By Adesina O. Koiki
ATLANTA – If the saying is true that timing is everything, then the long-range shots the Georgia Tech men’s basketball team gave up to Tennessee in the second half all came at the worst possible time.
The Volunteers hit three three-pointers in the final 20 minutes, all of them coming at crucial moments of the game midway through the second half as they defeated Georgia Tech 77-70 at McCamish Pavilion, handing the Yellow Jackets their second consecutive defeat. Georgia Tech cut an eight-point second-half deficit to a one-possession game on multiple occasions in a push to take its first lead of the half, but never was able to pull ahead as Tennessee cruised to the win in the final few minutes.
“Proud of our guys,” said Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner in the postgame press conference. “Proud of them for their fight. They responded well from obviously a disappointing loss on Friday. Tennessee is really good and very well coached. They’re tough and very physical; they’re older. They’re a very good team and they’re going to win a lot of games in SEC play. They’re for sure a top-20 team in the country.”
Georgia Tech (4-3) went on a 11-4 run early in the second half, capped off by a Curtis Haywood II layup, to cut Tennessee’s lead to 41-40 with 13:54 remaining, but then Tennessee sophomore guard Lamonté Turner would come off the bench and hit a three-pointer on the next possession to extend the Vols’ lead to four. Turner would end up scoring 24 points, including three of the team’s eight 3-pointers.
A couple of possessions later and with Georgia Tech still down 44-40, Yellow Jackets center Ben Lammers thought he converted an And-1 when he scored on a layup, but the officials belatedly called a charge on Lammers, enraging Pastner on the sidelines and the Georgia Tech supporters in the stands.
On the next possession, Admiral Schofield hit a three-pointer from the left wing to extend Tennessee’s lead to seven. Once more, Georgia Tech made a charge at the lead, as guard Tadric Jackson completed a three-point play to bring the Yellow Jackets to within 49-45 at the 10:48 mark.
You could now guess what happened on Tennessee’s next possession; Schofield drained his second three of the half, right after Jackson’s three-point play, to give Tennessee a 52-45 advantage.
“We had multiple times [to take the lead], that one when it was 41-40 and Lamonté Turner hit that big three – Tadric [Jackson] actually played really good defense, hand in his face,” said Pastner. “We had some other times where we just couldn’t tie it and could not get over the hump. We missed some layups and some key free throws.”
Lammers led the Yellow Jackets in scoring with 17 points, 15 of those coming in the second half. He also scored the first nine points of the second half for Georgia Tech, on two three-pointers and a conventional three-point play.
Georgia Tech’s offense struggled once more, as it is now the sixth time in seven games that the Yellow Jackets have failed to score more than 70 points. The team continues to miss sophomore guard – and All-ACC Freshman selection – Josh Okogie, who suffered an open dislocation on his left index finger in the team’s first exhibition game. Okogie, who was suspended by the NCAA for the first six regular-season games due to a violation, would have been eligible to play his first game of the season today if not for his injury.
“We’ve struggled scoring-wise and just haven’t been able to get over the hump in some key times,” Pastner said. “When you’re missing Josh Okogie, that’s 18 points a game. It’s hard, especially when teams are pressuring you and you need that one guy who can take guys off the bounce.”