Feb. 24, 2018
By Andy Demetra
– The Yellow Jackets didn’t win. But they didn’t flinch, either.
Facing both a five-game losing streak and the No. 1 team in the nation on the road, Georgia Tech (11-17, 4-11 ACC) showed plenty of spunk Wednesday in a 65-54 loss to Virginia. They’ll look to carry over that intensity to Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday, where another ranked team awaits in No. 15 Clemson (20-7, 9-6 ACC). Enjoy the top five notes from my chart as Georgia Tech prepares to play its sixth – yes, sixth – RPI top 10 opponent in its last 12 games (3 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
— GT Men’s Basketball (@GTMBB) February 24, 2018
In a secluded tunnel at John Paul Jones Arena, holding court for his postgame radio interview, Josh Pastner briefly paused to look ahead. As he discussed the Yellow Jackets’ 4-of-13 three-point shooting performance against the Cavaliers, Pastner stopped to praise signee Michael Devoe, a four-star point guard and deadeye shooter from Orlando, Fla., who will join the team next fall.
For now, though, Pastner is more concerned about stopping a DeVoe – namely, Clemson guard Gabe DeVoe, who burned Tech for a career-high 25 points in a 72-70 win in Atlanta last month. Using shifty feints and a quick release, the 6-3 DeVoe connected on 5-of-8 three-pointers against the Yellow Jackets. (Tech shouldn’t feel alone: he made five or more three-pointers in each of his next three games.)
With starting point guard Shelton Mitchell missing the last two games with a concussion, DeVoe’s touch has slipped lately. The senior has only made two of his last 14 from three, although backcourt mate Marcquise Reed (16.1 ppg) picked up the slack by sinking a school-record eight against Virginia Tech.
Three-pointers were a sore spot for Tech last month, when Clemson buried 10 of 21 to escape Atlanta with the win. When Duke beat Clemson last week, the Blue Devils played zone for all 40 minutes, disrupting the Tigers’ rhythm from outside. Could Georgia Tech find a similar groove with its assortment of zones?
Clemson attempted 36 threes in its 65-58 loss to Virginia Tech Wednesday. It marked the second-most three-point attempts in a Power-5 conference game this season.
Most 3pt. FGA – Power-5 conference
1. Villanova vs. Creighton – 39
2. Clemson vs. Virginia Tech – 36
Mitchell’s absence – he remains questionable for Saturday – has given DeVoe and Reed even more of a green light. Reed attempted 20 three-pointers against Virginia Tech, more than Tech has attempted in 25 games this year. The Yellow Jackets will need to be alert and close “high and hard” on Clemson’s shooters. If the Jackets switch to man-to-man, the mismatch won’t cost them; the open man will.
Pastner changed his starting lineup against Virginia, using the same five (Ben Lammers, Josh Okogie, Tadric Jackson, Evan Cole, Moses Wright) that spurred Tech to a second-half comeback against Duke. By starting Cole and Wright, Pastner also had the flexibility to move Lammers under the rim more. The senior took full advantage, scoring 22 points while displaying an artful array of finishing moves. Lammers told Pastner at shootaround it was the healthiest he had felt since the season opener.
The move limited the role of Abdoulaye Gueye, who turned in a solid game against Clemson last month (14 points, eight rebounds). Whatever his playing time Saturday, he’ll have to be opportunistic with the Tigers thinner at the “4” due to a season-ending injury to Donte Grantham (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Gueye will return to the arena where he fractured his wrist last year, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.
One other note: if he continues to play in the low post, Lammers may have his hands fuller with 6-9, 287-pound center Elijah Thomas (10.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg). A fellow Texan, Thomas has posted double-doubles in his last two games while leading the Tigers in blocks (2.4/game).
Road sweet road? Tadric Jackson’s three-point percentage is almost twice as high in ACC road games as it is at home.
Tadric Jackson 3pt.% – ACC
Road: 7 of 18 (38.9%)
Home: 5 of 24 (20.8%)
By Pastner’s estimation, Jackson played “75 to 80 percent” point guard against Virginia. The senior performed well, committing just one turnover in a career-high 38 minutes. Now freed of running the point, can Josh Okogie, held to a season-low seven points against Virginia, use screens well and be more aggressive seeking drives to the rim?
In a span of three days, the Yellow Jackets will go from facing Virginia, the No. 1-ranked efficiency defense in the nation, to Clemson, the No. 6-ranked efficiency defense. Now the good news: in spite of its loss in Atlanta, Georgia Tech had the third highest offensive efficiency rating of the season against Clemson.
Highest offensive efficiency rating vs. Clemson this season
1. North Carolina 1/16 1.20 PPP
2. North Carolina 1/30 1.15 PPP
3. Georgia Tech 1/28 1.14 PPP
It may come as little consolation – the Yellow Jackets lost the game, after all. But after a spirited 40 minutes in Charlottesville, Tech will try to make the effort align with the result at Clemson.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you at Clemson. –AD–