The Yellow Jackets shot the ball well enough to win – the effective field-goal percentage was the highest of the season. Unfortunately, they didn’t rebound nearly well enough or get to the line with enough frequency to win. Both the offensive-rebounding percentage and the FTA/FGA rate were season lows for ACC play, the latter by a wide margin. Moreover, Miami’s FTA/FGA rate was the highest for a Tech opponent, also by a significant gap. Tech was significantly benefited by Miami’s 17 turnovers, which were turned into 21 points. The turnover percentage was also a high for a Tech opponent in the ACC.
*Four factors follows the idea that the four statistics that most lead to success are effective field-goal percentage (which weights 3-point baskets proportionately), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throws per field-goal attempts.
There was a lot going against Tech, namely the injuries to center Ben Lammers (ankle), forward Quinton Stephens (ankle) and guard Josh Okogie (knee) that kept them out of practice Monday and Tuesday when the Jackets were rehearsing the game plan for the Hurricanes. Beyond missing that important prep time, it may have thrown off their game rhythm Wednesday. And, not insignificantly, both Lammers and Stephens, while not wanting to make excuses, acknowledged that they were a little limited physically because of the injuries.
That said, Miami was without its starting point guard (Ja’Quan Newton) and then lost its starting center for the game, Ebuka Izundu, early in the second half. It is reasonable to assume Miami coach Jim Larranaga wasn’t feeling much in the way of sympathy for Tech coach Josh Pastner.
Regardless, despite however much the Jackets were swimming upstream, they could have won this game. They let go of it with an unusually weak effort on the glass, too many missed layups (Pastner called it “surreal”) and likewise with poor defense of the rim. Tech entered the game ranked 13th nationally in two-point field-goal percentage at 43.1 percent; Miami shot 57.7 percent and was fouled on several other shots.
“I think for some reason, the defense wasn’t clicking tonight,” Lammers said.
The defeat ratchets up the degree of difficulty for Tech to make the NCAA tournament. The upcoming game Sunday against Syracuse is a near must win. Beating Syracuse will be no walk in the park.
A caveat that Pastner likes to bring up – it’s remarkable that Tech is even in a position to rue a missed opportunity and consider its significance for the tournament. Or, as he put it, “a modern miracle.” Nonetheless, this was a game that the Jackets could have had.
Stat of the game
Tech missed 28 shots and rebounded two of them. Moreover, one of them was a team rebound. (It went out of bounds off a Miami player, allowing the Jackets to retain possession.) Guard Corey Heyward was the only player to secure an offensive rebound.
Quote of the game
“We’ve got to finish. They’re not going to make calls on the road, and we’re strong enough to make those plays. We’ve just got to finish. – Stephens
Guard Josh Okogie led the Jackets with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Somewhat oddly, he was 4-for-4 from the field in the first 8:11 of the game but didn’t attempt another shot until the 16:50 mark of the second half. (By the way, you should read his analysis of Miami's offense in the "5 things" story.. It sounds like how a coach would analyze it, and that is intended as a compliment. It's not the first time I've noticed it, but, particularly for a freshman, he has a keen understanding of the game and clearly ingests the scouting report.)
Guard Josh Heath had nine assists, one shy of his career high, against one turnover.
Stephens led with six rebounds. Lammers made the first 3-pointer of his career, an off-balance desperation attempt as the shot clock was about to expire in the first half. He finished with 15 and had four blocks.
From my iPhone
I’ve heard stories about South Florida traffic and had an experience that lived up to them. On the way from Miami International Airport to my hotel Wednesday afternoon, a road out of the airport was barely budging, and I figured out why when I got to the intersection. The traffic on the other street was likewise backed up, and cars were trying to get through and then getting stranded in the middle after the light turned red. I’ve seen instances where one or two cars try to cross hoping that they’ll be able to squeeze through and then get stuck. I don’t think I’ve ever seen 10 or 12. We sat through one entire green light unable to move because all three or four lanes were blocked. And then the funny part was that cars behind me were honking, as though somehow that was going to solve the problem.
On a personal note
I think I wrote earlier this season that, after covering a game at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, I only had one arena in the ACC that I had yet to visit, Boston College’s Conte Forum. I made a mistake in that I’d actually never covered a basketball game at Miami, either. Not a terribly impressive arena, although the fact that it was probably less than half full didn’t help, either. It sort of feels like it was built on a pretty tight budget.