ATLANTA — Heavily plopping themselves into a pair of chairs behind a set of microphones Tuesday night, their pain was visible.
Dealing with a pain the entire Georgia Tech basketball community has endured for the past month, the occasional blank stares on the faces of Gani Lawal and Maurice Miller seemed to say it all: They’re tired of all the losses.
Moments after Lawal, Miller and their Yellow Jackets teammates fell to a fourth consecutive loss and fifth straight conference defeat in an 80-76 loss to Boston College, the two players did their best answer the question on the minds of Yellow Jackets fans: “What does this team have to do to win?”
Lawal, Georgia Tech’s 6-foot-9 post player who finished the game with 10 blocks, said the Yellow Jackets cannot stop competing the way they have. They must continue to march through their schedule as if the past few games were just minor, correctable blips.
“We have got to keep fighting,” Lawal said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve just got to keep fighting. That’s the bottom line.”
Agreeing, Miller took his comments a step further, seeking to encourage his teammates to keep faith in themselves, even while their fans may be having a difficult time doing so.
“We all know that we just have to stick together right now,” Miller said. “We’re all we’ve got. We’re the only people who truly believe in ourselves right now. We’re 9-9, and we just have to keep pushing.”
With an 0-5 conference record, the Yellow Jackets enter this weekend’s contest against Clemson in last place in the ACC. But they are resting on the belief that just one win could kick-start a string of victories. Miller added that last season, after a tough start to its conference schedule, Georgia Tech went on a three-game winning streak, knocking out Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Virginia midway through its conference schedule.
Like several of those losses last season, five of the Yellow Jackets’ conference losses this season have come late in the second half of ballgames and have come after they carried leads into the final few minutes of those games. Including Tuesday night’s loss, three of Georgia Tech’s ACC defeats this season have come in overtime.
“I feel really bad for our players,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said. “Obviously, this is not the most enjoyable thing. We’ve got — I’ve got to do a better job of managing the game down the stretch. With the exception of the Duke game, this is fifth ACC game we’ve lost where we had a lead with less than two minutes remaining.”
Like his players, Hewitt believes the Yellow Jackets can’t wait around for their luck to change. And if one late-game offensive scramble was any indication, Hewitt is proud to report that his players have been trying hard to make that change happen.
With 3:01 remaining in overtime, Miller raced down to Georgia Tech’s basket and missed a 3-point attempt in front of his bench. But Miller followed his shot and recovered the long rebound before tossing up another rapid-fire 3-pointer. As the Yellow Jackets trailed by one, Miller’s 3-point flurry was an aggressive stab at propelling Georgia Tech to a lead.
“You got to make your breaks,” Hewitt said. “We can sit around and wish and hope for things to happen. One thing I did like was that I saw a few guys step up and really try to make some aggressive shots. Like (Miller) had that one shot in the corner. It bounced out to him, and he didn’t flinch. He had an open look and ended up putting it up again. He missed, but you’ve got to make your breaks.”