Georgia Tech

Jackets fall to second-straight frustrating loss

Paul Hewitt turned around, put his hands in his pockets and lowered his head. Visibly frustrated by yet another mental miscue from one of his players, he tried to briefly, privately collect his thoughts before resuming the task of coaching.

One, two, three…breathe.

But moments later, long after turning back toward the action on Alexander Memorial Coliseum’s Cremins Court, his disappointment continued.

For the second time in as many games, missed shots and shoddy, haphazard play negated another scrappy effort from his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, as they fell 65-56 to Clemson. The loss Saturday afternoon was their second consecutive and likely pushed them far out of early consideration for postseason invites.

At this point, the only way the Yellow Jackets (10-12, 3-6 ACC) likely could make a return trip to the NCAA tournament is if they run through next month’s ACC tournament and win it. Last season’s team advanced into the conference championship game to earn its first national tournament berth in three years.

“We know the ACC tournament’s going to be there,” guard Mfon Udofia said. “But right now, we’re just trying to win games and get our momentum going into the ACC tournament.”

One, two, three…breathe.

Desperation time is officially here.

In order to prevent having to once again see an upset, hands-in-pocket Hewitt for the rest of the season, the Yellow Jackets will need to avoid the issues that plagued them against Clemson (16-7, 5-4) and hurt them against Miami.

“We have had very similar games the past two games,” Hewitt said. “We were playing pretty hard, forcing turnovers and having opportunities, but it’s just not ringing a bell; we’re not scoring.”

After shooting just 4-for-28 from beyond the 3-point arc Thursday night in Miami, the Yellow Jackets were an even more dismal 2-of-15 against the Tigers. Overall, they shot just 41 percent from the field.

Alternatively, during one six-minute stretch in the middle of the first half, Clemson got hot from the field.

Going on a 22-0 run, the Tigers took an early lead from the Yellow Jackets.

“I don’t know if it’s just we were a little tight early,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said of the Tigers, who trailed by as much as 12 before going on the run. “It’s almost like until guys make a basket, can they take a deep sigh of relief.”

In addition to having problems getting their own baskets to fall, the Yellow Jackets committed a string of mental mistakes that Hewitt said were unbecoming of the team he has seen much of the season.

“For the first time in a while, I saw guys making an extra pass when it didn’t need to be made,” Hewitt said. “Give them credit for being a good close-out team. Maybe we felt like the close-out was coming instead of recognizing that we had shots and had looks that we could go ahead and attempt.”

One, two, three…breathe.

It was after one of those extra passes when Hewitt ducked his hands inside his dress slacks and momentarily looked away from the second-half action. It led to a turnover.

“Maybe guys, in their minds, were a little worried about missing a shot,” Hewitt said.

One game removed from having forced 28 turnovers and picking off a season-high 17 steals, the Yellow Jackets found themselves essentially handing the ball right to the Tigers. They turned it over 18 times to Clemson’s 20.

Trailing by eight at halftime, Georgia Tech fought in the opening minutes of the second half to close that deficit.

The Yellow Jackets made it completely disappear nearly eight minutes in, when a Glen Rice, Jr. layup and subsequently made foul shot tied the game at 40. Minutes later, however, Clemson would retake the lead — and expand it.

“I probably made a mistake myself in that when it got up to 40, I tried to steal a little rest for both Glen and Iman (Shumpert); which I typically don’t do,” Hewitt said.

A minute-and-a-half later, with Rice and Shumpert on the bench, the Tigers went up 44-40.

“Again, I rarely take both of them out (at the same time),” Hewitt said. “That one’s on me.”

Only once after that sequence would the Yellow Jackets bring it to within four.

With the loss now behind them, there is only one direction the Yellow Jackets can look with regard to their final stretch of games.

“We are going to come in and practice hard and move on to the next game,” Rice said. “You can’t come back and play this one over. We have to come in and get ready for our next ACC game.”