ATLANTA -- The Georgia Tech basketball team needs to get back on the court.
After last week’s unexpected loss to USC Upstate, the Yellow Jackets (6-2) will try to recover with Monday’s game against Appalachian State at McCamish Pavilion. The outcome should give an indication of the direction that Georgia Tech fans can expect for the rest of the year.
It will also be the team’s first game since the players took final exams.
“The last five games, we didn’t have any real practice time,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “We need to get back and establish the things we need to do. There are areas we can make significant strides in, and we need to emphasize those things.”
One of the biggest problems during the USC Upstate game was turnovers. Georgia Tech turned the ball over 17 times, which led to 23 points for the Spartans.
“The biggest concern over the last couple games are the turnovers,” Gregory said. “That’s just turnovers that appear on the stat sheet. We’re not as sharp or crisp on offense as we were two weeks before. That’s what’s slipping.”
The turnover issues go deeper than just with the guards, although point guard Travis Jorgenson and Josh Heath combined for five turnovers and three assists against USC Upstate. The problem has leaked into the interior, where Charles Mitchell had five turnovers against USC Upstate and Robert Sampson had three against Northwestern.
“That’s a big concern of mine,” Gregory said. “Offensively, our big guys touch the ball. When you face a zone, the big guys are going to have to get the ball. Their turnover number is really alarming. They’re capable of doing a better job, and I think they will.”
The loss to USC Upstate was a shocker. It broke a three-game winning streak and came on the heels of an impressive road win against Northwestern in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Appalachian State (3-3) has the same capability to surprise as USC Upstate did. The Mountaineers, who this season moved from the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt with first-year head coach Jim Fox, had a three-game winning streak broken by Hofstra in its previous start. That streak included road wins against Virginia Tech and Jacksonville.
Appalachian State might be best known on North Avenue for being the school where Bobby Cremins coached before he came to Georgia Tech. The two schools have met five times, the most recent a 74-72 Georgia Tech win in 1998.
The Mountaineers are another part of the upgraded schedule for Georgia Tech. They are led by guard Frank Eaves, who averages 17 points, forward Tommy Spagnolo, who averages 10 points and 7.3 rebounds, and guard Chris Burgess, who averages 9.8 points.
“You play Upstate, and they won 20 games last year. You play Appalachian State, and they have new coach from great pedigree and have some great player,” Gregory said. “Doesn’t matter who you have, if don’t play well for 40 minutes you’ve got a good chance to lose, and in this day and age there are good players everywhere.”
Georgia Tech won’t play again until Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Yellow Jackets travel to Dayton, where Gregory used to coach, on Dec. 23 and finishes the non-conference schedule Dec. 30 against Charlotte.