1. You may find this interesting, or perhaps not at all. I looked up the AJC story that my colleague John Hollis wrote in January 2002, when Tech fell to 0-7 with a loss to Wake Forest. It probably sounds familiar.
Tech guard Tony Akins was quoted as saying, “"We're just not making plays when we need them. We don't understand what's going on. We're good, we're talented, we're athletic and we can shoot. We're just missing something."
Paul Hewitt, in his second season, added: “The bottom line is, we’re not getting it done when we need to.”
John himself wrote the following: “The Yellow Jackets again played hard on Saturday afternoon, but once more failed to come up with several big plays when they had to have them in falling to Wake Forest 87-74 before 12,614 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.”
Tech finally won its first ACC game of the season in the next game, beating Florida State 77-46, the Jackets’ largest margin of victory in an ACC game. Marvin Lewis, who last fall became Tech’s associate athletic director for finance and administration, scored 18 points on five 3-pointers. The Jackets won seven of their final nine ACC games.
I can’t say I hold a great amount of confidence that this team holds the potential for a similar turnaround. For one thing, that 2002 team that lost seven ACC games in a row had also gone to the NCAA tournament in the previous season. I think it would require a sustained level of offensive play that it hasn’t seemed like this team is capable of achieving. Also, there’s enough bears remaining on the schedule to make it unlikely, even if Tech’s play were to dramatically improve.
And, on the other hand, the other two Tech teams to start 0-7 in ACC play finished 1-13 (1980, Tech’s first season in the ACC) and 0-14 (1981, coach Dwane Morrison’s final year at Tech).
There’s plenty to pick apart about this team and Sunday’s game. The Jackets were way off the mark offensively through the first seven minutes. The play off the bench has been inconsistent. They don’t go inside enough. They turn the ball over too much. They haven’t deliver down the stretch. Sunday, the defense permitted Boston College to shoot 59.1 percent in the second half, which won’t get it done. The loss was the second to a team with no other ACC wins and a first-year coach (Wake Forest is the other.)
“I was disappointed with our defense today,” coach Brian Gregory said. “That has to be who we are and what we do.”
I don’t think this team will finish 7-2, but I also don’t think it’ll collapse. But I would say that, as long as the effort remains, the dye isn’t cast.
“We’re right there,” forward Quinton Stephens said after the game, holding his thumb and index finger centimeters apart. “Right now, we have to stick together.”
2. Gregory continued to tweak playing time and the lineup. Sunday’s lineup (Georges-Hunt and Robert Sampson at forward, Demarco Cox at center, Chris Bolden and Travis Jorgenson at guard) was the fourth different lineup in the past five games. After Cox picked up his second foul late in the first half, he snuck in freshman Ben Lammers for the second consecutive game. He has played 11 of the team’s 19 games.
He played Georges-Hunt 37 minutes, tying his career high for a regulation game. After getting 15 and 19 minutes against Pittsburgh and Virginia, guard Tadric Jackson played two minutes Sunday. Stephens played 26 minutes, his most playing time since being taken out of the starting lineup following the Dayton game. His 17 points were his second highest total after scoring 22 against Georgia in the season opener.
It follows what Gregory has said previously, that playing time and starting assignments would be fluid with this team.
3. The effort was to be lauded. Players were on the floor going after loose balls. After missing a 3-point try on the break, Georges-Hunt retreated quickly enough to deflect a downcourt pass by Boston College out of bounds. He made another play just before halftime to help Tech retain possession by racing out of bounds to knock the ball off of Garland Owens. Bolden made a similar play, knocking the ball off of Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan.
Obviously, there’s no medals for trying hard, and to some degree, effort should be assumed. But it says something (if not everything) that Tech is playing with the effort that it is.
“You can question sometimes the decision making, but obviously, I thought in that first half we struggled offensively, but we got every 50-50 ball that was out there,” coach Brian Gregory said. “We had great effort, great energy.”
After Georges-Hunt’s last-second shot missed (I think it was actually after the buzzer, also), he slumped over, hands on his knees. (My gifted colleague Curtis Compton captured the moment in a photo that ran with the ajc.com story.) This is what Georges-Hunt said was going through his mind:
“I just told myself, just keep my head up, get back in the gym tomorrow or tonight, just got and shoot, listen to music and just stay positive. Because we play on Wednesday, we play Miami. There’s no point in putting my head down, keeping my head down.”