Georgia Tech’s basketball team suffered its worst loss of the season Saturday, but the Yellow Jackets might have discovered another contributor.
Amidst the rubble from the 81-58 loss at Tennessee, freshman Christian Matthews stepped up to play his best game. Now the 6-foot-7 forward may be rewarded with additional minutes, perhaps starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday when the Yellow Jackets complete their three-game road trip with a visit to VCU.
Matthews played 13 minutes and scored a career-high 14 points. He was 4-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and gave the Yellow Jackets a boost.
“The way he played (against Tennessee), he deserves the opportunity to get a bigger look,” head coach Josh Pastner said.
Matthews was a three-star wing recruited by former coach Brian Gregory. Matthews attended National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Maryland, and was a high-school teammate of Yellow Jackets teammate Sylvester Ogbonda.
Matthews has played in five games but has earned significant minutes only twice. He played 12 minutes in the opener against Tennessee Tech and didn’t get off the bench twice. Matthews was one of the players able to bring some energy Saturday. The Yellow Jackets were otherwise lifeless, which was displeasing to Pastner.
“Our energy was very poor, and I was disappointed about that,” Pastner said. “What did we do wrong in the preparation? We’ve got to be a team that’s full of energy, and (against Tennessee) we didn’t have any. You don’t want to play scared or play not to loose, and that’s we seemed to play. We played really soft, and I’m disappointed about that.”
He was also disappointed about the season-high 19 turnovers that were committed. Senior Josh Heath started at point guard in place of Justin Moore and was 0-for-7 shooting and committed three turnovers. Moore missed the game with the stomach flu.
“It hurt us not having Justin Moore, obviously,” Pastner said. “He’s one of our most energized guys, our most vocal guy. We are limited at the guard spot but that’s not an excuse. The next man up has to step up. Some of our main rotation guys didn’t play as well as we needed them to play, and when you’re in that situation, with the limitations we already are in with the margin of zero, it’s a bad recipe.”
The Yellow Jackets (4-3) have lost two straight games and won’t have an easy test against VCU. The Rams (6-2) had their three-game winning streak broken Sunday in a 64-46 road loss to Illinois. VCU has a balanced attack led by JeQuan Lewis (14.1 points) and Mo Alie-Cox (10 points).
“Hopefully through the stretch (of three road games) we learn the areas we can get better at, because this is who we are playing in the ACC,” Pastner asid. “We are going to have to be able to compete and just find a way. It’s going to be good preparation for us in terms of leading up to where we are at when it comes to ACC play.”