Feb. 4, 2018
By Andy Demetra
– Josh Pastner prides himself on switching defenses. Throughout a game, Georgia Tech will roll out a constant carousel of looks and fronts, an identity rooted in the lack of one. Confusion, Pastner believes, can undermine confidence.
Pastner also prides himself on coaching on “feel.” So as the opening minutes of their game with Syracuse unfolded Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets’ head coach saw his team defend well using its man-to-man. He then did something he had never done in his time on the Flats: Pastner scrapped his zones completely. The Jackets’ defensive confidence had been sagging lately. Why change for the sake of change?
It was part gut, part gamble. And it paid off.
Using a stubborn man-to-man for all 40 minutes, Georgia Tech forced Syracuse into a season-low 30 percent shooting in a 55-51 win. The game ended the Yellow Jackets’ four-game losing streak.
It remains to be seen whether Georgia Tech (11-11, 4-5 ACC) will continue playing man-to-man until further notice. Either way, disciplined defense will be a necessity against its next opponent, Boston College (13-9, 3-6 ACC), a team that possesses arguably “the best perimeter in the league” according to Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams. To prepare you for tip-off, here are the top five notes from my charts in preparation for Sunday’s matchup in Chestnut Hill. Yes, the team from Atlanta facing the team from Boston on Super Bowl Sunday. Very funny, ACC (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Boston College might be riding a three-game losing streak, but the Eagles’ backcourt has also steered them to wins over Duke and Florida State, as well as a one-point road loss to #2 Virginia. Junior Jerome Robinson, the ACC’s leading scorer (19.0 ppg, 45.1% 3pt.), is a silky shooter with a knack for getting to the foul line and scoring from crafty angles. Sophomore Ky Bowman (16.8 ppg), a one-time North Carolina wide receiver commit, is an athletic switchblade who torched Duke for 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in December. Six-foot-5 Jordan Chatman (13.0 ppg, 43.4 pct. 3-pt FG) once drained nine three-pointers in a game.
ACC rankings – 3-pointers per game (conference only)
2. Ky Bowman
3. Jerome Robinson
10. Jordan Chatman
*-No other ACC team has more than one player in the top 10
All three can dribble, pass, shoot, and stretch the floor (Robinson and Bowman have become especially lethal on pick-and-rolls). The Yellow Jackets did a terrific job guarding that action against Syracuse, maneuvering around screens and staying attached to the Orange’s ballhandlers. Can they continue that ball screen defense against the Eagles, recovering with high hands and preventing the Eagles from getting breakdowns in the halfcourt? They’ll also need to locate BC’s shooters in transition to prevent stop-and-pops (Bowman, though only 6-1, averages seven rebounds per game and can often trigger fast breaks by himself). In conference play, Boston College gets 40 percent of its points from threes, the highest percentage in the league.
Against Wofford, Georgia Tech had its best shooting game of the season (57.1 percent)… and lost.
Against Syracuse, Georgia Tech had its worst shooting game of the season (33.3 percent)… and won.
Tadric Jackson surpassed 1,000 career points against Syracuse, but the senior guard still has one more milestone he’s chasing. Jackson told me earlier this year that he still wants to record his first career double-double.
Jackson has come close this year, finishing with nine rebounds against Coppin State and Notre Dame. His scoring punch proved even more vital last year against BC: Jackson netted a career-high 29 points, many of them coming on power drives and pin downs.
Eagles coach Jim Christian has lamented his team’s perimeter defense this season. Can Jackson and Jose Alvarado – who has scored 40 points in his last two road games – be the beneficiaries Sunday? Also key for Georgia Tech: not settling and consistently getting inside the paint (BC doesn’t possess the shot blockers that Syracuse had).
Is there such a thing as defensive efficiency off turnovers? In all four of its ACC wins, Georgia Tech has allowed fewer points off turnovers than its total number of turnovers committed.
Miami – 11 turnovers / 6 opponent points off
Notre Dame – 13 turnovers / 10 opponent points off
Pittsburgh – 12 turnovers / 10 opponent points off
Syracuse – 9 turnovers / 4 opponent points off
Perhaps it’s as simple as the Yellow Jackets playing better defense in their wins. Perhaps they’ve done a better job hurrying back in transition, denying teams the fast breaks that typically result from turnovers. Perhaps it’s all just statistical noise. But after back-to-back games with turnovers in the single digits, Tech will need to continue that trend against BC.
Another note on the scoring prowess of Jerome Robinson, a Raleigh, N.C., native whose only ACC offer came from Boston College: In its Jan. 18 matchup in Atlanta, Georgia Tech scored 19 points against Virginia in the first half. When Boston College faced Virginia in Charlottesville, Robinson scored 18 points by himself in the second half.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you in Chestnut Hill. –AD–