That was a very disappointing game. The Yellow Jackets led by 16 with 15 minutes left in the game, but were unable to finish. They made a ton of dumb mistakes and couldn’t keep up with the Red Storm’s Shamorie Ponds.
Things didn’t start out great for the Jackets. They couldn’t get an offensive rhythm going and St. John’s was making buckets even when Tech forced bad shots. It was obvious early on that the Red Storm were going to lean heavily on Ponds to carry their team. Later in the second half things turned around. Jose Alvarado got aggressive and the Yellow Jackets realized that St. John’s didn’t have any answer inside for Tech’s size. Georgia Tech ended up on a 13-0 run. The Yellow Jackets looked like they’d have a double digit lead heading into half, but Ponds hit a three quarter court buzzer beater to knock it down to a 9 point lead.
Early in the second half GT’s momentum continued. This run was led by contributions from across GT’s lineup from Curtis Haywood to Moses Wright. Georgia Tech’s lead topped out at 16 with around 15 minutes left. Things went downhill slowly from there. St. John’s didn’t go on a big run, but the Yellow Jackets couldn’t stop Ponds and stopped being able to get the ball inside.
The real turning point in this game happened with just over 10 minutes left. Ponds drove at Alvarado and drew the foul. After the play both guards kept jawing at each other and the ref decided it went too far, giving both players a technical foul. Those two fouls on one play put Jose at 4 and left him on the bench for a little bit. With Jose on the bench St. John’s kept closing the gap. Even when Jose came back in he wasn’t as aggressive. The Red Storm took the lead with 3:30 left. Tech had chances at the end of the game including a 3⁄4 court attempt by Jose Alvarado, but it never really looked like the Jackets would win.
A lot of things went wrong in this game that need to be fixed. The first is the slow start. Once again the Yellow Jackets found themselves in a hole early. They need to come ready to play starting in minute one. The second is shooting. Georgia Tech shot just 4-21 from deep and many of those were wide open. Brandon Alston had a solid day going 3-4, but Alvarado, Haywood, and Mike Devoe combined to go 1-14. If we make a few shots we win this game. We did actually shoot well from the free throw line, 21-24, which was nice to see.
The third issue is turnovers. Georgia Tech had 16 turnovers while only forcing 5. That’s really bad. A bunch of the turnovers were simply lazy passes or not being able to handle the press. They need to clean things up. The final issue is the fouling. Tech held St. John’s to just 37.9% from the field, but bailed them out by fouling 25 times giving them 35 free throws (a few of those were intentional fouls late, but just a few). When the Johhnies couldn’t get anything going from the field, we’d bail them out and let them get it from the line. Additionally having key players in foul trouble, in this case Alvarado and Devoe, really limits the team. This has been a recurring issue this year.
Tech was led by Jose Alvarado with 17 points on 5-15 and helped by James Banks (14 points on 5-5) and Brandon Alston (14 points on 4-8). St. John’s was led by Shamorie Ponds with 37 on 10-17 from the field and 13-15 from the free throw line. He was helped by Justin Simon with 13 points on 3-8 and LJ Figueroa with 13 points on 5-15. The Red Storm only had 2 bench points.
This is a game that Tech could have and should have won. They shot themselves in the foot over and over again, but were still in the game until the buzzer. Instead of a win against a solid team, Tech falls to just 4-3. The Yellow Jackets come home next to face Florida A&M next Sunday then Gardner Webb on Monday, December 17th. Hopefully those two games give Tech a reprieve to clean up some issues before they get two more winnable games against Arkansas and Georgia.