Feb. 4, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Georgia Tech Radio
– He didn’t like the losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia, but he could live with them because his team played hard.
Head coach Josh Pastner had a different outlook following Georgia Tech’s latest game, a 74-62 road loss to Clemson that dropped the Yellow Jackets to 13-9 overall (5-5 ACC).
“When we don’t play with energy and effort and execution, those first 32 minutes of the game, that’s who we are,” Pastner told us in our post-game interview. “We don’t have that type of team where we think we can just take possessions off. We’re not built that way.”
Clemson shooting nearly 50 percent by midway through the second half? It was nothing nuanced the Tigers did. Just a lack of energy from the Jackets. Getting outrebounded by a team that ranked last in the ACC in rebounding margin? Lack of energy again. Even Ben Lammers’ career-high 25 points, Pastner said, only came because his teammates didn’t play with enough energy to support him.
The Yellow Jackets will look for a recharge Saturday when they face Wake Forest (13-9, 4-6 ACC), itself a team looking to rise in the league standings. With Pastner announcing Friday that sophomore Abdoulaye Gueye (wrist) would be out and freshman Justin Moore (abdominal) would be doubtful for the Demon Deacons, that energy will suddenly take on an added urgency.
Before we tip off, here are my favorite notes, quotes and anecdotes in preparation for Saturday’s broadcast in Winston-Salem (3 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Georgia Tech associate head coach Eric Reveno coached twins Jason and Jarron Collins, among a litany of other NBA big men, as a longtime assistant at Stanford.
On Saturday, he and the Jackets will face another forward named Collins with a professional future ahead of him.
John Collins (17.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg), a 6-10 sophomore whom Pastner recruited at Memphis, could become Wake Forest’s first first-team All-ACC player since Chris Paul in 2005. A nimble screen-and-roller, a ferocious offensive rebounder, and a guy whose activity invites an absurd number of fouls (he ranks 11th in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes), Collins has been a headache for defenses all season long.
The gravity Collins commands in the halfcourt – along with Wake Forest’s 38.5 percent shooting from three – has enabled the Deacs to rank a surprising 12th in the nation in offensive efficiency. Look for an efficiency tug-of-war to play out Saturday:
Wake Forest Offensive Efficiency: #12 NCAA (119.8 ppg scored/100 possessions)
Georgia Tech Defensive Efficiency: #10 NCAA (92.6 ppg allowed/100 possessions)
Between Collins, guard Bryant Crawford (15.1, ppg, 5.9 apg) and guard Keyshawn Woods (12.6 ppg, 45 percent on threes), Wake has one of the more effective pick-and-roll combinations in the ACC. Six-foot-6 Austin Arians and 6-10 Dinos Mitoglou can also keep the floor spaced with range out to the three-point line.
Whether in man-to-man or their medley of zones, the Jackets will need to make Collins’ catches consistently tough. The Jackets ground down Florida State – another team flush with three-point shooters – by shrinking the floor and not getting broken down off the dribble. Those traits may need to re-emerge in Winston-Salem Saturday.
It figures that Collins has drawn comparisons to Wake Forest great Tim Duncan. Collins’ grandparents live in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the same island that produced Duncan. Ben Lammers, incidentally, grew up a Duncan fan in San Antonio.
The Yellow Jackets overcame 15 turnovers against Notre Dame. They weren’t as fortunate at Clemson: an ACC-high 17 turnovers hindered any rhythm Tech tried to build on offense.
Saturday’s game may offer some relief. In ACC play, the Demon Deacons only force a turnover on 15.3 percent of possessions, the lowest rate in the league. Defense has often held Wake Forest back this year, especially when protecting leads in the second half. Can Georgia Tech play with the same unselfishness and “hot potato” passing that spurred them to their best offensive games of the season?
Another reason why Georgia Tech has jumped out to a 5-5 ACC record? A Tech player has set or tied a career high in points, rebounds or assists in each of the last 6 games.
Opponent Player Career High
Clemson Ben Lammers 25 points
Notre Dame Tadric Jackson 25 points
Florida State Josh Okogie 14 rebounds
Corey Heyward 6 rebounds
Virginia Quinton Stephens 13 rebounds (tied)
Virginia Tech Quinton Stephens 13 rebounds (tied)
N.C. State Josh Heath 10 assists
Quinton Stephens 22 points (tied)
More impressively, those career highs are spread out among six different players. In the ultracompetitive world of the ACC, when Pastner has needed his players to step up, they’ve often delivered.
That mysterious stoppage five seconds into the second half Wednesday? Head official Les Jones spotted a nickel-sized plastic earring or pendant – likely lost by a cheerleader or dance team member – glinting on the floor, its pin sticking upward. Jones picked it up and handed it to Randy Waters and me. We started the bidding at $20.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 2:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you in Winston-Salem.