The Jackets hosted Florida State on Sunday, Nov. 20 to open their ACC schedule and fell to the Seminoles 66-59 in overtime. Including that game, Tech has lost its last four ACC openers.
The game started slowly, as each team turned the ball over within the first minute of play. The Seminoles struck first on the scoreboard, with senior forward Ryan Reid laying it in to take a 2-0 lead. Reid, who finished the game with 17 points and 5 rebounds, led Florida State in the scoring category on the night.
“Reid is our most experienced player,” said Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton. “He’s been our unsung hero for two or three years.”
Tech struggled early on the defensive boards, allowing Florida State to pull down 12 offensive rebounds in the first half.
Tech also had difficulties getting the ball in the paint. Freshman forward Derrick Favors and senior forward Gani Lawal combined for just six points in the first half, getting just two attempts and five attempts respectively. Freshman forward Brian Oliver led the Jackets in the first half with five points, including one three-pointer.
The Seminoles frontcourt, on the other hand, had much more success on offense.
Reid and sophomore forward Chris Singleton combined for 13 of the team’s 27 points in the first half, seven of which came from the foul line. Heading into the half, the Seminoles led 27-22.
“I thought in the first half we hurt ourselves by just shooting quickly or going into a double team,” said Tech head coach Paul Hewitt. “There were a few times where we got inside and just turned right into a double team instead of reversing and trying to get an attack on the other side of the floor.”
The Jackets fought back to tie early in the second period, adding a layup from Favors and a three-pointer from freshman guard Mfon Udofia to put the score at 27-27. The Seminoles broke the tie a short time later, but Tech senior forward Zachery Peacock put up seven straight points to give the Jackets a 37-36 lead halfway through the second. Peacock, who emerged as the Jackets’ primary scoring threat in the second half, ended the night with 17 points and two of the team’s five points from the foul line.
“In the second half, Peacock just got hot so I wanted to keep him out there,” Hewitt said. “He started making shots. It wasn’t a case of anything Gani or Derrick did not do. Zach started making shots. He had a pretty good run going.”
Florida State quickly regained the lead on a put back from sophomore center Solomon Alabi, but Tech responded in the final minutes. A jumper from freshman forward Brian Oliver and a three-pointer from Udofia pulled Tech within two with 1:50 left to play, and a Peacock jumper with just 29 seconds remaining tied the game at 54-54.
After calling timeout, the Seminoles turned the ball over as the last seconds ticked off the game clock, forcing an overtime period.
A three-pointer from Peacock gave Tech a quick lead in overtime, but Florida State countered with four straight points from Reid, putting the Seminoles ahead 58-57. A pair of free throws by Peacock tied the score at 59-59 with 1:37 left, but the Jackets were unable to score again. Florida State scored seven unanswered points to give them the 66-59 victory.
“Tonight I feel we executed better than we had against lesser opponents and I thought our players grew up. This level of competition will create that level of synergy to give us momentum and keep playing well hopefully through the next several games,” Hamilton said.
Since their loss to the Seminoles, the Jackets have rebounded with big home wins over Kennesaw State and Winston-Salem State.
Tech won over Kennesaw State 80-55 on Dec. 22 at home. Peacock led the team in scoring in this match as well, putting up 18 points and shooting 8-for-8 from the floor. Lawal had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Oliver hit four three-pointers and finished with 14 points.
The Jackets scored 53 points in the second half after a slow start and shot 52.6 percent from the field while committing a season-low eight turnovers in the game.
On Tuesday, Tech cruised past Winston-Salem State, 78-43 in arguably the team’s strongest defensive effort of the season. The Jackets forced the visiting Rams to commit 31 turnovers and scored 34 points off those turnovers. The Rams shot just 31.4 percent from the field and lost the rebounding battle 52-30, and they did not score during the first seven minutes of the second half.
On the offensive end, Tech did commit 24 turnovers but was otherwise solid. Four players had double-digit points, led by Udofia’s 17. Favors had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Tech’s next two games will be on the road. The Jackets travel to face Chattanooga on Saturday, and on Tuesday, Jan. 5 they face rival Georgia in Athens. The team will then return home for a crucial contest against No. 7 Duke on Jan. 9 as ACC play resumes.