Jan. 24, 2018
By Andy Demetra
– The Miami football team made the “Turnover Chain” famous last fall.
Josh Pastner might want to consider creating a “No Turnover Chain.”
After turnovers spoiled another would-be upset Saturday, this time of No. 15 North Carolina, the Georgia Tech head coach went to near comic lengths in discussing his aversion to them.
“I’m sitting here, and I’ll bang my forehead on this table. We could survive the rebounds and the free throw differences if we didn’t turn the ball over instead of [a turnover margin of] 15 to 9,” Pastner said on his radio call-in show. “Virginia instead of 18 to 9. We do those two things and make free throws, we’re probably winning both games. And we do that versus Notre Dame, and make free throws, we’re probably sitting here 6-0.”
He continued. “We talk about it. We emphasize it. We reinforce it. If I had to do jumping jacks, cartwheels, back flips, somersaults all the way up and down, I’ll do that. Whatever it takes not to turn the ball over.”
Spoken like a coach who has a daughter enrolled in gymnastics. But Pastner’s frustration still hasn’t shaken his optimism over the type of team Georgia Tech can become.
“Because of the way we play defense and guard the three, if we can just take care of the ball, we are one dangerous basketball team,” he added.
Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3 ACC) will try to take care of the ball – and take care of business – Wednesday when it faces Florida State (14-5, 3-4 ACC) in Tallahassee. Here are the top five notes from my chart in preparation for tip-off at the Tucker Center (7 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
After getting roughed up on the boards against North Carolina, Georgia Tech won’t get much of a reprieve Wednesday. Florida State ranks 10th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (36.4 percent), using its length and athleticism to devour offensive rebounds. Pay attention to 6-6 Terance Mann (15.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), whom Pastner calls one of the best offensive rebounding guards in the ACC.
Guard rebounding will be essential Wednesday, as the Seminoles have evolved into a space-and-shoot team that leads the ACC in three-pointers per game (9.1). Guard rebounds played an unsung, if overlooked, role in Georgia Tech’s 78-56 rout of FSU last year. Tadric Jackson finished with a then-career-high six. Corey Heyward added six as well. Josh Heath had five. For some reason, though, the Seminoles’ length doesn’t translate to rebounds on the defensive end: Florida State ranks a surprising 13th in the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage. Can Abdoulaye Gueye and Ben Lammers, who combined for zero offensive rebounds against North Carolina, find success on stickbacks Wednesday?
Florida State rebounding
Offensive Rebounding %: 36.4% (#10 NCAA)
Defensive Rebounding %: 31.6% (#278 NCAA)
On the defensive side, Florida State uses its length to deny, overplay and jump into passing lanes, a stifling style that puts them 33rd nationally in defensive efficiency. The Seminoles can take those chances, of course, because of their imposing size underneath (7-0 Ike Obiagu and 7-4 Christ Koumadje are both part of head coach Leonard Hamilton’s rotation).
Last year, Georgia Tech took advantage of FSU’s denials by scoring heavily off the back cut. According to Synergy, the Yellow Jackets had 10 of their field goals off cuts. Precise passing, knowing when to make the extra pass – and yes, avoiding turnovers – will be crucial if FSU tries to smother Tech with its length.
Ben Lammers averages the highest percentage of his team’s minutes (90.1 percent) of any center in the nation. At 6-10, he’s also the tallest player to rank in the top 50 players nationally in minute percentage.
Pastner said he’d like to find more rest for the San Antonio native during games. The ACC’s third leading shot-blocker will be part of a defensive effort that includes, among other keys Wednesday: shrinking the floor; closing out high and hard on FSU’s three-point shooters; and “walling up” when FSU has the ball inside.
“He was not going to be scared to go play in Cameron Indoor at Duke. He was not going to be scared to play in Chapel Hill at the Smith Center. I knew he was the type of guy that when we lined up for the national anthem… I know he looks across the court and he sees all those five-star, McDonald’s All-Americans and all those elite guys, and he’s not scared one bit and he’s not scared to go for the jugular vein in a sense.” – Pastner on his recruiting evaluation of point guard Jose Alvarado. True to form, in Georgia Tech’s three ACC road games, Alvarado has the highest offensive rating on the team.
The freshman’s feistiness was on full display Saturday, where he didn’t exactly win many new fans in Chapel Hill. His 17 points, though, helped keep Georgia Tech afloat, and his defense forced All-ACC guard Joel Berry II into his worst shooting game of the season (3-17 FG). Alvarado will now contend with an FSU backcourt that includes 6-6 senior Braian Angola (14.3 ppg, 40.2-percent 3pt.) and yes, a McDonald’s All-American in Jonesboro, Ga., native M.J. Walker (24 points vs. Virginia Tech Saturday). Pastner said he recruited Angola at Memphis, and Leonard Hamilton calls him best perimeter defender in the ACC.
Florida State center Ike Obiagu, a native of Abuja, Nigeria, prepped at Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy in Decatur, Ga. One of his teammates was current Appalachian State freshman guard Justin Forrest – the son of Georgia Tech legend James Forrest.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Pregame coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you in Tallahassee. –AD–