Feb. 28, 2018
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech closes out its regular season this week with two home games in less than 48 hours, beginning with an 8 p.m. contest Thursday night against streaking NC State at McCamish Pavilion.
Tech (11-18, 4-12 ACC), which has seen its top two freshmen suffer season-ending injuries in the last three weeks, has dropped 11 of its last 12 games and went winless in seven games February. Tech’s current skid began with an overtime loss at Boston College on Feb. 4 and has included road losses at Louisville, Wake Forest, No. 1 Virginia and No. 15 Clemson, which came by a 75-67 score Saturday afternoon. The Jackets last won on Jan. 31, a 55-51 victory at home over Syracuse.
NC State (20-9, 10-6 ACC), receiving votes in both polls this week, has won its last four games, including a 92-72 win at home Saturday over Florida State. The Wolfpack are in a tie with Clemson for fourth place in the ACC standings and can clinch a bye into the ACC Tournament quarterfinals with a pair of wins this week.
THE STARTING LINEUP
Thursday’s game is the only meeting between Georgia Tech and NC State this season. The teams split their regular season meetings in 2016-17, each team winning on the other’s home court.
Tech has a quick turnaround following Thursday night’s game with a noon home game Saturday against Wake Forest, which will be the Yellow Jackets’ Senior Day.
Tech (4-12) currently holds 13th place in the ACC and has a one-game lead in the loss column over Wake Forest (4-13 in the ACC), which has its bye this week preceding Saturday’s regular-season finale. Regardless of Thursday’s result, the Jackets must win Saturday to hold onto the 13th seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. That would give Tech a spot in Tuesday’s noon game against the No. 12 seed, currently held by Boston College (6-10). If Wake wins, Tech would get the No. 14 seed and play No. 11 (currently Notre Dame or Syracuse) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Head coach Josh Pastner needs one win to reach 200 for his head coaching career. In nine-plus seasons, Pastner has a record of 199-107.
Tech is playing the remainder of its season without freshman point guard Jose Alvarado, who dislocated his elbow in a fall during the first half of the Yellow Jackets loss to Duke on Feb. 11, and freshman guard Curtis Haywood II, who was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right leg following the Jackets’ Jan. 31 game against Syracuse. Alvarado had played every minute of the previous four games prior to his injury and in eight games altogether this season. Haywood had missed six games earlier in the season with a shin injury.
Okogie’s 18.2 points-per-game average is the highest for a Tech player since the 1997-98 season, when Matt Harpring averaged 21.6, and the highest for a Tech sophomore since Harpring averaged 18.6 in 1995-96.
Okogie has more career points (979) at this point in his sophomore season than any Tech player since Matt Harpring, who finished his sophomore year with 1,021 (1994-96) on the way to finishing No. 2 on Tech’s all-time list with 2,225 points. Five players in Tech history have reached 1,000 career points during their sophomore seasons.
Tech has a chance to have three 1,000-point scorers on its roster by the end of the regular season. Seniors Tadric Jackson (1,073) and Ben Lammers (1,011 on the nose) already have reached the milestone, while sophomore Josh Okogie has rapidly risen to 979.
Four Atlantic Coast Conference teams are currently ranked in the Associated Press and/or coaches polls – Virginia (1/2), Duke (5/3), North Carolina (9/9), Clemson (18/18) – while Florida State, Miami, NC Sate and Virginia Tech are receiving votes. The Jackets have already faced UCLA (No. 21 in preseason) and Northwestern (No. 20 in preseason), as well as Tennessee (now No. 16/17).
SERIES VS. NC STATE
NC State has a 57-39 lead in the overall series which dates back to 1925. Georgia Tech snapped a five-game skid in the series its 90-83 victory at PNC Arena on Jan. 27, 2016 and won again on the Wolfpack’s home floor on Jan. 15 of last season, 86-76. Prior to that five-game skid, Tech had won six of nine meetings.
Owing to the ACC’s most recent expansion, Tech and NC State met twice in the regular season for the first time in four years in 2016-17. Each team won on the other’s home court.
Nineteen of the last 23 meetings in the series have been decided by 10 points or less, with three of those decided in overtime.
Tech is 22-18 against the Wolfpack in Atlanta, including one home-court meeting that was played at the Omni in 1986 and one at Philips Arena in 2012. NC State has won all three games played at McCamish Pavilion and the last four meetings in Atlanta.
Since it joined the ACC, Tech is 31-43 against NC State, including regular-season and tournament.
For the second straight game, freshmen forwards Evan Cole and Moses Wright started alongside Ben Lammers on the front line, with Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie in the backcourt. Cole started his fourth straight game, and Wright his second in a row, sixth overall this season. Georgia Tech has used eight different starting lineups this season.
Tech has had its full roster to practice only for seven games this season. Injuries or other absences have forced Tech players to miss 40 games cumulatively this season. Freshman Jose Alvarado and Curtis Haywood II both suffered season-ending injuries, Alvarado on Feb. 11 early in Tech’s game against Duke, and Haywood prior to the Jackets’ Jan. 31 game against Syracuse.
Tech’s playing rotation this season has featured four freshmen and a first-year graduate transfer who have combined to start 62 games and log 43 percent of the Yellow Jackets’ total minutes.
Tech’s nine three-point field goals against Clemson matched its output from behind the arc for its previous three games combined. It was the most the Jackets have made in an ACC game this season, second most overall (10 vs. Grambling State). Six those three came in the first half, most than the Jackets had made in 12 full ACC games this season.
Tech scored 17 points off second chances at Clemson, matching its highest total this season.
Tech’s 16 assists matched its most in an ACC game this season (also against Clemson on Jan. 28). The Jackets’ high for a game overall this season is 18 against Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
In the month of February (since its last victory on Jan 31 over Syracuse), Tech allowed an average of 76 points per game, 48 percent from the floor. Tech’s February opponents made an average of 8.4 threes per game and shot 48 percent from distance. Tech also has turned the ball over 12.6 times per game and forced just 9.7.
Tadric Jackson has started and played the majority of the game as Tech’s point guard in the Jackets’ last two games, achieving career highs in minutes both times (38 at Virginia, 40 at Clemson), the first time he has played extensive minutes in that role. The 6-2 senior scored 15 points (6-14 FG, 3-8 3s) at Virginia, 13 points (4-16 FG, 3-6 on 3s) and had just four turnovers combined.
Jackson reached double figures for the third straight game against Clemson following a three-game drought, and for the 18th time in 26 games this season.
Jackson, who became the 44th player in Tech history to reach 1,000 career points on Jan. 31 vs. Syracuse, now has 1,073 points over his four seasons.
Ben Lammers notched his second straight double-digit game after falling short in three of the previous four. He added seven rebounds for the second straight game, three assists and two blocked shots in 35 minutes. Lammers has 21 double-digit scoring games this season, 42 over the last two seasons.
Lammers, who became the 45th player in Tech history to reach 1,000 with his 22 points at Virginia, now has 1,011 career points and gives the Jackets two 1,000-point scorers on their current roster. Sophomore Josh Okogie is 21 points away from 1,000.
Lammers has converted 25 of 49 shots from the floor in his last four games.
Okogie scored 22 points, his 10th game this season with 20 or more points. He went 8-of-12 from the floor, 3-of-3 from three-point range, and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. He also grabbed eight rebounds and had a career-high six assists in 35 minutes.
Virginia is the only team to hold Josh Okogie under 10 points this season, limiting the sophomore guard to nine points in the first meeting on Jan. 18, and seven in the second on Feb. 21. The first game snapped a 25-game streak of double-digit games. Each time he has rebounded with a big scoring game — 18 at North Carolina and 22 at Clemson.
Okogie has scored in double figures 51 times in 58 career games. He has scored 30 or more three times (two vs. ACC), 20 or more 19 times (11 times in an ACC game).
Okogie has averaged 18.2 points per game after missing the first eight games of the season, including 18.1 in ACC games so far (fourth-best in league rankings). He averaged 16.1 points as a freshman, 17.1 against the ACC.
Okogie has scored more points in his first two seasons at Tech (979) since Matt Harpring accumulated 1,021 by the end of his sophomore season (1996-98). At his present rate, Okogie can become the sixth Tech player to reach 1,000 career points by the end of his sophomore season.
Okogie, who came into the Virginia game leading the ACC in free throw attempts per game (7.3), failed to get to the free throw line for the first time in his career and attempted only three free throws at Clemson. Okogie is one of the ACC’s top free throw shooters by percentage at 83 percent. He averaged 6.5 attempts as a freshman, which ranked third in the ACC, and connected on 74.7 percent.
Okogie is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game in ACC play, third best among league guards, and 6.3 for the season. Okogie has snared 81 rebounds in his last 11 games (7.4), including a pair of double-digit games.
Okogie has 46 assists in his last 14 games, a 3.3 average, dishing a career-high six at Clemson and getting five twice (second meeting vs. Notre Dame and at Florida State) in that stretch. He has 10 assists and three turnovers in Tech’s last two games.
Ben Lammers stands in 11th place on Tech’s career rebounding list, grabbing seven against Virginia for a career total of 755. He needs seven to catch Eddie Elisma (762 from 1994-97) and move into the top 10 all-time.
Lammers blocked two shots at Clemson, giving him 246 blocks for his career and third place in Tech history. He surpassed John Salley (243 from 1982-86) in Tech’s game at Virginia. Daniel Miller (286 from 2011-14) holds second place.
Lammers is averaging 36.1 minutes this season, sixth-most in the ACC (36.9 mpg vs. the ACC), and ranks No. 1 among centers nationally in average minutes played and percentage of possible minutes. Okogie is averaging 36.8 minutes in ACC games. Both players rank among the ACC’s top 10 in minutes per conference game.
Jackson played the full 40 minutes for the first time in his career at Clemson. Jose Alvarado logged eight complete games before he was injured, Lammers has gone start-to-finish five times, and Okogie has done it three times.
Freshman forward Evan Cole has averaged 25.4 minutes, 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in his last four games, which includes starts against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Clemson. The 6-9 rookie has hit 11-of-21 shots from the floor, 5-of-11 from three-point range, with eight assists.
Moses Wright, another 6-9 freshman, has averaged 25.8 minutes over his last four games, averaging 6.0 points (11-of-34 FG, 7-of-13 FT) and 5.6 rebounds with five assists and six steals.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN’S BASKETBALL
Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team is in its second year under head coach Josh Pastner. Tech has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1979, won three ACC Championships (1985, 1990, 1993), played in the NCAA Tournament 16 times and played in two Final Fours (1990, 2004). Connect with Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball on social media by liking their Facebook Page, or following on Twitter (@GTMBB) and Instagram.