Georgia Tech’s opening slate of ACC games is the toughest stretch of games on the 2022-23 schedule and it concludes on Wednesday with #12 Miami coming to McCamish Pavilion. The Jackets fell to #13 Virginia on Saturday and opened ACC play at North Carolina last month with current second-place Clemson sandwiched in between the Heels and the Hoos. Tech needs to get a win to avoid an 0-4 start in ACC play.
For Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner and his players, getting some positive momentum with an upset over Miami would be big for the program. Sophomore guard Deebo Coleman said the players had a heart-to-heart chat following the Virginia loss that saw the Jackets give up a 25-0 run from the final two minutes of the first half into the first five minutes of the second half after having a chance to take the lead ahead of halftime.
Miami has been strong offensively this season and the Canes are led by one of the more experienced squads in the ACC. Coleman said Tech’s defense would have to be on point to have a chance with the Hurricanes.
“From a defensive standpoint, I feel like we have to lock in even more on defense with them being so versatile offensively,” Coleman said. “They also lead the ACC in steals so we have to be tough with the ball and we can’t have as many turnovers as we had in the last game.”
The Jackets had 23 turnovers against Virginia leading to 30 points off turnovers compared to just 17 points off turnovers for Tech.
Pastner went into a long explanation of where his team has been losing in ACC play mainly due to long scoreless stretches starting at the end of the first half and leaking into chunks of the second half.
“The biggest issue in our three games is we’ve had stretches where things aren’t going well and it spirals downward quickly in that stretch,” Pastner said. “How do we not let the pipes break? There could be a little drip and a little leak but we can’t be having a flood.”
Against Virginia, the Jackets had the ball down two and had a Miles Kelly three roll in and out of the basket that would have given them the lead with under two minutes to play. The Cavs went on a 25-0 run after that missed three to pull away over the next seven-plus minutes. In the Clemson game, they led 14-12 six minutes into the game and then Clemson went on a 15-0 run to take a 28-15 lead over the next seven minutes of action creating a hole. Tech led 24-23 at North Carolina with 5:12 left in the first half before the Heels pulled away to take a 13-point lead to end the half as the Jackets managed just three points in the final five minutes of the half.
Pastner said they have worked on coming up with a solution to break those cold streaks offensively that are causing the runs that keep taking them out of games. He said he may even look at how he uses his timeouts to create some designed plays to break up the runs.
“Are there some actions we need to call to get us a bucket or at least try to get us a foul? I like to have a timeout or two late in the game, but I might have to use all four timeouts if we are in one of these stretches. We are obviously dissecting it and looking at it and trying to make amends for it. I recognize it is a 40-minute game and you are not going to play perfectly for 40 minutes and there are going to be runs, but not 25-3 or 18 to 2 and that is when the pipes break it is flooded. We stabilize after that, but that has to be corrected,” he said.
Tech’s defense is off the normal pace from previous years as well as not helping the offense. The Jackets are best in transition offensively and Pastner said they’ve got to find a way to create more transition opportunities with the defense.
“We need to score in transition. We had 15 fastbreak points against Virginia and we didn’t really have any against Clemson, especially in the first half. We’ve got to score in transition otherwise you just put too much pressure on our halfcourt offense. We don’t have a team of plodders, we’ve got good runners and good athleticism so we’ve got to be able to get out in the open more than we are,” he said.
Going into the Miami game the Jackets should have their full roster again after dealing with a bug going around the team that kept Tristan Maxwell and Jordan Meka out last game. Big man Cyril Martynov has also returned after getting stuck in Ontario during the winter holiday storms last month and missing the Virginia game as well.