Overmatched. That's the only way to describe Michigan in their match-up with last year's championship runner-up, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Playing in their fourth straight game without swingman Lester Abram, the Wolverines just couldn't keep up with Paul Hewitt's talented club. Even if they had had the Pontiac native in the lineup, they would have been hard pressed to slow down the Ramblin Wreck's offensive onslaught.
Tommy Amaker's bunch did well in the first three minutes, attempting to establish an inside presence and getting early points from Courtney Sims and Graham Brown. Dion Harris knocked down a three off of a nice kick out from the post, and the inside-out game that Amaker has clamored for looked to be off to a promising start. John Andrews' lay-up with 17:01 on the clock brought the Wolverines to within one (10-9), but things would change in a hurry.
The Wreck's pressure defense helped force a number of turnovers, leading to easy baskets. To compound matters, Tech dissected Michigan off of the dribble, and either had players go all the way to the bucket themselves…or pass to open players for better opportunities. In less than five minutes the Yellow Jackets had run off 20 consecutive points to take a commanding 30-9 lead. Jarrett Jack was the catalyst on the run with four points and a number of assists. As bad as things looked at that point, however, they would only get worse.
Up 38-23 with 4:35 remaining in the half, Tech went on a three-point shooting rampage that would put the game out of reach. The Yellow Jackets nailed triples on five consecutive possessions as part of 21-9 run that sent them into the intermission up 59-32. B.J. Elder connected from long range four times on the run and seven times on the night.
"They found their groove early and certainly kept it rolling," Amaker said. "It's disappointing to us because they haven't shot the ball well from the three-point line at all this year and they really knocked them down in the first half. The dam broke and they made some shots. We didn't do what we were supposed to do to guard them either, so I'm disappointed on our end for the effort that we gave to try to guard those guys. They're really good players."
With the score so out of hand, the second half for the Wolverines was about trying to work on a few things. One of those areas was their post game. Even though the Yellow Jackets pulled even further ahead after halftime, the big guys responded. The trio of Petway, Hunter, and Sims was collectively more aggressive than they had been all season …scoring 8,9, and 10 second half points respectively.
"We made it a point of emphasis to try to put the ball inside to them to at least get them touches and get high percentage shots in the lane or even get fouled," Amaker said. "I thought they really tried hard and battled. I thought Brent (Petway) did a really nice job for us. I thought he kept competing all the way through and that was nice to see. I wouldn't expect anything less out of him."
While pleased with the late performance of his post players, the coach could not hide his disappointment with his backcourt players. "I thought their floor game was horrendous," Amaker told ESPN.com. "We aren't going to be a very good team or even have a chance of competing at the level of the teams we are going to face if those kids don't play better."
On the game Courtney Sims led Michigan with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Georgia Tech was led by BJ Elder with 27 points (7/9 from three-point range) and Jarrett Jack with 16 points and 11 assists. Guard Will Bynum was also one of the offensive standouts with 19 points. For the full boxscore, click here.
Now the Wolverines will travel home and attempt to get back on track. "We had a few guys who I thought competed," Amaker said. "They jumped on us early and we were never able to respond and regroup. It's certainly disappointing. It's a loss that we'll take a look at and we'll look at the differential in the scoring margin. We were just soundly beaten and I'm worried about the spirit of our team right now. When you get knocked down that far, it's a long way to pull back up. We have our work cut out for us and this is a point in the season where we knew it was going to be a tough stretch."
Next up for Michigan is a Saturday tilt with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
at Crisler Arena. The game will air at noon on ESPN.