With a chance to finish a disappointing and trying season with some fireworks, Georgia Tech lit a dud. In their first-round game at the ACC Tournament, the 13th-seeded Yellow Jackets started slowly, never led and were summarily bounced by No. 12-seed Boston College 87-77 on Tuesday afternoon.
Tech (13-19) staged a furious rally in the final 13 minutes, but it was not enough after having fallen behind by 20 points. Boston College (18-14) will move on to play No. 5 seed N.C. State on Wednesday.
1. Many missed shots
The Jackets were never a particularly efficient offensive team this season, but were particularly errant in their shooting Tuesday. Tech was 10-for-33 in the first half, when the Jackets went into halftime down 36-26, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. The struggle continued into the second half, when they missed their first nine field-goal tries.
At the point Boston College’s lead crested at 20 points with 13:37 to play, at 51-31, Tech was shooting 10-for-42, a hard-to-believe 23.8 percent.
“We just weren’t real effective offensively,” coach Josh Pastner said.
At that point, Tadric Jackson was 3-for-10. Josh Okogie was 3-for-14. Freshman forward Moses Wright was 0-for-5.
“Tadric had some great looks,” Pastner said. “Josh had some great looks.”
In the first half alone, center Ben Lammers had a layup that was too hard off the glass, forward Evan Cole had the ball and a path down the baseline for a dunk but lost control of the ball, and forward Moses Wright attempted a one-handed putback dunk that ricocheted off the back of the rim. The Eagles had their own issues on offense, such as shooting 2-for-14 from 3-point range for the game. But Tech’s inability to make even the seemingly simple baskets allowed Boston College to maintain control throughout the game.
2. Off game for Okogie
Two days after earning third-team All-ACC recognition, Okogie played his way through what was easily one of the least productive offensive games of his career. He finished 5-for-20 from the field, his second-most missed field-goal attempts in his career and out of character for a player who shot 42.1 percent from the field in ACC games this season. After averaging 6.4 free-throw attempts per game in ACC play, he got to the line just three times, making two. He finished with 14 points, two assists, four turnovers and two steals.
“I just wanted to see the ball go in a couple times, get to the free-throw line, but that never really happened,” Okogie said.
Okogie’s effort-filled defense of All-ACC first-team selection Jerome Robinson got somewhat lost in the defeat. Tech played man-to-man defense throughout, and Okogie matched up with Robinson, whose 24.3 points per game in ACC games led the conference. With Okogie chasing him through screens, doggedly staying in front of him and challenging shots, Robinson scored 19 points, but shot 5-for-17 from the field, well below his ACC season field-goal percentage of 55.1 percent. Further, Robinson scored seven of his 19 in the final two minutes, five on free throws.
“At the end of the day, I had to be there for my teammates, so I tried to make it up on defense and use all the energy I had on defense and let Tadric do the offense,” Okogie said. “Him and Ben, they were really good.”
3. A frenetic rally
After falling behind 51-31 with 13:37 to play, Tech made a push. Pastner put in forward Abdoulaye Gueye, who had played little since Pastner moved Wright into the starting lineup for the final four games of the regular season. Gueye’s quickness and reach helped Tech force seven turnovers in the final nine minutes, many in the Eagles’ backcourt as they struggled to beat the Jackets’ full-court pressure. The turnovers were turned into 15 points, and Tech closed the lead to 72-65 with 2:31 to play and 81-75 with 45 seconds left.
“(Gueye’s) ball pressure on the ball was really tough,” Okogie said. “He made them have tough catches. His energy coming off the bench and his trapping and being everywhere allowed us to get steals and get in the passing lanes.”
Jackson was electric, scoring an absurd 23 points in the final 13:17 on 10-for-14 shooting from the field, along with three assists and two steals, both of which he converted into dunks. He finished with 29, tying his career high.
“It wasn’t all me,” he said. “It was definitely a team effort.”
However, the margin proved too great and Boston College’s free-throw shooting too accurate for the comeback to matter. It was another too-little, too-late comeback try, a theme of the season, which spoke to Tech’s admirable unwillingness to give in, but also its habit of falling behind.
“That’s who we’ve been all year long,” Pastner said.
It proved a memorable, if bittersweet, farewell for Jackson.
“It’s not where we wanted to be,” he said. “To lose the first round, and could have had a chance to win, it just hurts, just deep down.”
4. Lammers efficient
Lammers was Tech’s only consistent offensive threat. He was 4-for-9 from the field and 10-for-12 from the line for 18 points, and all but three of his points were scored before the frenzied comeback.
Boston College coach Jim Christian said that stopping Lammers – moving him away from his favored spots on the floor – was the Eagles’ primary objective on defense.
It seemed that Tech could have been more intent on getting him the ball, particularly in the first half before the game got away from the Jackets. In the first 20 minutes, Lammers needed only five field-goal attempts to generate 11 points (he was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line) with two assists while the rest of the team took 28 shots and scored 15 points.
“We were talking about it in the timeouts, and we wanted to get Ben the ball more,” Pastner said.
Lammers set career highs for free throws and attempts in the loss. He has been invited to participate in the NABC All-Star game at the Final Four in San Antonio (his hometown) and the Portsmouth Invitational, a pre-draft showcase camp.
“Obviously, it’s very sad knowing that this is the last game I’ll be able to play for Georgia Tech,” he said. “I’ve had a great time playing for the school. They’ve been nothing but amazing to both of us. (Lammers and Jackson)”
5. Season comes to an end
Pastner’s second season ends at 13-19, with 12 losses in the final 15 games. Tech came to Brooklyn believing it had a chance to make a run. Of its first three potential opponents, the Jackets had lost to Boston College in overtime, beaten N.C. State and twice had Clemson on the ropes before falling.
“I thought we had a great draw,” Pastner said. “But I knew we had to win the first game, and we just didn’t take care of business.”
The season began in Shanghai under the shadow of NCAA violations and players being questioned (and cleared) by Chinese police and slogged through a string of injuries and off-court troubles. With a young lineup, Tech’s 6-12 record in the ACC was not entirely unsurprising.
“We’re excited for the long term,” Pastner said.