The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fell 57-49 to the No. 9 Virginia Cavaliers Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. The game remained close with Tech leading for a majority of the time until the final minutes. The team created a pattern of a few mistakes that ruined their chance at an upset. The team is now 3-4 against top 25 teams this season as they ran up against a persistent Virginia unit that ranks No. 25 defensively.
Georgia Tech established aggression in the first half of tonight’s game that set the tempo. Starting with Jordan Usher’s ability to dominate in the post. Usher made light of Virginia’s attempt to clog the lane with double teams. Usher plowed past Virginia’s Trey Murphy III and Sam Hauser on multiple occasions to knock down tough shots. His defensive presence was much needed as well as he got a huge clean block on Hauser to prevent his dunk from going in before the half. Usher finished the night with 12 points and three rebounds.
Another highlight was Michael Devoe’s success running the backcourt for most of the night. While being guarded by Beekman, Devoe did well facilitating in the half-court offense and in transition. Michael Devoe’s ability to make timely and accurate passes was a big plus. Instead of attempting a contested layup, Devoe was able to quickly find Moses Wright behind him for an easy dunk in transition.
Bubba Parham was assigned the tough task of guarding Virginia guard Kihei Clark. Clark came into the game averaging 9.8 ppg on 43% shooting. Clark finished the night with 14 points. Parham held Clark scoreless in the first half but was unable to contain him in the second. Clark was able to get much cleaner looks as the game went on probably due to fatigue from Parham. Parham was able to force three turnovers tonight and literally snatched the ball out of Virginia guard Reece Beekmans hands. Not only that, but he drew a foul off of Beekman immediately after degrading him with the steal. Parham was also able to secure a clutch possession after forcing a jump ball off of Murphy III. Parham’s tenacity on defense definitely did not go unnoticed.
“They had some great open looks they made and we had some open looks we missed.” Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner said. “You can dissect it how you want but it’s a make or miss game and at that time you need guys to make some shots in key times.”
Jose Alverado had a quiet 18 points tonight. Alverado was being guarded by a pesky Kihei Clark who stuck to him like glue. Alverado would find himself on an island several times as the shot clock expired, forcing him to throw up a contested long ball. He had a big play against Clark where he broke him down off the dribble and knocked down a step-back three. Defensively, Alverado was given the tough task of guarding Virginia forward Sam Hauser. Hauser was a huge size disadvantage for Alverado and was able to finish the night with eight points and ten rebounds. A lot of times Alverado found himself in iso situations guarding the Cavaliers much larger forwards and bigs. This huge liability had to be a defensive miscue on someone’s end.
Moses Wright did a great job of using his length to pull down six rebounds tonight. Moses spent a lot of the night at the 4 and would sometimes hesitate to back down Virginia forward Jay Huff when down low. Moses did have a big play where he worked against Hauser in the post for a much-needed basket. It would have helped if Wright would have been more aggressive when playing in the post to establish some dominance down low. He finished the night with eight points and settled a lot for quick fade away looks instead of attacking the rim.
“Hats off to Virginia and their defense; they always put together a good scheme for us.” Usher said. “I was playing the 5 on offense because they always make it hard on those entry passes at the elbow for Moses.”
As a unit, Tech’s man defense shined in the loss. They were able to cause several shot-clock violations and 17 turnovers as a whole. Unfortunately for Tech, their interior defense seemed to collapse in the second half and Murphy III and Huff were able to cut to the basket at their wish. There seemed to be no answer for Trey Murphy III tonight. Kyle Sturdivant and Jordan Usher took turns guarding him but were not able to contain him. A lot of times, Murphy III was simply left wide open as he drained 18 points tonight. Tech had a few miscues that led them to throw the ball out of bounds while they were clinging onto a small lead. The team would also pop up quick threes without a rebounder near the basket several times. Instead of going to the hole and using the clock while they had the lead, these lazy shots gave Virginia more time to work late.
“We were up three or four and ready to stretch it to seven and we just missed.” Pastner stated. “It strictly came down to we were 4-21 from three and 1-11 in the second half.”
“It stings bad.” Usher admitted. “ I have high aspirations for our team throughout the end of this year and any loss hurts us. I wanted to try to get Virginia both times but we will have to try to get them in the tournament.”
Georgia Tech is now 9-7 overall with a 5-5 ACC record. The team dropped from sixth in the conference to the ninth seed. The team will head to South Carolina to face Clemson on Friday. Tech already has a win against Clemson this season and will need to secure another one to pad their resume for the NCAA tournament in March.