Georgia Tech 74, Boston College 60
ATLANTA (AP)—Javaris Crittenton never doubted himself as Georgia Tech struggled with four straight losses in January.
“The thing that we did wrong was stop setting screens, cutting, slashing and finding ways to create shots,” the freshman point guard said. “You’ve been seeing us get closer to reaching our potential the last few weeks.”
Crittenton scored 16 points with 10 assists, and Jeremis Smith had 13 points to lead Georgia Tech to a 74-60 victory over Boston College on Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets, who have won two straight and seven of nine, hope they’ve improved their chance of earning a spot in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
Tyrese Rice scored 18 points for Boston College, but six of his game-high eight turnovers came in the second half. Overall, the Eagles’ 22 turnovers matched a season-high set in a blowout loss at Kansas on Dec. 23.
“We didn’t handle the ball well, and turnovers really can tell the outcome of a game,” Boston College coach Al Skinner said. “It’s just that simple. They led to a lot of easy opportunities for them. Twenty-two turnovers doesn’t really give us a chance to win.”
Closing the regular season by losing four of five, the Eagles (19-10, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) made the NCAA field in five of the last six years and finished with an average of nearly 25 wins.
Boston College, which has a first-round bye when the ACC tournament begins Thursday in Tampa, Fla., will face the Maryland-Miami winner in the 2:30 game the next day.
Georgia Tech (20-10, 8-8 ACC) still might need a win or two in Tampa to sway the NCAA selection committee. The Jackets will play Wake Forest in the late game Thursday.
“We’re playing well, so why not go there and erase all doubt?” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. “That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
Boston College was ranked No. 26 when the RPI was released Feb. 27, but the Eagles have dropped six of their last 11 in the ACC after a 5-0 start.
They never recovered after falling behind 16-2 and going just 1-of-7 from the field with seven turnovers in the first 11:33.
Jared Dudley, who led the ACC in scoring when the weekend began, finished with 10 points, his lowest production in 37 games. Coupled with Al Thornton’s 45-point performance for Florida State on Saturday, Dudley can finish no better with the league’s second-best average at 19.3.
After taking just six shots and committing three turnovers, Dudley wasn’t interested in talking about personal stats. He was too focused on his team’s struggles against Georgia Tech.
“They brought a lot of ball pressure,” Dudley said. “We came out and we were not ready to play.”
Anthony Morrow scored 11 and Thaddeus Young 10 for the Jackets, who were just 5-of-17 on 3-point attempts. After watching his team miss eight shots beyond the arc in the first half, Hewitt told his front-line rotation of Smith, Young, Ra’Sean Dickey, Zach Peacock and Alade Aminu to set more screens and create some movement in the lane.
Those changes helped Georgia Tech outscore the Eagles 22-12 in the paint following intermission.
“When everyone is involved in what we’re trying to accomplish, it only makes my job easier,” Crittenton said. “Coach Hewitt wants us banging the boards and getting position on defense so we push the ball down the floor and go through our sets.”
The Jackets’ biggest lead, 72-52, came after Crittenton drove the lane and dished to Young for a dunk.
Georgia Tech allowed the Eagles to close within 10 on Rice’s free throws at the 14:17 mark, but Peacock’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 18 just 4:18 later.
“They are probably playing the best basketball in the ACC right now,” Skinner said of the Jackets. “They have established a style of play that they want, and they’re coming out every night and getting it done.”