ATLANTA — Brian Gregory hopes Thursday night's ACC tournament game against Miami provides evidence of the improvement he said Monday he has seen in his first year as Georgia Tech's coach.
Georgia Tech is the No. 11 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament after finishing the regular season 11-19 overall and 4-12 in the league. The Yellow Jackets won two of their last three games, including Saturday's 69-62 win over Wake Forest.
"We've done some good things in the second half of the ACC, there's no doubt about that," Gregory said Monday. "We are, as I'd hoped, playing our best basketball of the season right now and hopefully we'll continue that on Thursday."
The recent wins came after Gregory suspended leading scorer Glen Rice Jr. for the second time this season. Gregory said Monday Rice's suspension, which covered the final five games of the regular season, will continue through the ACC tournament.
Rice averaged 13 points in 21 games, including 10 starts. No other Georgia Tech player scored in double figures for the season.
Gregory has not said why he suspended Rice, the son of the former Michigan and NBA star. He wouldn't say if Rice, a junior, will have an opportunity to return to the team next season.
"At this point we're going to get through the ACC tournament and then that will be determined when the season is over," Gregory said.
Guard Jason Morris led the Yellow Jackets with 22 points against Wake Forest. Center Daniel Miller and forward Kammeon Holsey also have taken turns as the leading scorer in recent games.
"More has been asked of more guys," Gregory said. "It wasn't one person. It was more of a collective ability to pick up the scoring and the rebounding that we lost. ... Our guys understand the challenge that was posed to them when the suspension started, and I think our guys have responded pretty well."
Holsey said the Yellow Jackets "are still trying to find ourselves" but he says he sees progress.
"I think now we're playing more as a team," Holsey said, adding players are "doing stuff to help the team, like taking a charge, passing the ball to get a better shot for a teammate and having the pride to play defense."
Georgia Tech hired Gregory from Dayton after firing Paul Hewitt, who then was hired by George Mason.
Gregory said Georgia Tech has accomplished at least some of the goals he set for the season.
"If you take a step back, there have been some pretty solid foundational aspects put in place that are going to help us down the road," he said.
Gregory said his players have gained confidence, have a better understanding of his schemes and are playing more as a team.
Miami should provide a good measuring stick of the progress.
Six weeks have passed since Miami took a 64-49 win at Georgia Tech on Jan. 24. It was the fourth of six straight losses for the Yellow Jackets. They've also had two four-game losing streaks this season.
The low point of the most recent skid was a 56-37 home loss to Clemson on Feb. 21. Only four Georgia Tech players scored in the Yellow Jackets' lowest output in 32 years.
"For the most part in the second half of the season we played pretty well, other than the one Clemson game," Gregory said, adding "overall our guys have been pretty resilient. They've always bounced back. I give these guys credit."
The tournament will be played at Philips Arena, the home of the NBA's Hawks and one of two home courts for Georgia Tech this season while its on-campus arena is being rebuilt.
"Because of us playing some games there this year, I think our comfort level there will be pretty good," Gregory said.