Wrapping up Georgia Tech’s 86-78 loss to North Carolina in the ACC opener for the Yellow Jackets. (5 observations here on myajc)
1. Realistically speaking, I’m not sure you could have reasonably asked for a whole lot more from Georgia Tech Saturday. In a tough arena and a tougher opponent, the Yellow Jackets were in the game until about the 38th minute. Particularly given how bad of a matchup North Carolina has been for Tech in Gregory’s tenure – 0-6 before Saturday, with an average margin of defeat of 19 points – it was a bit of a step forward.
It wasn’t a win, obviously, and Gregory wasn’t up for claiming moral victories, but it still gave a little more insight into what this team might be able to do over the final 17 conference games.
“I think we’re a much different team,” he said. “But you’ve got to go out there and prove it.”
2. Forward Marcus Georges-Hunt played an exceptional all-around game. Using his strength, quickness and savvy, he created contact on the dribble and went to the line a career-high 15 times, making 12 (also a career high) and scored 25 points, tying his career high. He added six rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block against two turnovers. He guarded Tar Heels from 6-foot-8 forward Justin Jackson to 6-2 guard Marcus Paige.
The block was exceptional. In the second half, Jackson was going to the basket in transition and Georges-Hunt was defending him. Despite the fact his momentum was carrying him backwards and out of bounds and that Jackson is three inches taller and longer than him, Georges-Hunt still managed to block Jackson’s shot, which led to Josh Heath making a floater at the other end for a 65-63 lead.
3. Tech could have used another player to step forward with some scoring punch. The challenge with the Tar Heels is trying to match their firepower or somehow limiting it. Tech did the latter in the first half, but North Carolina got on a roll in the second, putting up 47 points in 35 possessions, a tremendous rate.
UNC ended up with six players in double figures. Tech had three – Georges-Hunt with 25, guard Adam Smith with 20 and forward Charles Mitchell with 14. The next highest scorer was forward Nick Jacobs with six points. The three were blowing it up at 20-for-37, but the rest of the Jackets were 7-for-27. At various times, forwards Quinton Stephens and James White, center Ben Lammers and guard Tadric Jackson, along with Jacobs, have given a boost off the bench this season. It wasn’t the case Saturday.
A basketball stathead (or, if you prefer, analytics expert) named Dean Oliver came up with an idea identifying “Four Factors of Basketball Success” – effective field goal percentage (which takes the extra value of a 3-point basket), turnover percentage (rate of turnover per possession), offensive rebounding percentage (offensive rebounds divided by offensive rebounds plus opponent defensive rebounds) and free-throw rate (free-throw attempts divided by field-goal attempts, which measures how frequently a team is going to the line).
You can read more about it here.
Forthwith, the four factors from Saturday’s game:
UNC was better in each category except for turnover percentage. Significantly, the Tar Heels had a better effective field-goal percentage despite shooting 2-for-12 from 3-point range while Tech was a scorching 7-for-15. UNC made 28 of 47 two-point attempts. UNC got to the line 29 times compared to 19 free throws for Tech.
“One of the big things that we’ve been good at this year has been winning the free-throw battle,” Gregory said. “And we did not win that today, and that was probably the difference in the game.”
Photo of the game
I ended up at the North Carolina basketball hall of fame by accident. I was looking for will call to pick up my credential and a police officer pointed me to a tall building near the Smith Center. I think he said “skyscraper” or “tall building,” but it’s only three stories high, which was the first clue something was amiss, not to mention the fact that will call is pretty much always at the stadium or arena.
The “tall building” turned out to be the hall of fame, which is pretty impressive, as you might imagine. I stopped at the Jordan display case (I grew up outside of Chicago during his glory years) which includes a letter from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wishing him well after Jordan evidently ended his recruitment with the Blue Devils. It’s crazy to think Krzyzewski has been around long enough to have recruited Jordan.
“We’ve got the right pieces. We’ve just got to go out and take care of business.” – Georges-Hunt
“They’re a dangerous team. They have a great inside-out game. A team like that, though, you have to put ’em away when it’s time to put ’em away. We kind of let ’em hang around too long.” – Smith
“I told Brian, this was before the game, I liked his club. It’s so, so much better than they were last year, and he’s done a great job with them. Got some new guys that look like they’ve been there the whole time the way they’ve bought into what he wants for them to do. But when you’ve got a 3-point shooter like Smith, you’ve got a guy that drives it to the basket and gets to shoot 15 free throws like Marcus and you’ve got Mitchell and those guys doing everything inside, it’s tough to guard that kind of team.” – UNC coach Roy Williams
Stat to note
Tech has lost 10 consecutive ACC openers. The last time the Jackets won their first ACC game of the season was the 2005-06 season, when they beat Virginia 63-54.
At the game
North Carolina had Frisbee dogs at halftime. You can probably never go wrong with Frisbee dogs.
The biggest TV timeout hit is a montage of UNC greats (Phil Ford, Tyler Hansbrough and Michael Jordan, among others) Each one says “I’m (name), and I’m a Tar Heel.” It’s for the Rams Club, the athletic department’s fund-raising arm. It’s pretty simple, and you’d sort of think it would become background noise after awhile (I think they do it for every game), but fans love it. Interestingly, Hansbrough got probably the second-loudest reaction after Jordan.