Georgia Tech was done in by a familiar nemesis in the opening round of the ACC tournament. Missing makeable shots near and far, the Yellow Jackets were eliminated by Pittsburgh 61-59 Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
The No. 11 seed, Tech shot 35.5 percent from the field in falling to No. 14 seed Pitt. The Jackets, rated No. 271 in adjusted offensive efficiency by KenPom, missed a slew of makeable layups and drives, shots that have repeatedly eluded them over the course of the season.
“Missed a lot of layups, which has kind of been our Achilles heel all year long,” said coach Josh Pastner in his first game after being named the ACC’s coach of the year on Sunday.
With Pitt (16-16) daring the Jackets to make shots from the perimeter, they were unable to capitalize. Taking more shots from outside the arc than usual, Tech (17-15) was 4-for-18 from 3-point range. Guard Tadric Jackson, who played with energy and was able to get to the basket on drives, finished with 17 points, a team high, but was 8-for-21 from the field, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
“We just fell a little short (Tuesday),” Pastner said. “It’s a tough loss, and it’s one of those things, but I’m really proud of our young men.”
Tech is out of the running for an NCAA tournament bid, the possibility of which seemed laughable at the beginning of the season and at the start of ACC play on New Year’s Eve but grew increasingly likely with upsets of North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame.
Pitt moves on to play No. 6 seed Virginia Wednesday night.
Five observations from the game
When the game was lost
Down 48-41 with 7:25 to go, the Jackets scored on five consecutive possessions to force a 51-all tie with 3:47 to go on a drive by Jackson. However, Pitt’s Jamel Artis answered with a 3-pointer, and Tech then went scoreless on the next five possesssions, giving the Panthers room to push the lead back to seven points with 43 seconds left. The dry spell left Tech in a deficit it could not surmount, despite a furious rally.
What it means for Tech
Tech is off the bubble with the defeat. The Jackets will return to Atlanta on Wednesday and await an invitation to the NIT. Pastner made a plea after the game that any team that finishes 8-10 in the ACC ought to be included in the NCAA tournament, but it is highly doubtful that the selection committee would agree.
The NIT’s 32-team field will be filled following the selection of the NCAA field on Sunday. If the Jackets make it in, it will be the second year in a row that they are in the NIT. Tech reached the quarterfinals last season in what proved to be the final games of coach Brian Gregory’s tenure.
Tech was scheduled to return to campus Wednesday. Pastner said he would give the team a couple days off to rest.
“I wanted to leave Georgia Tech a better place. We take pride in that.” - Quinton Stephens #ACCTourney— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) March 8, 2017
“We’ve milked everything we could out of the guys,” Pasner said. “I mean, literally, every ounce of energy.”
Tech center Ben Lammers was held to six points, which tied for his season low. He was 3-for-9 and the target of Pitt’s ploy to sink its defense down into the paint and prevent Lammers from scoring. Lammers did have 15 rebounds, including six offensive.
“It’s probably the reason we won the game,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said of the defense of Lammers.
Foul-ups at the end
Tech had a couple glitches in the final seconds of the game. Guard Josh Okogie went to the free-throw line with 2.2 seconds remaining and the Jackets down 60-57. After making the first to cut the lead to two points, Okogie was to miss the second to give the Jackets a chance to get an offensive rebound and putback to tie the game.
However, Okogie’s shot went in, cutting the lead to two. Tech extended the game by fouling Jamel Artis with 1.4 seconds left, and Artis went 1-for-2, making the second and giving Tech the ball out of bounds. Forward Quinton Stephens threw a deep pass to Lammers, but he didn’t or couldn’t get two hands on the ball on a play similar to the one run in the final seconds in the Feb. 21 loss to N.C. State.
With only one hand on the ball, he couldn’t make a clean catch, and the game ended with players scrambling for the ball on the floor.
Tech went into halftime down 29-26 after trailing by as many 11. It was the 10th consecutive ACC game that the Jackets had been down at the end of the first half. Tech was 3-7 in those games.
Tech was 1-for-6 from the line in the first half.