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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Clemson

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Naithan George answered it innocently enough.

Asked last week which point guard he tries to model his game after, the freshman from Toronto, Ontario, Canada didn’t hesitate.

“I really like Steve Nash’s game,” George replied, referring to the former NBA All-Star, two-time MVP, and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer.

“He gets his guys involved.  He’s an energy guy.  He daps up everybody and keeps the energy good,” George explained.

Perhaps it was the Canadian in him that also influenced his decision – Nash is a native of Vancouver.  And you can’t fault a freshman for not having automatic recall of a three-decade-old NCAA Tournament game.  But George had no idea that in 1993, head coach Damon Stoudamire and his 2nd-seeded Arizona Wildcats lost to Nash and 15th-seeded Santa Clara 64-61 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  It was just the second time in NCAA history that a 15-seed had knocked off a 2-seed.  Stoudamire missed a desperation, game-tying three-pointer as time expired.

All of which may make Nash, laurels and all, worthy of “he who shall not be named” status around his head coach.  So what did Stoudamire think of George’s choice of role model when told about it afterwards?

“Nah, I don’t have no problem with that answer,” he chuckled.  “If he can get to Steve Nash’s level, I’ll be happy.”

For now, Stoudamire is content watching his freshman grow into a smooth, self-assured show runner for Georgia Tech (8-8, 1-4 ACC), even as ACC play picks up.  Last week George dished out 11 assists against Notre Dame, the most by a Yellow Jacket since Iman Shumpert in 2008.  He followed that up with a season-high 17 points against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, a game that featured several clutch baskets to keep Tech close.  Through five ACC games he ranks second in the league in assists per game (6.4) and an even more impressive third in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.56).

And now, one of the ACC’s youngest players – George reclassified in August and should still technically be a high school senior – will square off against one of the league’s oldest teams in Clemson (12-4, 2-3 ACC), which features a whopping 11 upperclassmen and climbed to 16th nationally in the AP poll before dropping out this week.

As you get ready for tip, enjoy the top notes from my chart as Tech hits the road for another late-night matchup (9 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Tafara Gapare and his mother Mandy on his official visit to Tech. (photo by Jalen Williams)

 

The box score, in so many ways, defied the laws of basketball.

Georgia Tech was outscored 17-0 in second chance points and 17-2 in points off turnovers.  Teams that lose both categories – let alone by such wide margins – rarely wind up in the win column.

So how did the Yellow Jackets hold off the Blue Devils last month?  A couple numbers tell the story:

  • Tech shot 50.9 percent and averaged 11 points per possession, both season highs allowed by Duke.
  • Tech limited the Blue Devils, who rank third in the ACC in three-point percentage (37.2 pct.), to a season-low 25 percent from deep (4 of 16).

The Jackets didn’t force an obscene number of turnovers, but they played with active hands, which allowed them to recover in their screen-and-roll defense.  Duke ran liberal amounts of empty-side pick-and-roll with guard Jeremy Roach and 7-footer Kyle Filipowski, but Tech stayed in gaps and ran to shooters well when they tried to play out of it.

The result?  Duke not only shot a season low in three-point percentage, but its three-point rate – i.e., the percentage of its shot attempts that came from beyond the arc – was its second lowest of the year.  Compare that to the Blue Devils’ three-point rates in their two most recent games:

Three-Point Rate (% of FGA that are 3-pointers)

  • Pittsburgh – 44.6%
  • Notre Dame – 44.1%
  • Georgia Tech – 25.8%

It adheres to Stoudamire’s philosophy, which he repeated again on Friday: “Threes beat you; twos don’t.” 

An injury to point guard Tyrese Proctor two minutes into the game certainly impacted Duke’s flow on offense, but that same attention to detail will need to apply on Saturday.  Freshman Jared McCain (43.6 pct. 3pt.) has averaged 17 points per game since that loss, and Filipowski (17.4 ppg) made all four of his three-pointers in the Blue Devils’ rout of Pittsburgh.  The Jackets will need to locate Duke’s shooters in transition – the Blue Devils love to enliven the Cameron crowd with transition threes – and be rugged fighting over screens to keep Roach from asserting himself as a three-level playmaker.  Duke has also gotten improved play from 6-9 Mark Mitchell (12.2 ppg), a predacious presence in the paint who may be looking to reignite himself after a season-low four points against Pitt.

*****

Odds are Ken Swilling remembers his 72-yard interception return for a touchdown against Boston College in a 13-12 win over the Eagles at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 1989.

It’s less likely Swilling remembers the name of the Eagles quarterback whose pass he picked off that day.  In case he doesn’t, it was Mike Power, whose nephew, T.J., is a freshman forward for the Blue Devils.  Power graduated from Worcester Academy, the same school that produced Yellow Jacket great Jarrett Jack.

*****

Has Miles Kelly started to show signs of a thaw from three?  Over the last three games, the junior has made 12 of 27 three-pointers.

Prior to that, he had gone 12 for his last 57.

Miles Kelly

  • Last 3 games: 12 of 27  (44.4%)
  • Previous 8+ games: 12 of 57  (21.0%)

Freshman point guard Naithan George ranks No. 2 in the ACC in assist average in conference games, No. 3 in assist/turnover ratio. (photo by Andy Mead)

 

Georgia Tech’s three-point shooting has been a promising development, but their work inside the arc was even more impressive last month.  The Yellow Jackets quietly made 67 percent of their two-point attempts against Duke (20-of-30), the highest percentage the Blue Devils have allowed in a game since January of 2019.  Can Tech continue to cut with pace, drive with force, make the “one more” passes, and not get overheated by Duke’s length?  And what defensive adjustments might the Blue Devils spring on Baye Ndongo after the freshman blowtorched them for 21 points last month?

*****

Georgia Tech has now faced a pair of siblings on different teams.

Duke’s freshman class features 6-foot-9 Sean Stewart, who’s averaging 3.0 points per game off the bench.  His older brother, Miles Stewart, played against Tech earlier this year for Howard.  And their father, Michael Stewart, dueled with Damon Stoudamire back in their Pac-10 days – Stewart played for Cal before an eight-year career in the NBA.

By the way, the Boston Celtics filled Stoudamire’s assistant coaching spot by hiring … Duke assistant Amile Jefferson.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you in Durham.

-AD-

 


Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of the development of Yellow Jackets that thrive academically at the Institute and 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 is in its first year under head coach Damon Stoudamire. 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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