Jan. 12, 2018
Georgia Tech plays its first road game since Dec. 30 this weekend when it travels to Pittsburgh for a 2 p.m., regionally-televised Atlantic Coast Conference game against the Panthers at the Petersen Events Center.
The Yellow Jackets (9-7, 2-1 ACC), who have won three straight games and four of their last five, improved to 9-3 at home Wednesday night with a 60-53 victory over No. 25 Notre Dame to close out a three-game homestand. Coupled with a 64-54 win over No..15 Miami a week earlier, Tech is 9-2 at home against ACC teams under head coach Josh Pastner. The Jackets are in their second season under Pastner, the 2017 ACC Coach of the Year, after going 21-16 and reaching the championship game of the NIT last season.
The Panthers (8-9, 0-4 ACC) remained winless in the ACC after an 87-52 homecourt loss to No. 7 Duke Wednesday night. Pitt, in its second season under former Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings, has not won since a 63-59 win over Towson on Dec. 22. The Panthers are 7-4 at home this season, having lost to the Blue Devils and Miami at the Petersen Events Center.
Saturday’s game will be televised regionally on the ACC Network (Peachtree TV in Atlanta) and streamed live on the ESPN app. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network and can be heard in Atlanta on flagship station 680 the Fan (680 AM/93.7 FM). The Tech broadcast can also be heard nationally on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius ch. 134, XM ch. 193, Internet ch. 955).
THE STARTING LINEUP
Georgia Tech is 9-2 at home against ACC teams under head coach Josh Pastner, a record which includes a 5-1 mark against top-25 teams. Among current ACC head coaches, only North Carolina’s Roy Williams (10-1), Syracuse’s (9-2), Miami’s Jim Larranaga (9-2) and Clemson’s Brad Brownell (9-2) fashioned as good a mark through their first 11 games.
Six Atlantic Coast Conference teams are currently ranked in the Associated Press poll – Virginia (3), Duke (7), Miami (18), Clemson (19), North Carolina (20) and Florida State (23). Notre Dame is No. 25 in the coaches poll but not ranked in the AP poll, while FSU is not ranked in the coaches poll. The Jackets have already faced UCLA (No. 21 in preseason) and Northwestern (No. 20 in preseason), as well as Tennessee, which is now No. 24.
Head coach Josh Pastner needs three victories to reach 200 for his head coaching career. In nine-plus seasons, Pastner has a record of 197-96.
Tech was projected to finish ninth in the ACC in the preseason voting by conference media. The Jackets finished 11th last season at 8-10.
Tech has practiced with its full roster healthy and had a full complement of scholarship players available only for its last two games. Tech players have missed 32 games to various injuries and other absences this season.
SERIES VS. PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh won the first three meetings between the two teams after the Panthers became members of the ACC, and the Yellow Jackets won the next two games in the series, both of them at home, before the Panthers scored a victory in the teams’ first ACC tournament encounter last season.
Tech won the only regular-season meeting between the two teams last season, 61-52, on Feb. 28 at McCamish Pavilion, and Pitt came back with a 61-59 victory in the opening round of the conference tournament at the Barclays Center.
The six meetings between the two teams as ACC brethren have been decided by an average of 5.3 points, the nine-point Tech win at home last season being the largest margin. The teams have played home-and-away only once since the Panthers joined the ACC, and this year’s meeting is the only one scheduled for the regular season.
Tech won the first five games in the series, prior to Pitt’s entry into the ACC, all of which took place between 1966 and 1989.
The two most entertaining games between Tech and the former Big East member played in the same month of the 1989-90 season, when the Yellow Jackets were on the way to their second ACC title and first Final Four appearance. Bobby Cremins and Paul Evans were the respective head coaches at the time.
Tech overcame an early 26-5 deficit to win the ACC/Big East Challenge game in Hartford in early December, getting 42 points from Dennis Scott, including the game-winner with 8 seconds left. Later in the month, the Panthers came to Atlanta for a Kuppenheimer Classic game at the Omni, and Tech won the game without head coach Bobby Cremins, who was attending his father’s funeral. Kenny Anderson recorded a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 18 assists.
Tech scored easy wins over Pitt in the first three games of the series, all under head coach Whack Hyder, two of which were played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the Tech campus.
Tech is 4-4 against the Panthers’ current head coach, Kevin Stallings, including a 3-3 mark while he piloted the program at Vanderbilt.
COACH PASTNER AUDIO FROM FRIDAY PRESSER
NOTRE DAME COACH MIKE BREY ON TECH
“I think Tech is playing really well. They’re so much different than the team we played 10 days ago. They’re healthier. They’re moving better. They’ve won three in a row and beat a very good Miami team. They were really good on the backboard. We couldn’t get second shots like we’ve been getting in our first three ACC games. Their key guys made big plays. [Ben] Lammers and [Josh] Okogie made big shots like they’re supposed to make in an ACC game.”
PASTNER ON TECH’S 3-GAME WIN STREAK
“We’ve gotten better since Christmas, and part of that is we got healthy and have been able to practice. We’ve been going two-a-days. On Monday, school was canceled so we went twice because the more we can do two-a-days — and we won’t be able to anymore because school is back in session — but that really allowed us to get better. It’s just that we were able to get healthy and get back in rhythm and we’ve improved.”
Closing out: In its two ACC victories, Georgia Tech led No. 15 Miami by two with 3:46 left and No. 25 Notre Dame by three with 3:20 left. From that point on, Tech held them to 3-of-13 from the floor and four turnovers, outscoring them by 12 combined. – courtesy of Tech radio voice Andy Demetra
In terms of adjusted offensive efficiency, Tech’s last four opponents have been far less efficient against the Yellow Jackets than their norm. Notre Dame ranked 18th nationally in offensive efficiency at 114.8 points per 100 possessions, but managed only 81.2 Wednesday night and 102.2 in the teams’ first meeting, the Irish’s worst and fourth-worst games of the year. Miami scores 108.1 points per 100 possessions this season, but managed only 77.1 vs. Tech, its worst game thus far.
Georgia Tech has won its first two ACC home games for the first time since the 2010-11 season. That year, the Jackets lost twice on the road to open conference play before coming home to defeat North Carolina and Wake Forest in succession. That team actually won its first three ACC home games.
Alvarado and Lammers have started every game this season. Lammers has started Tech’s last 53 consecutive games.
Tech played seven players against Notre Dame and all seven scored, the first time since the Coppin State game on Dec. 27 that every Yellow Jacket that played in the game scored.
Tech had held nine of its opponents under 40 percent from the floor this season. The Jackets limited Notre Dame to 35.6 percent from the floor (25.8 in the first half), their third time in four games holding an ACC foe under 40 percent. Notre Dame had shot under 40 percent only three times this season, including both games against Tech.
Notre Dame, No. 18 nationally in offensive efficiency this season according to KenPom.com, shot less than 40 percent for just the third time this season, including both games against the Yellow Jackets (Syracuse, 30.4 percent, was the other). Wednesday night, Tech forced the Irish into their worst game this season in terms of offensive efficiency (81.2 points per 100 possessions). The teams’ first meeting on Dec. 30 was Notre Dame’s fourth least-efficient game of the season. Last season, in which Notre Dame also ranked No. 18 in offensive efficiency, Tech’s two games against the Fighting Irish were their No. 2 and 3 least efficient offensive games of the season (Virginia was No. 1).
Tech ranks No. 21 in the nation in scoring defense after holding Notre Dame, who had averaged 79.8 points per game, to just 53. It was the Fighting Irish’ second-lowest output this season (51 vs. Syracuse) and was the Yellow Jackets’ third-lowest yield.
Tech has averaged 66.6 points and allowed just 59.4 per game in its five games since the Christmas break (4-1 record). Opponents have shot 38.7 percent overall, 32.7 percent from three-point range. The Jackets have outscored the five opponents from the free throw line 14.0 to 8.2 per game, and outrebounded them 37.2-32.8. Tech also has averaged 6.0 blocks and 7.6 steals per game.
The Jackets rank No. 13 nationally according to Kenpom.com (43.0 percent) in lowest two-point field goal percentage yield, and held Notre Dame to 36.5 percent (5-for-41) from two-point range.
ACC opponents have connected on just 37.1 percent from the floor, 26.3 percent from three-point range, against the Yellow Jackets.
Tech has connected on 12 of 25 three-point attempts in its last two games. The Jackets had made just 16 threes in 67 attempts the five games before that (3.2 per game and 23.9 percent).
After netting no second-chance points at Notre Dame on Dec. 30, the Yellow Jackets snared 33 offensive rebounds and scored 37 points from them in their last three games.
Tech enjoyed a healthy advantage on the boards for the third time in five games, outrebounding Notre Dame 39-33 after the Irish had owned the boards, 45-33, in the first meeting.
Tech has rebounded from a poor game at the free throw line Dec. 30 against Notre Dame (7-of-18) to hit 43-of-57 (75.4 percent) in its last three games, improving its season conversion rate to 71.2 percent.
Josh Okogie has averaged 19.6 points per game in his eight games back on the court, reaching double digits in every one, including 21.0 in ACC games so far. The 6-4 sophomore has hit 44.8 percent of his shots from three-point range and 78.1 percent from the free throw line. The sophomore guard has scored in double figures 40 times in 45 career games. He has scored 30 or more three times (two vs. ACC), 20 or more 13 times, six times in an ACC game.
Okogie scored 17 point against Notre Dame with a season-high five assists, four rebounds and two blocked shots and did not turn the ball over in 39 minutes.
In half the number of games, Okogie has pulled ahead of Jose Alvarado for the team lead in free throw attempts, 64 to 60. Okogie is averaging 8.0 attempts per game, which leads the ACC.
Tadric Jackson broke back into double figures for the first time since Tech’s visit to Notre Dame on Dec. 30, scoring 11. The 6-2 senior has had 33 double-digit scoring games off the bench as a Yellow Jacket, 24 of those since the beginning of last season. He has reached double figures 20 times in his last 24 games and 34 times since the beginning of last season.
Jackson is hitting 56.9 percent of his shots (62-of-109) from inside the three-point arc this season, and a career-best 48.3 percent overall.
Jackson has become one of the Yellow Jackets’ best rebounders, grabbing no less than four in five straight games, including a career-high nine against Notre Dame, which left him one board shy of his first career double-double. He has averaged 6.4 boards over that five-game stretch, and 4.8 for the season.
Ben Lammers posted his sixth double-double this season against Notre Dame, getting 10 point and 10 rebounds, his third double-double in his last five games and the 22nd of his career, all since the beginning of last season. The 6-10 senior added two assists, two blocks and two steals in his third 40-minute game of the season.
Lammers blocked two shots against Notre Dame to give him 223 blocks for his career, sitting in sole possession of fourth place in Tech history and needing 20 to catch John Salley (243 from 1982-86) for third place. The senior center is third in the ACC and 13th nationally in blocked shots per game (3.0).
Lammers and Jose Alvarado each played 40 minutes against Notre Dame, the third such game for each this season. Lammers is averaging 36.0 minutes this season (5th in the ACC) and Alvarado 34.3 (11th). Okogie averages 35.5, but has not played enough games to qualify for the league rankings. After missing nearly the entire second half of the Coppin State game with a head injury, Alvarado has played 157 minutes in Tech’s last four games.
Abdoulaye Gueye, making his fourth straight start and 12th of the season, had another solid game with eight points (4-6 FG) and six rebounds. The junior forward has averaged 7.1 points (13-of-26 FG) and 7.0 rebounds in four games since sitting out the Coppin State game with an ankle injury.
Tadric Jackson surpassed 900 career points with his performance against Coppin State and has 947 currently. At his current career-best average of 13.7 points per game, it will take the senior guard four more games to become the 44th Georgia Tech player to reach 1,000. Lammers has 875 career points, and would need 11 games at his current 12.2 per game rate to reach 1,000.
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.