Dec. 30, 2016
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech begins a gauntlet of top-10 teams to open its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule by hosting No. 9/10 North Carolina at noon Saturday at McCamish Pavilion.
Tech (8-4), in its first season under head coach Josh Pastner, is playing its fifth straight home game since a nine-day hiatus for exams, tuning up for its ACC opener by outlasting North Carolina A&T, 59-52, Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets are 7-2 at home this season.
One of the nation’s top offensive teams at nearly 90 points per game, North Carolina (12-2) comes to Atlanta having won its last two games over Northern Iowa (86-42) and Monmouth (102-74) at home. The 2016 national runner-up Tar Heels rank ninth in the nation in scoring average, third in scoring margin and first in rebound margin.
Saturday’s game will be televised regionally on the ACC Network, and will be streamed live online on ACC Network Extra (subject to blackout), available through the WatchESPN app. Because of the conflict with Tech’s football bowl game Saturday, radio coverage shifts over to 1230 AM and 98.9 FM, and is available via satellite radio (Sirius ch. 132, XM ch. 193).
Georgia Tech begins its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule by facing three teams currently ranked in the top 10 of both the Associated Press and the coaches polls – North Carolina (No. 9 AP/No. 10 coaches), Duke (5/5) and Louisville (6/7). Tech has never faced three teams ranked in the top 10 of both polls in succession in its history, though it came close once. The Yellow Jackets began the 1994-95 campaign by facing Maryland (7/11), Duke (11/9) and North Carolina (4/2), with only the Tar Heels ranked in the top 10 of both polls. It is the only other time, however, in which Tech faced three teams in a row ranked in the top 10 of one poll or the other.
Saturday’s game is the last of five consecutive home games on Georgia Tech’s current homestand. Tech begins ACC play by playing at home three times in the first four games, returning to Atlanta to face Louisville and Clemson after a visit to Duke on Wednesday.
Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner went 4-4 against ACC teams while he was the head coach at Memphis, but never faced North Carolina. He was 2-0 vs. Miami, 2-2 vs. Louisville, 0-1 vs. Syracuse and 0-1 vs. Virginia.
Tech and North Carolina played two common opponents in their pre-conference schedules – Tulane and Tennessee. The Yellow Jackets defeated Tulane at home, while the Tar Heels won in New Orleans. Tech lost to Tennessee in Knoxville, while North Carolina defeated the Volunteers at home.
Ten Yellow Jackets earned a grade-point average of 3.0 or better during the fall semester, and Tech’s cumulative fall GPA of 2.85 is the highest on record for the team. All four seniors are among the group with 3.0+ GPA’s, including Josh Heath, Corey Heyward (fifth-year because of an injury red-shirt in 2012-13), Rand Rowland and Quinton Stephens. Rowland graduated last Saturday, and the other three are scheduled to graduate in May.
North Carolina has a 67-24 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, and a 53-22 advantage since Tech joined the ACC.
North Carolina has won the last seven meetings in the series, including an 86-78 win last season in Chapel Hill, dating back to a 78-58 win for the Jackets in Atlanta on Jan. 16, 2011.
Before that, Tech had won four games in a row for its longest winning streak in the series. Tech is 10-13 against North Carolina dating back to the 2001-02 season.
The teams have played 39 times in the city of Atlanta, including three at McCamish Pavilion, all North Carolina wins. The teams met only 23 times at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the Tar Heels won 12 of 23. Tech won six of the last seven meetings in the Thrillerdome, however, and won six of eight against UNC in the Coliseum under Paul Hewitt.
Between 1982 and 1996, the Yellow Jackets played eight of their home games with the Tar Heels at the old Omni arena in downtown Atlanta (2-6 record). Counting ACC and SIC Tournament games played in the city, Tech is 14-21 vs. North Carolina in Atlanta.
Tech is 8-5 in games played away from Chapel Hill since 2000-01, including three ACC Tournament wins. The Jackets are 8-12 against the Tar Heels under Roy Williams, 8-13 against Williams all-time.
PASTNER ON OPENING ACC PLAY
“When I got the job and I’m sitting in April watching our first workout, if you asked me would you be 8-4 before you go to conference play… I would have given you a kiss on the cheek if we were going to be 8-4. Obviously most people picked us last place for the league play, and some have picked us not even to win a game. We are going to have to get in there and find a way. We’ve got a tough stretch to open up, but every game in the ACC is a battle, and we’re excited for the opportunity. We’ll get back and work at it and be ready to go on Saturday.”
Georgia Tech has hit 63.4 percent of its free throws in its wins, 73.2 percent in its losses. However, the Jackets have outscored their opponents 17.1-11.1 points per game from the line in their eight wins, and have been outscored 12.0-10.3 per game in four losses.
Tech has limited its last three opponents to 36.7 percent shooting from the floor, forced an average of 15.2 turnovers and averaged 7.2 steals per game. The Jackets rank No. 70 in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
Tech’s win over North Carolina A&T was win No. 50 in McCamish Pavilion. Tech is playing its fifth season in the renovated building.
Tech started Jackson, Lammers, Moore, Okogie and Stephens for the second straight game. Coach Josh Pastner has used four different starting lineups this season. Three Yellow Jackets — Ben Lammers, Josh Okogie and Quinton Stephens — have started every game this season.
Despite not scoring its first points against A&T until the 14:23 mark of the first half, Tech led at the half (26-23) for the ninth time in 12 games, and improved to 7-1 when leading at the half.
Tech’s 59 points was its third-lowest total of the season and the lowest in any of its eight wins.
Tech led for just 10:36 of the 40 minutes against North Carolina A&T, a season low for any of the Jackets’ eight wins.
Tech shot 39.6 percent from the floor, the fifth time this season the Yellow Jackets came up short of 40 percent, but the first time they won the game.
Tech held North Carolina A&T to 32.1 percent from the floor, the sixth time this season that the Yellow Jackets limited an opponent to under 40 percent. Tech is 5-1 in those games. Only Alcorn State (31.4 percent) shot worse against Tech.
Tech hit 6-of-15 three-point attempts against North Carolina A&T, and is 11-for-26 in its last two games after going 3-for-21 in the two games before that.
Tech assisted on 16 of its 19 field goals (84.2 percent), its best ratio in any game this season, and stands at 59.4 percent for the season. The team’s goal is 60 percent nightly.
Tech has taken better care of the basketball over its last two games with 10 turnovers against Wofford and 13 against North Carolina A&T.
Tech blocked nine shots against North Carolina A&T, the team’s most since setting the program record of 16 against Southern in the second game of the season. The Jackets rank third nationally in blocked shots per game (7.2).
Tech was out-rebounded for the fifth time this season (35-33) against A&T, but is 3-2 in those games this season. The Jackets made good on their nine offensive rebounds to the tune of 12 points.
Ben Lammers kept alive his streak of scoring in double digits in every game this season (12 points, 6 rebounds), hitting 5-of-7 shots from the floor to improve his season success rate to 60.5 percent, which is third-best in the ACC. He is 14-for-19 in his last two games.
Kellen McCormick scored a season-high 12 points after having scored just five in Tech’s first 11 games this season. All 12 came in the second half on four three-point field goals.
Tadric Jackson started his second straight game (ninth career), and scored nine points in the final 4:44 to help the Jackets erase their deficit for the final time and pull ahead. Jackson (12 points in the game) has reached double figures seven times in 11 games.
Quinton Stephens continues to be one of Tech’s most effective rebounders, pulling down a team-high nine against North Carolina A&T to improve his season rate to 8.1 per game, ranking seventh in the ACC.
Josh Heath matched his season high with five assists and has eight in his last two games.
Sylvester Ogbonda came off the bench to block a career-high three shots in five minutes.
PASTNER ON TECH’S OFFENSE
“The whole thing is shooting, being able to make some threes. I think we move the ball well, it didn’t stick, it was a hot potato, we kept the thing moving. We’ve just got to be able to make shots. In the short term, we’re just going to have to make some shots. In the long term, the best way to improve shooting is recruiting and we understand what we need to do to attack that. In the short term here for this year, we’ve got to make sure that we find ways to score. We’re moving the ball. The ball is being moved, we’ve just got to make some of those open shots. We have zero margin for error when we’re not able to shoot like that.”
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN’S BASKETBALL
Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team is in its first 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.
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