Georgia Tech opened ACC play Saturday in South Bend, Ind., with an 83-76 double-overtime loss to No. 14 Notre Dame. Story here and notes here. Three thoughts about the Yellow Jackets' performance at the Purcell Pavilion.
1. I took the result as evidence that this season could turn out better than expected. In some ways, there was plenty that was distressingly familiar. Tech took an early lead, started to let Notre Dame back into the game in the first half and then allowed the Irish to take the lead in the second. It was a pattern the Jackets followed quite stringently last season.
It’s true, but, first, Notre Dame was a top-15 team playing on its home court. To expect the Irish to not come back would be asking a lot. Second, the Jackets twice got back into the game, first to force overtime (down four with 3:30 to play in regulation) and then to force a second overtime (down five with 59 seconds remaining). Lapses on the defensive end did them in, ultimately. But, it’s a game Tech was clearly the underdog. They’re a team with flaws, but the Jackets lost about as well as you could have hoped.
“I like our team,” coach Brian Gregory said. “I’ve liked ’em all year long. A couple games not as much as others, but we’re a competitive group.”
2. There’s a lot to improve. It’s hard to fault frontcourt players Demarco Cox, Charles Mitchell and Robert Sampson for shooting a combined 14-for-25 (further, two of the misses were 3-pointers), but there were more close-range misses than you’d like, particularly in a game lost in double overtime.
“We missed a lot of bunny layups that I know we could have made,” Mitchell said. “It just shows good things about our team. We didn’t let our heads down. We just kept playing after we missed those little shots.”
It was part of a collection of empty possessions that was too large for Tech. The Jackets scored six points off Notre Dame’s 13 turnovers, situations where they often gained possession in advantageous situations. The Irish scored 14 points off Tech’s 15 turnovers. Notre Dame had only five offensive rebounds, but cashed them in for nine second-chance points. Tech had 19 offensive rebounds but turned them into just 17 points.
“When you’re trying to rebuild in this league, those are the humps that you need to get over,” Gregory said. “That’s the next step. To finish a couple of those plays, so instead of a four-point lead at the half, it’s 12 or 13, potentially.”
3. The deeper the season gets, and the more point guard Travis Jorgenson is able to play, the better the Jackets are going to be. Jorgenson, who tore his ACL in Nov. 2013 and has had his minutes limited, went 26 minutes in a 50-minute game, and didn’t play at all in the second overtime. Gregory said he was “fatigued.”
Saturday, he didn’t score, but had four assists against two turnovers with three steals and might have had at least one more assist, if not more, if not for stronger finishes. He runs the break well and handles pick-and-rolls deftly. Josh Heath is a capable backup, but Jorgenson figures to continue to improve as his quickness returns and handle on the game sharpens.