ATLANTA -- For at least one night, Alexander Memorial Coliseum’s recent magic disappeared.
Just about anything that could have gone wrong for Georgia Tech on Sunday night did.
First, there was the news that two of the Yellow Jackets’ key contributors were sidelined by an illness and an unexpected condition. Then, about 20 minutes before tipoff against Maryland, half of the arena’s lights flickered and shut off, leaving fans and players in partial darkness.
Finally, there was what happened on the court. Georgia Tech simply couldn’t stay long enough with the Terrapins and their broad-shouldered forward. Riding yet another Jordan Williams double-double, Maryland beat the Yellow Jackets 74-63.
“We had no answers for him,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said.
The loss pushed the Yellow Jackets (10-10, 3-4 ACC) back to a .500 overall record and dropped them a game below the mark in conference play. It also snapped a three-game home winning streak, slowing the momentum they had built up inside the Coliseum.
By scoring 21 points and pulling away 15 rebounds, Williams notched his 14th double-double in Maryland’s past 15 games.
“That’s a pretty typical game for him,” Maryland head coach Gary Williams said.
In order to slow down the big, physical, rangy post player, it took about every ounce of the Yellow Jackets’ collective energy to stop him.
Forward Daniel Miller was charged with covering Jordan Williams much of the night. After getting beat up on the glass, Miller felt disappointed in his effort.
“I just wasn’t prepared,” Miller said. “He is a big, good player and I came out and didn’t do my assignment which was to front him and keep him off the boards. I just have to focus and be ready all the time now. There are lots of players like him our there.”
Hurting Miller’s case for guarding Williams and helping on Terrapins forward Dino Gregory was the fact that he and his partner, Kammeon Holsey, entered foul trouble early in the contest. Both were sacked with a pair of infractions barely five minutes into the ballgame, forcing them to the bench. As a result, the Yellow Jackets had to play small for several extended periods of time.
They were so short on the floor that at one point, there wasn’t a player taller than 6-foot-5 in their rotation.
“(Williams) just established a presence around the basket that we just didn’t have,” Hewitt said of the Terrappins' 6-foot-10 leading scorer.
Maryland (14-7, 4-3) took full advantage, scoring 48 points in the paint. In fact, including their 24 made free throws, all of the Terrapins’ points were in short-range scenarios. They didn’t make a shot from the field past 10 or 12 feet.
It marked the first time Maryland had gone scoreless from beyond the 3-point arc since Jan. 1999; 407 games ago.
The same phenomenon happened Tuesday for the Yellow Jackets when they beat Virginia Tech by holding the Hokies to just one 3-pointer. Of their 57 points, 52 were the result of dunk, layup or free throw.
“This was different,” Hewitt said of Sunday’s game. “They just drove the ball right down the throat. The last game, I felt we did a good job on the perimeter and got them spaced out to do that.”
Part of the reason why the Yellow Jackets had to employ guard-heavy lineups with their forwards benched was because two players who likely would have been the first to have taken their places, were unavailable.
For the first time this season, Georgia Tech had to negotiate playing without forward Nate Hicks and combo guard Brian Oliver.
Hicks’ absence was expected after he underwent an appendectomy last week. He should be out another two weeks or so. As for Oliver, his time on the bench was a bit of a surprise. In the day or two before the game, he came down with the same flu bug that befell Glen Rice, Jr. earlier in the week. As of last Thursday, Rice’s status was uncertain. Despite being a little visibly sluggish, he still started and led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“Having Nate might have helped, but we had enough to win this game,” Hewitt said. “Our guys are playing hard. The effort is great and Glen did give us a great effort with 12 rebounds. There are just some things that we are capable of doing better. Eighteen turnovers, 48 points in the paint for them, those are some things that we can do better.”