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Georgia Tech Basketball: Jackets Suffer Crushing Loss to Arkansas 62-61 (OT)

The sports gods punished the Jackets in the cruelest of ways on Monday night.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Why can’t we have nice things? Seriously, why?

Arkansas (6-0) defeated Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-0) in the most improbable of ways last night, as Mason Jones banked in a deep, contested three-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining in overtime. Yes, that actually happened. To make things sting even more, Jones is just a 30% three-point shooter on the season. The loss was the second in a row for the Jackets against an SEC foe and evens their record to 2-2 (they are also 1-1 in overtime games just four games into the season).

While there will be no moral victories, the Jackets should be proud of the way they battled back to put themselves in position to win a game that they trailed for the large majority of. As is to be expected, this team will play hard for coach Pastner and they showed that again on Monday.

Tech came into this game knowing that they had dominate the paint against an undersized Razorback squad and they largely did that, as James Banks led the way for the them with 20 points and 13 rebounds, both team highs for the game. They also received double-digit scoring from the two-headed backcourt of Bubba Parham (10) and Michael Devoe (12) who both played 40+ minutes in Jose Alvarado’s absence with an ankle injury.

On a night where Arkansas didn’t shoot very well from the field at just 39%, Jones carried the load, scoring 24 points on 7-12 from the field and 3-7 from deep including the game winner. It was clear that the Hogs are well coached under the new tutelage of Eric Musselman, running the small, 4 guard lineup that he is familiar with from his time at Nevada. Their aggressive, man-to-man defense was as advertised with Jones and Isaiah Joe combining for 9 of their 13(!!) steals. Overall, Tech turned it over 23 times (way too many) but a lot of these were forced, as Arkansas was constantly getting in the way of passing lanes, especially on post entry passes to Banks.

The Jackets trailed most of the night, with the deficit reaching 7 at the 5:57 mark of the 2nd half after an absurd sequence of calls that included Pastner getting a technical foul (hi, TV Teddy). From there, they slowly chipped away and found a way to get back in it with some nice possessions near the end of regulation to force OT. In overtime, it looked as if neither team would score until Banks hit a baby hook in the lane with 21 seconds remaining. On the ensuing Arkansas possession, Musselman decided not to call a timeout and set up a play, presumably preferring to not give Tech’s defense an opportunity to set itself up as well. The Jackets responded with a perfect 20 seconds of defense, forcing Jones to heave a shot that they will live with 100 times out of a 100. It just happened to go in. It be like that sometimes.

Final Thoughts

  • We knew that turnovers could be a problem in this matchup given the way both teams play but wow, 23?? It’s almost impossible to win with that many and yet the Jackets nearly found a way. Certainly not having Alvarado didn’t help but this has to get corrected. Arkansas had 15 points off turnovers in the first half alone and Tech once again found a way to negate their rebounding advantage, as Arkansas finished with 4 more shot attempts than Tech. The two biggest culprits to my eyes are forced passes and travels, which refs seem to be making a point of emphasis this year (seriously, when did a jab step become a travel?).
  • This team doesn’t always execute perfectly but the heart that they play with should never come into question. After the game seemed to swing in Arkansas’ favor on the back of some questionable refereeing, this team could have easily packed it in. Instead, the Jackets came back with maybe their best stretch of play of the night to force OT.
  • In addition to Banks taking advantage of the Hogs lack of size inside, I thought Evan Cole had a really good game. He finished with 8 points and 8 boards and showed really good footwork in the post. It would be great if he could expand his shooting range to become a threat against all types of opponents.
  • On that note, where was Moses Wright in this one? He finished with just 6 points on 3-4 shooting which suggests that he wasn’t looking for his shot enough in a game where he should have been able to bully his man inside. We know that Moses’ game comes and goes and there were definitely fewer head scratching moments from him last night, but you hope that he doesn’t lose his aggressiveness as he attempts to play in control more.
  • The Jackets were just 2-11 on 3 pointers last night. Those are really low numbers in a game that went into overtime. Devoe in particular, was a little bit tentative in pulling the trigger I thought. Hard to win nowadays when you only hit two 3’s.