This was a game that both teams needed to win, and the Yellow Jackets were unable to put a complete game together to take it.
Coming into the game, the Jackets got some good news. All of their beat up players, especially Ben Lammers and Quinton Stephens, would be available. On the other hand, Miami announced a surprise suspension for their star guard Ja’Quan Newton. Early on in this game, it was the offenses that were stealing the show. Both teams traded baskets for a while, before the Hurricanes pulled away at the end of the half when their zone defense finally stymied the Yellow Jacket’s offense. Starting the second half, things swapped. Miami had a string of turnovers and bad shot selection, while GT started to get their offense going again. The Yellow Jackets even took a brief lead. But the Hurricanes came back. They kept the offense humming, while Georgia Tech struggled to find quality looks. They were able to pull the lead into the double digits. The Jackets had some fight in them and were able to pull the lead down to 7 with the ball, but some shots rimmed out, and they never really threatened the Hurricane’s lead.
Offensively, Georgia Tech really relied on it’s top scorers. Josh Okogie had a strong game, shooting 7-11 for 18 points and hitting 4-5 from deep. Lammers added 15 points on 6-12 shooting, and had a couple others roll off the rim. Tadric hit some shots late, to add 9 points on 4-8 from the field. Quinton Stephens struggled, shooting just 2-9 for only 6 points. Josh Heath hit some key shots, but still ended up shooting just 3-8 for 6 points. Justin Moore looked very good early, but got himself in foul trouble and took himself out of the game, ending with 7 points on 3-3 shooting. Notice one stat I didn’t mention here? Anybody’s free throw shooting. That’s because the Yellow Jackets shot only three free throws. Yes, just three. The Yellow Jackets did quite a bit of work inside the arc too. Give credit to the Hurricane defense to avoid fouling while still playing strong defense. Another reason for the loss? Georgia Tech was able to pull down just one offensive rebound. With their offensive struggles, the inability to get extra possessions can be a killer.
Miami on the other hand got the call when they missed their shots. And they took advantage of the massive free throw disparity, hitting 22 of their 27 attempts. Missing Newton, it was fellow guard Davon Reed who stepped up and won this game for the Hurricanes. He scored 21 points on a fantastic 8-11 from the field. Most of his offensive help came off the bench. Dewan Huell and Dejan Vasiljevic each added thirteen points and were able to keep the offense successful enough when Reed was sitting for foul trouble or rest.
This was a disappointing loss, but I can’t say I’m too surprised at the result, even without Newton on the floor. GT has struggled away from home, going just 1-7 on the road in ACC play. Next, the Jackets head back to Atlanta to face Syracuse on Sunday in front of a sold out crowd. This team’s success has quickly rejuvenated the fanbase, and I expect McCamish to be rocking for this almost must-win matchup. Despite tonight’s loss, the Yellow Jackets are still clearly in contention for the NCAA Tournament.