Recapping Georgia Tech's 60-57 loss to Syracuse Saturday at the Carrier Dome. (5 observations here.)
1. One thing about the two turnovers made in the final 90 seconds that helped bring defeat is who made them. Often in late-game possessions, coach Brian Gregory has spread the floor and put the ball in Marcus Georges-Hunt’s hands and had him drive to the basket. It has sometimes worked, others not.
On the first turnover, Adam Smith gave forward Nick Jacobs the ball up near the elbow, apparently in position to create a shot for himself or possibly to pass out of the high post. Jacobs said he dribbled the ball off his foot.
“It bounced just right off my foot,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”
On the other, Smith was passing to Georges-Hunt with time running down on the shot clock but his bounce pass on the wing was stolen. Down two with 26 seconds left, Tech now had to foul, which began to seal the game for Syracuse.
Smith was “trying to get behind that zone a little bit, but the only problem with that, he left his feet on that pass,” Gregory said. “You can’t leave your feet. You’ve got to play off of two feet on that, because they did a good job of taking away our first action, which they do. Now, you’ve got to get to the second one, which, (because) they were so spread out, was to drive it or be able to create a help situation and then drop it off. Just weren’t able to execute.”
2. I mentioned this in the 5 observations, but there was an eight-possession stretch that went a long way to reducing the Jackets’ potential for winning in a tough environment. The score was tied at 19 after 18 possessions. Against one of the better teams in the country at forcing turnovers, Tech had turned it over just once, a shot-clock violation on the first possession.
In the next eight possessions, Tech lost the ball five times. Tadric Jackson tried to thread a pass for a back-door alley oop, but Syracuse got the ball. It led to a dunk in transition. 21-19, Syracuse. Georges-Hunt lost the ball on the dribble. Charles Mitchell got a steal and had an open-court situation ahead, but traveled. Tech committed another shot-clock violation. Late in a possession, Mitchell scrapped for a ball on the floor and whipped the ball to the back side to Georges-Hunt, but it resulted in another turnover. (I think a travel.)
It turned into a 10-3 run that put Syracuse up 29-22. To their credit, after Gregory called timeout, the Jackets came back, with Smith dropping a long 3-pointer, and then a pull-up jumper, which was followed by Jacobs hitting a quick hook shot on a feed from Georges-Hunt to tie the game at 29.
Ben Lammers made a nice play to back tap an offensive rebound to keep it alive, leading to a second Smith 3 for a 32-29 lead. Lammers hit two free throws to close Tech’s scoring for the half and produce a 35-32 lead.
It was a great response and demonstrated poise and effective use of a timeout. The only problem is that it was necessary because of the five turnovers that helped put them in a seven-point hole.
One thing Gregory says often about the solution to winning games late is by playing well in the 36 minutes prior to it to not make it necessary. It’s unreasonable to expect perfection, and Syracuse obviously had an influence on what Tech did, but it was nonetheless a costly stretch.
3. Tech lost at the free-throw line in the second half again. While Syracuse’s four free throws in the final minute tilted the balance, the Orange took 16 free throws in the second half to Tech’s eight.
Fortunately for Tech, Syracuse only made nine of the 16 and twice missed the front end of one and ones.
Syracuse was in the bonus at 5:48, while Tech didn’t get into it until 10.2 seconds were left in the game and Georges-Hunt went to the line with Tech down three, 58-55. Georges-Hunt made the first and missed the second, which Lammers saved going out of bounds and threw to Jackson, resulting in the foul that sent him to the line. Jackson also made the first and missed the second, which would have tied the game with 5.7 seconds left.
For the game, Tech made 10 of 16, 62.5 percent. If they had shot their season average, 71.5 percent, the Jackets would have made one more.
A look at how both teams fared in four critical statistical categories.
Effective field goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and free throws/field goal attempts.
Syracuse decisively won the eFG and FT/FG categories, which showed up in the result. The Orange didn’t shoot the lights out – they were 15 for 32 on 2-pointers and 6-for-18 on 3-pointers – but held Tech to its second lowest effective field-goal percentage of the ACC season. Tech was 16-for-38 on 2-pointers and 5-for-18 on 3-pointers. The 14-for-32 performance by the Jackets’ four bigs particularly factored.
The Orange also went to the line 21 times to 16 trips for Tech, although neither shot free throws well. Notably, again, Syracuse took more free throws in the second half than Tech, 16 to eight.
Tech had another strong game keeping its opponent off its offensive glass. The Orange only had three offensive rebounds in the second half out of 17 chances. However, with 14 offensive rebounds to Syracuse’s 11, Tech only managed 13 second-chance points, nearly drawing with Syracuse (11).
Turnovers were a virtual tie – both had 12 turnovers, but Syracuse had one fewer possession – but Syracuse converted Tech’s turnovers into 16 points while the Jackets only had seven points off turnovers.
The turnover rate was the Jackets’ highest of the ACC season.
“We executed well against the zone. We’ve just got to make a couple more shots around the basket, and that’s always been a big key for us, and, if you make one more three, it’s a different game.” – Gregory
“You learn from it. He has shot better from the free-throw line in the league, I believe, and I fully expected him to make both of those.” – Gregory on Jackson’s free throws.
“It all comes down to grit. That was pretty much our team word starting last week. We all met as seniors. We have a tendency to lapse. Four (minutes) and under, six-and-under, stuff like that, and that’s the time when we’ve got to come together, finish plays, win the ballgame. We didn’t do that today.” – Jacobs