Thoughts and observations from Georgia Tech's 74-71 win over Boston College Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion. Game story here.
First, the shot.
1. It would seem Tech got a big break when Boston College coach Steve Donahue called timeout after Olivier Hanlan scored on a jump shot with 3.4 seconds left to give the Eagles a 71-70 lead. Donahue said he called it because four of his players were under the Tech basket and “I just didn’t think we were mentally ready to guard.”
Who knows what would have happened had Tech had to inbounds without the benefit of a timeout to set up a play. But the timeout – Tech had none left – allowed coach Brian Gregory to set up a play in the huddle.
Asked whether the timeout surprised him, Gregory answered, “A lot of coaches just have different philosophies.”
Guard Corey Heyward ran the baseline left to right to inbounds to forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who was running fairly parallel around the top of the 3-point arc. He caught it on the run, dribbled up the right sideline, losing Hanlan on a screen at midcourt by Daniel Miller and then raising up about 25 feet from the basket over Lonnie Jackson and burying the game-winner with .7 seconds remaining. He was fouled, to boot, and made the free throw.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Georges-Hunt said. “I didn’t think twice about shooting. Coach told me, ‘Just relax.’ I was already relaxed going into the timeout. I was focused.”
b. Georges-Hunt was in a similar situation a little over a week ago. With 16 seconds remaining and Tech down 43-41, Gregory called a play for Georges-Hunt, who drove to the basket and missed. Forward Kammeon Holsey missed the putback and Tech lost in brutal fashion as Georges-Hunt went 1-for-13 from the field.
Georges-Hunt said he went back and looked at the video of that game and saw that he wasn’t following through on his shot. Thursday, on the game winner, he held his follow-through well after his release.
“It’s not really frustrating to me,” he said. “It’s just like I’m learning from it, so I can become a better player. I feel like since my role has been switched around a lot (this season, due to Robert Carter’s injury), I’ve been learning a lot of new things.”
c. The play was actually usually Trae Golden’s to make, but Golden was out with a groin injury. Georges-Hunt said he and Golden take turns in practice when the team works on that play.
“Sometimes I miss it, sometimes I make it, but this time I made it in the game,” he said. “I don’t put my head down when I miss it. Just next time, I make the shot.”
d. Georges-Hunt actually scored Tech’s final seven points of the game. He scored a critical basket on the previous possession, driving on Garland Owens, pump faking, and scoring at the basket with 22 seconds to go to give Tech a 70-69 lead.
“I feel good about our execution on those last two plays,” Gregory said. “Everybody executed them perfectly, and you’ve still got to make the shot, and Marcus did for us.”
2. After tough losses against N.C. State and Clemson, not to mention the wheels-falling-off defeat to Virginia and others, this one was pretty satisfying.
“I always say, sometimes you’ve got to learn what loses games before you figure out how to win games,” Gregory said. “And we’ve had our share of the first part, and we need to continue to learn the second part.”
Said Miller, “I’ve been waiting on it. A lot of times it happens to us. We’ve just got to keep trying hard and wait for our turn and tonight was our night.”
3. Carter had a much better game, his second after coming back from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He played 24 minutes and scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He showed a soft touch and more sureness with the ball and also grabbed five rebounds.
Miller scored a team-high 18 on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and a 6-for-7 effort from the line, and Holsey had 15.
“That’s kind of what we expected to see (with all three post players available),” Gregory said.
4. Guard Corey Heyward had perhaps his best game, kicking in six points on two 3-pointers and also tying his career best with five assists against one turnover and four rebounds in 33 minutes. His improvement is almost game-to-game. He is showing a burst to the basket that he didn’t have earlier in the season. On the possessions he was guarding Hanlan, he held his own.
Heyward, Gregory said, “is a guy you can coach, you can get on, you can show him film, you can coach him during a game and he doesn’t bat an eye. He wants that, and that’s good.”
5. Hanlan is a Jacket killer on the order of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. He had 21 Thursday on 8-for-15 shooting with two steals. In four games, Hanlan has shot 69.2 percent from the field and averaging 23.8 points per game. In the other 53 games in his career, he has shot 42.9 percent and averaged 17.4 points. If not for Georges-Hunt’s heroics, he would have had the dagger, the pull-up jumper over Heyward with 3.4 seconds left.
6. So, what to take out of the game?
The win shouldn’t de-emphasize the fact that Boston College shot 50.9 percent from the field, including 56.0 percent in the second half. The Eagles’ field-goal percentage was their highest since the sixth game of the season. Tech was one Boston College basket or stop away from giving Tech a brutal home loss that would have been its fifth in a row. (Just like Tech was one basket or stop away from beating N.C. State on the road.)
Tech hammered Boston College on the boards, 36-19, but that isn't terribly shocking. The Eagles’ rebounding deficits for the past three games were nine, 13 and 14.
Further, the Eagles are just not a very good defensive team at all. After Thursday’s game, they were ranked No. 317 in Division I in defensive efficiency (adjusted points per possession) on kenpom.com. Tech was without Golden and was working Carter into the lineup and should be commended for shooting a season-best 53.8 percent. But the Jackets weren’t forced to work nearly as hard offensively as they have been or will be the rest of the way.
That said, Tech played this same team in Boston about three weeks ago and scored two points in one stretch of more than five minutes, and that was with Golden. Thursday, Tech didn't suffer the scoring lapse it has been prone to this season. Gregory assessed it well.
“Needless to say, it’s been an interesting season with all these different things that have occurred. I feel really good about our guys in terms of the effort that they gave. There’ some areas that we didn’t do as well as maybe we need to, but the guys kept fighting. The guys stuck together and we made plays in the last eight minutes of the game that you need to make to win the game.”
If there’s anything that sticks out, perhaps it’s that. Tech has faltered on several occasions down the stretch, but delivered on both ends of the court Thursday when it counted. That, regardless of opponent, is a step forward.