January 15, 2010

Friday basketball notebook 1/15

In their first ACC road test of the year the youthful Yellow Jackets did not pass, falling 82-75 in Charlottesville. Unlike previous losses, Tech both shot the ball well (51.6 percent) and protected the basketball by committing only 11 turnovers. The difference in this contest would be free throw shooting. The Jackets were a meager three of 11 (27.3 percent) from the charity stripe and surrendered 26 attempts to Virginia, who made 23 of those for a 20 point edge at the line.

"We weren't nearly as aggressive as we needed to be," said Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Hewitt. "When we got the lead, we didn't display a lot of offensive patience. We took some outside shots instead of attacking the basket and throwing it inside. I thought that we did a decent job in the first half getting to the foul line eight times. When we were in front we executed well, but when we got behind we weren't as patient."

Georgia Tech was also out rebounded by Virginia and only managed to force seven turnovers, which was nearly 10 below their average. The Jackets need to become a more consistent team quickly if they expect to maintain their status as a top 25 program in the nation. They have now lost two out of their last three games and the road ahead will not get any easier as they next travel to Chapel Hill to take on the 13th ranked Tarheels.

The Tarheels also enter Saturday's game on a skid, losers in two out of their last three games including a 19-point thrashing at the hands of the Clemson Tigers. North Carolina and Georgia Tech are similar to each other in many aspects. They both have very long and athletic players that like to push the tempo on offense. Carolina is also a young team with seven freshman and sophomores that see at least 10 minutes of action per game.

"They are a lot like us," commented coach Hewitt. "They are young on the perimeter and very good on the inside. They like to run and score in transition. It is a big game that is very important for both teams. This game will come down to whose perimeter plays with more poise."

Tech's young, talented squad will be looking to mature in a hurry in order to get back to an even record in league play. They will be led by junior Gani Lawal, who last week was named the ACC Player of the week after averaging 21 points in two games.

The Jackets are seeking their first win at Chapel Hill since an overtime victory in 1996.

Shumpert shines

One positive sign from the game against Virginia was the play of sophomore guard Iman Shumpert, who scored 15 points on 7 of 14 shooting to go along with five rebounds and six assists. Shumpert had struggled getting into a rhythm coming back from knee surgery and was only two for 16 from the floor in the two games leading up to Virginia.

"The biggest thing is that I'm starting to get my shooting rhythm back," said Shumpert. "I'm also working on getting my touch back on little floaters in the lane and shots around the free throw line which will all come back with repetition."

Shumpert is a key to the team's success this year and his play over the second half of the season could determine the outcome of the season. Shumpert talked about the frustration of overcoming an injury.

"It was a big blow mentally going into the season knowing that I already had a knee problem," remarked Shumpert. At first surgery was out of the question, but then I messed it up in Puerto Rico and had to get surgery so that was frustrating. I still don't think that I've played as well as I can play in one game this season but I'll get it back, it's a long season."

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