fans. Oh well….the life of a troll I guess. It’s sad but it’s all I have really.

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:10 am

Maybe GT should bring over Paul Johnson to coach the basketball team. At least his offense scores more points than the basketball team……of course, they may want to hire a defensive coach.

Time

January 20th, 2012
12:10 am

Maybe Tech should go the same route for hoops as they did football. I’m sure Norman Dale is available to come run the picket fence.

ignition

January 20th, 2012
12:11 am

Meanwhile coach Mark Fox is going to take my Dawgs to the Final Four!

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:11 am

Can’t believe that I’m not creative enough or smart enough to create my own name for AJC posts and that I have to hide behind my closeted love for all things UGA while pretending to be a GT fan…..

Hey Reality

January 20th, 2012
12:13 am

How’d your Dawgs do against Tech in basketball this year? Must have done pretty well to talk this much trash right? I mean if they beat you in your own house all this trash talk sure wouldn’t make your team look all that great right?

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:13 am

Virginia just scored again…..and GT didnt……

Reggie Ball

January 20th, 2012
12:16 am

RealityCheck: Forgive my last comment…ur 12:10 message gave me a whole new respect for you.

Hey Reality

January 20th, 2012
12:16 am

RealityCheck

January 20th, 2012
12:16 am

Hey Reality, your team scored 38 points – against UVA. BTW- Ralph Sampson left a long time ago, so you can’t say it was his fault. Admit it, your team and athletics dept stink. Sure, you finally beat us in Athens this past year but you also ‘finally’ beat us in football a long time ago but you haven’t won since. Hate to tell you, but don’t plan on winning anytime soon……

Reggie Ball

January 20th, 2012
12:18 am

Can’t believe this terrible Tech squad beat my Dawgs at home!