Reviewing Georgia Tech's 86-80 win over Florida State Wednesday night in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Yellow Jackets ended their 10-game losing streak to Florida State, but almost gave it away at the end. Tech led 75-65 at the 2:32 mark of the second half and then lost eight points off the lead over the next 2:08. After a quick layup to cut the lead to eight, and then both teams trading missed field-goal attempts, the Seminoles fouled to send Tech to the foul line each of the next five possessions, and Tech went 1-for-2 each time. On the other end, the Jackets gave up a series of layups, enabling FSU to continue to make 2-for-1 trades without losing much time off the clock.
In the history of excruciating losses in Tech’s recent history, this would have stood to be among the most agonizing, and the Jackets nearly gave FSU the ball with the chance to tie or go ahead with 24.1 seconds left, but guard Marcus Georges-Hunt called timeout to escape the five-second count as he tried to inbounds the ball with his team ahead 82-80.
After the timeout, Georges-Hunt inbounded to forward Nick Jacobs, who quickly returned the ball to Georges-Hunt, who was fouled with 19.8 seconds left and then made both free throws for a four-point lead. A block by James White (or possibly Georges-Hunt, who was credited) at the other end on a Dwayne Bacon shot began to close the door, and Adam Smith’s pair of free throws with 10.3 seconds left for the final 86-80 score sealed the game.
Backup bigs deliver
On a night when foul trouble limited forward Charles Mitchell to just 10 minutes – he came back in with three fouls at 10:51 of the second half and then went back out 40 seconds later after committing foul No. 4 and did not return – backup post players James White and Ben Lammers gave the Jackets a big boost. Both scored six points with six rebounds and both had a block.
They made noteworthy contributions midway through the second half. The Jackets were able to push a nine-point halftime lead to 14 points, but FSU chopped it back to 10 at 14:55 with a pair of Devon Bookert free throws. An empty possession would give FSU the chance to drop the lead to single digits and begin to apply pressure on the Jackets. But Lammers got his hands on two successive misses to extend the possession and on the third shot, Georges-Hunt nailed a 3-pointer on a pass from White to return the lead to 13.
Two possessions later, White grabbed a missed layup by Georges-Hunt and fed Smith for a 3-pointer for a 60-47 lead. On the possession after that, Lammers swung the ball out of the post to Georges-Hunt for another 3-pointer and a 63-47 lead, helping build enough cushion to withstand FSU’s eventual rally.
"We got stops, but each time we got stops, they were able to go and get offensive possessions," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They had nine threes and three or four of them came after a missed shot; they got the rebound and kicked it out to get a high percentage shot."
Going into the game, White said Gregory told that “he wants to see my name in all the stats – blocks, steals, everything .” He just about complied. He scored six, had six rebounds, had two assists and a block. The only categories he missed were free throws and steals.
Lammers and White’s contributions were underscored by their relatively quiet performances against Clemson last Saturday – a combined six points and two rebounds in 23 minutes.
To beat FSU, it took five player near their peak. Smith (25 points), Georges-Hunt (27 points, 12-for-16 from the line, four assists) and forward Quinton Stephens (11 points on 4-for-8 shooting, seven rebounds) along with White and Lammers all were fairly sound overall.
Smith handled a good bit of the ballhandling against FSU’s pressure. Using his quickness and speed off the dribble to escape trouble, Smith had three assists but four turnovers (one after halftime). Georges-Hunt helped limit FSU guard Malik Beasley to six points, almost 11 points under his average. Stephens delivered a big 3-pointer at the 4:44 mark to push the lead to 14, hitting from the same left-wing spot that he knocked down a critical 3-pointer against Virginia, the last time he reached double figures.
The team’s inconsistency has been a big part of Tech’s results, as the Jackets have often had Smith, Mitchell and Georges-Hunt playing well and maybe one more player, but not the rest. Tech had enough contributions to overcome an off game from Mitchell.
“The guys were great just in terms of, This is our game. We deserve this game. We need to finish it out. We’ve had some tough losses over the last two years and I don’t know if you ever get over those, but you build some scar tissue up a little bit, and I think our guys took a big step tonight in finishing the game.” – Gregory
“I thought they deserved to win. We brought it close there at the end, but they clearly outplayed us.” – Hamilton
A look at how Tech and FSU performed in four critical statistical categories - effective field-goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover rate and free throws per field goal.
Tech’s eFG rate was its highest of the season for an ACC game, and the Jackets needed every last percentage point, as FSU’s rate was one of the highest allowed by Tech against an ACC opponent. The Jackets had a huge advantage in offensive rebounding. They weren’t quite as efficient as you’d want – 10 second-chance points on 12 offensive rebounds – but what was obvious was how much more energy Tech played with than it did against Clemson in winning 50/50 balls.
Three offensive rebounds in one possession produced only one point, but helped take the clock down from 9:41 at the start of the possession to 8:05 when Georges-Hunt went 1-for-2 from the line, taking valuable time off the clock in the Seminoles’ comeback attempt.
Turnovers nearly killed the Jackets. The Seminoles turned Tech’s 14 turnovers into 21 points, including two in the space of 42 seconds in the second half that reduced the Jackets’ lead from 66-51 to 66-55 in 46 seconds. Tech has become increasingly loose with the ball in recent games. Turnovers were prominent factors in the losses to Miami and Clemson.
The free-throw rate was skewed by FSU fouling at game’s end, resulting in an ACC high for Tech. FSU’s rate is untenable for Tech, which continues to have a difficult time keeping the opposition off the line.
Stat of the game
Lammers' minutes-per-block rate this season after he had one Wednesday. In his ACC all-defensive team season as a senior in 2013-14, Daniel Miller's rate was 12.7.