March 3, 2018
By Andy Demetra
– Win or lose, the postgame handshake line is typically a bland affair. Players shuffle along, exchanging benign high fives. Sometimes they’ll mutter a few anodyne words to each other.
So imagine Ben Lammers’ surprise when Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski stopped him midway through the handshake line after Georgia Tech’s 80-69 loss to the Blue Devils Feb. 11. The Hall of Famer had a question for the 6-10 center, one far different than anything Lammers had heard in his four years of handshake lines at Tech. Coach K’s curiosity had to be satisfied, even in that small window of time.
“So you’re really a mechanical engineering major?” Lammers said Krzyzewski asked him.
Why, yes, as a matter of fact. And a pretty good basketball player too, talents that will be celebrated Saturday when Lammers makes his final appearance at McCamish Pavilion.
Together with guard Tadric Jackson, who is scheduled to become the first member of his family to graduate from college, the Yellow Jackets will honor their two seniors Saturday when Tech plays host to Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13 ACC). Georgia Tech (12-18, 5-13 ACC) will have a short rest but plenty of momentum thanks to Lammers and Jackson, who combined for 42 points in a stirring 78-75 win over North Carolina State Thursday. Lammers was especially spectacular, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, a career-high seven assists, and a career high-tying four steals.
He’ll now try to duplicate that performance in his McCamish Pavilion curtain call. As for the question from Krzyzewski, Lammers said he couldn’t recall his reaction when he told him yes. He thinks it was along the lines of “God bless you.”
Lammers will aim for more concrete memories Saturday – and one final win on his home floor. Enjoy the top notes from my chart in preparation for Georgia Tech’s rematch with Wake (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Among their numerous achievements, Lammers and Jackson both reached the 1,000-point club this year. Lammers was honored for it with a ceremony before the N.C. State game.
The Jackets might have to unhook that velvet rope again soon. With 18 points against the Wolfpack, Josh Okogie now stands three points shy of 1,000 himself. Should he reach that milestone, he, Lammers and Jackson will join a sneaky but exclusive list.
Georgia Tech has had plenty of talented trios in its history, but rarely have the Yellow Jackets had three 1,000-point scorers at the same time.
Okogie had 20 points but committed four turnovers against Wake Forest last month, his play stunted in part by having to run the point so much. Now that Jackson has taken over more of the point guard duties, can that free up Okogie for a better day against the Demon Deacons?
If your Valentine’s Day didn’t go as planned, Georgia Tech could relate. In their first matchup with Wake Forest February 14, the Demon Deacons averaged 1.28 points per possession, the highest figure Tech has allowed all season.
Like N.C. State, Wake Forest runs a hefty dose of pick-and-rolls. Junior Bryant Crawford, the Demon Deacons’ dominant ballhandler, hung 16 points and nine assists without a turnover against the Jackets last month. Pastner praised his team’s pick-and-roll defense against the Wolfpack, with point guard Markell Johnson suffering his worst assist-to-turnover ratio in league play (five assists, five turnovers). The Yellow Jackets also didn’t overextend on their help-side defense, which in turn allowed them to stay home on N.C. State’s three-point shooters.
Unlike Johnson, Crawford is more liable to turn the corner and make a quick burst to the basket. Wake Forest also excelled last month at making the “plus-one” passes that gave them clean looks from three-point shooters like Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin, who may quickly be earning Jacket-killer status (50 percent from three in his last two games vs. Georgia Tech). Can that same dogged ball-screen defense follow the Yellow Jackets to McCamish Saturday?
What informed of his near triple-double against N.C. State, Lammers laughed and told me, “I was trying to be like David Robinson and get a quadruple-double.”
It was a fitting answer for the San Antonio native, who now faces the alma mater of Tim Duncan, another legendary Spur. Lammers will bang in the post Saturday with 7-1 Doral Moore, a methodical, but effective center who leads the ACC in field-goal percentage (68.7 percent) and dropped 17 points and 12 rebounds on the Jackets last month.
Lammers did a terrific job denying alley-oops and lobs on N.C. State’s pick-and-rolls. He’ll now try to equal that effectiveness against Moore, a Locust Grove native who may not have the range or foot speed of N.C. State’s Omer Yurtseven, but gives Wake a viable low-post target to keep the floor spaced.
The phrase Wake Forest fans use for those lobs, by the way? “Doralley-oops.”
Several times this year, Brandon Alston returned to the McCamish Pavilion floor after games, still in full uniform, fine-tuning the mechanics of his shot while his family rebounded for him. The graduate transfer has put in plenty of sweat equity this winter, his dedication never fluctuating even if his minutes did.
On Thursday, Pastner praised Alston for his “sound, solid” play against N.C. State. The Vienna, Va., native scored seven points and dished out three assists without a turnover, including a three-pointer that gave the Yellow Jackets their first lead with 10 minutes to go. It was a welcome turnaround for a player who had struggled to find his touch since coming off the bench in favor of the Moses Wright/Evan Cole combination four games ago:
Brandon Alston – Last 5 games
vs. N.C. State: 3-4
Previous 4 games: 3-13
Before the Clemson game, Pastner appealed to Alston to shoot more if he’s open. With Wake Forest bringing in the ACC’s third-best three-point percentage in league play (37.9 percent), his ability to drain a few may be key. The Yellow Jackets have had an unexpected renaissance from long range lately, making 15 of 30 threes over their last two games.
Last year, N.C. State defeated Georgia Tech in the second-to-last game of the regular season to snap a seven-game losing streak.
This year Georgia Tech defeated N.C. State in the second-to-last game of the regular season to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. EST Saturday. For the final time, see you at McCamish! –AD–