#TGW: Bounce Back

Jan. 23, 2018

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

– If you think that Georgia Tech should be more aggressive Wednesday at Florida State than the Yellow Jackets were Saturday at North Carolina, you’re not alone.

Head coach Josh Pastner agrees, and to that end he plans to give his two preseason All-ACC players, Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, a little more rest so that they might better be able to attack.

If the Jackets (10-9, 3-3 ACC) are going to get back on track after dropping a pair of league games against nationally-ranked teams, and beat the Seminoles (14-5, 3-4) for the third straight time (after a 10-game losing streak to FSU), that’s the way they have to play.

And that means that Lammers and Okogie need a few breaks.

Lammers struggled after hitting his first five shots at North Carolina over the first 10 minutes before dragging his way to 1-of-7 shooting afterward. Okogie, whose 35.3 minutes per ACC game trails Lammers’ 38, plays so hard that he probably needs a blow, too, so he can play as hard as he’d like when on the floor.

“I think I’m playing Ben and Josh maybe too many minutes. I think we need them to be better. I think I’m playing them maybe too many minutes,” Pastner said. “Now that [Abdoulaye Gueye] is playing the way he’s playing, we can give Ben more of a rest.

“I think I need to give Josh Okogie more of a rest, too. I think he’s playing too many minutes.”

Resting Lammers means moving fourth-year junior Abdoulaye Gueye to the center spot, where, frankly, he’s more comfortable offensively. A.D., as his teammates call him, works entirely differently inside of 12 feet.

In those situations, since Pastner doesn’t seem to believe that 6-10 big man Sylvester Ogbonda is ready to contribute meaningful minutes, the Jackets are likely to otherwise go small.

Tech’s rotation has become the starters plus guards Tadric Jackson and Curtis Haywood II off the bench. No reserve bigs are included in the rotation. No Ogbonda, no Moses Wright (who started five games earlier in the season, chiefly for sake of his offense and suspensions and injuries to others).

The Jackets will have their hands full in Tallahassee, where FSU, “goes nine or 10 deep,” according to Pastner.

Florida State was ranked much of the season before losing three of four games following an 81-80 win over North Carolina.

The ‘Noles were solid Saturday in their 91-82 win at Virginia Tech. Their 6-foot-5 freshman guard M.J. Walker, who graduated from Jonesboro High School south of Atlanta, scored a career-high 24 points in that one.

He’s far from FSU’s only scoring threat.

There’s junior guard Terrance Mann (6-6) averaging 15.3 points and a whopping 6.2 rebounds, senior guard Braian Angola (6-6) averaging 14.3, and senior forward Phil Cofer (6-8) of Fayetteville’s Whitewater High School averaging 12.5 and 5.7.

“They shoot a lot of 3s, and they make them, and they’re tall,” Tech’s coach said.

Florida State shoots, period.

The ‘Noles have hit 46.8 percent of their shots, and 36.4 percent of their 3-pointers. Angola has hit 45-of-112 from beyond the arc, which is fairly staggering in 19 games.

Tech’s been very good defending the 3-point shot in ACC games. North Carolina made just 5-of-21, for example, yet the Jackets got out of whack in that game because they were so worried about shutting down UNC’s transition offense that the Jackets got slaughtered on the boards.

“We also pulled some guys back so we could get in transition defense, but we did not get a lot of second opportunities,” Pastner said. “They kicked our rear end on the defensive glass.”

North Carolina won on the strength of two factors: a 46-25 rebounding advantage over Tech, and a 26-2 edge on second-chance points. The Tar Heels replaced their transition points with second-chance points.

For all of Pastner’s talk about cutting back on turnovers (discounted here), that’s a legitimate concern coming off a game where Tech had 15 to North Carolina’s 16, Tech can’t expect to win a game when outrebounded nearly two-to-one unless they hit about 20 3-point shots.

That’s unlikely.

Tech has to be more aggressive, period.

“Usually, we’ve been pretty good this year at getting to the free throw line. But Carolina was aggressive, and obviously they were aggressive getting to the glass. You’ve got to be the aggressor,” Pastner said.

“We’ve been pretty good at bouncing back . . . we’re going to have to play really well. Home or away, we’re going to have to play great.”

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