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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Josh Pastner prefers rhythm over rest when it comes to his team’s ACC bye.  Even this late in the season, Georgia Tech’s head coach likes to keep the two-games-per-week cadence that his players have grown accustomed to.

And with Georgia Tech (11-16, 3-13 ACC) averaging better than a point per possession over its last three ACC games, Pastner viewed the Yellow Jackets’ matchup against Division II Florida Tech Saturday not as an inconvenience, but as a chance to keep their rhythm sharp, good timing to keep their good timing.

Despite a sleepy start, Pastner felt his team mostly accomplished that in a 79-56 win over the Panthers.  They’ll now return to a more familiar Panthers, Pittsburgh (19-8, 12-4 ACC), who defeated Tech 71-60 at McCamish Pavilion on Jan. 14.  The Panthers had a six-game win streak snapped at Virginia Tech Saturday, causing them to slip a half-game behind Miami for second place in the ACC.

There won’t be any rest, figuratively or literally, for the Yellow Jackets.  Does Tech have the rhythm and confidence to counteract that Tuesday?  Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Yellow Jackets shoot for a third straight ACC win and its first conference win on the road (7 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Ja’von Franklin is one of just seven power-conference players who have multiple games this year with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Not many expected Pitt to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Not many Jamarius Burton to become an ACC Player of the Year candidate.

One may beget the other soon.  With a 4-3 record in Quad 1 games and a NET ranking of 50, the Panthers are closing in on their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016.  And they’ve done it thanks to the play of Burton (15.7 ppg, 4.7 apg), a physical guard who leads a tough, experienced Pitt backcourt.  The 6-4 Burton plays a downhill style, using screens and re-screens to probe for driving lanes.  Guard Nike Sibande was also a problem in Atlanta, scoring a season-high 21 points and using change-of-pace dribbles to explode past defenders.

Georgia Tech Jan. 14

  • Nike Sibande – 21 points  (7-12 FG, 3-6 3pt., 4-4 FT)
  • Jamarius Burton – 19 points  (6-13 FG, 7-7 FT)

Tech held Pittsburgh to right around its season efficiency average in their first meeting, but they’ll need to gap up, stay alert off the ball, and limit outside drives against its zone.  Can they also use their mixing defenses to wring out more turnovers?  The Panthers only committed three against Tech, the fewest the Jackets have forced in more than a decade.

*****

Even though they finished a season-low 3-of-18 against Virginia Tech, Pitt won’t hesitate to launch from beyond the Monongahela.

Other than Wake Forest, no team takes or makes more three-pointers per game in conference play than the Panthers (9.3/game).  Georgia Tech sank an ACC-high 12 threes when they played Pitt last month; the Panthers have topped that four times in ACC play, including a school-record 18 against Wake Forest.  Six-foot-7 Blake Hinson (15.5 ppg) likes to strafe threes from the corner, while 6-6 Greg Elliott has NBA range and a hair trigger release.  Both Burton and 6-0 Nelly Cummings can make teams pay for slow close-outs or laying underneath screens.

The Jackets could be well-equipped to match them though:  Over their last five ACC games, they’ve made 46 percent of their threes in the first half.

3pt.% – Last 5 games

  • 1st Half:  46.3%  (31 of 67)
  • 2nd Half:   23.9%  (11 of 46)

*****

Pastner, meanwhile, may be more concerned with his team’s shot selection from inside the arc.  The Yellow Jackets shot just 32.4 percent from two-point range against the Panthers, their second worst percentage of the season.  Pitt stayed home on defense, forcing a fair number of clotted driving lanes, and 6-11 Federiko Federiko, a likely ACC All-Defensive center, altered his share of shots around the rim.  Too often, Pastner said, those poor shots led to runouts for Pitt (the Panthers scored 19 fast break points, the most Tech has allowed all season).  The Jackets will need to get ahead of the Panthers in defensive transition.

Tech made 12 three-point field goals in its first meeting against Pitt in January. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

“Ja’von’s a monster.  That’s why we love him.  That’s why we get on him.  We get mad when we don’t see him jumping every play.”

That’s Deebo Coleman on Ja’von Franklin, who recorded his third straight double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds against Florida Tech.

Franklin is one of just seven power-conference players who have multiple games this year with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.  The list includes All-American candidates like Purdue’s Zach Edey and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis.

The heights of those other six players:  7-4, 7-0, 6-11, 6-10, 6-10 and 6-9.  Franklin stands 6-7 (maybe).

The Little Rock, Ark., native will look to neutralize Federiko, a rim-running “5” man who gives the Panthers a long-armed, back line gargoyle on defense.  It’s worth remembering that Franklin only played six minutes in the first meeting with Pittsburgh as he tried to shake the effects of a stomach bug.  Playing his best ball as a Yellow Jacket, how might his presence change things offensively on Tuesday?

*****

It won’t technically count as a homecoming game – he considers himself a Houstonian, and you won’t hear him drop a “yinz” at a press conference – but Josh Pastner spent the first year of his life in Glen Dale, W.Va., 65 miles outside of Pittsburgh.  And in true Pastner fashion, he has a story for his brief time in Glen Dale, where his Dad had moved his family for a sales job.  He shared that he was born not at a hospital, but at a doctor’s house.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you in Pittsburgh.

-AD-

 


Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Georgia Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of developing Georgia Tech’s Everyday Champions and helping the Yellow Jackets compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.

ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN’S BASKETBALL

Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team has completed six seasons under head coach Josh Pastner, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 2021 and making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years. Tech has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1979, won four ACC Championships (1985, 1990, 1993, 2021), played in the NCAA Tournament 17 times and played in two Final Fours (1990, 2004). Connect with Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball on social media by liking their Facebook Page, or following on Twitter (@GTMBB) and Instagram. For more information on Tech basketball, visit Ramblinwreck.com.

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