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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Clemson

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Coaches can be incurable worriers.  So between the grind of final exams, a seven-day layoff between games, and several players nursing injuries that limited their availability in practice, Josh Pastner had every reason to keep his guard up ahead of Georgia Tech’s game against Alabama State.

It didn’t take long for his players to put those worries to rest.

Sure, the Yellow Jackets’ 54 percent shooting, 13 three-pointers, 25 assists and five turnovers against the Hornets looked gaudy.  But those numbers were incidental to Pastner.  More important, more meaningful, was the way his team played.

“It’s not ‘my shot.’  It’s ‘our shot,’” Pastner explained on his radio show.  “Making the right reads, the cutting, giving yourself up, and understanding that the star of the team is the team.”

Coach that he is, though, the game could only soothe him so much.  Now comes the trickier part: carrying that play back into the ACC, which restarts Wednesday with a matchup against Clemson (9-3, 1-0 ACC) at McCamish Pavilion.

Enjoy the top notes from my chart in preparation for Tech’s last game before the holidays (7:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

The three-point arc continues to be a razor-wired place for opposing offenses.

After holding Alabama State to 4-of-20 from three-point range, Georgia Tech has jumped to 9th in the nation in three-point defense.  That number will get a stiff test from Clemson, which ranks 15th nationally in three-point shooting.

Three-Point Shooting

  • Georgia Tech Defense:  26.2%  (#8 NCAA)
    Clemson Offense:  40.2%  (#15 NCAA)

At the head of that shooting spree is Atlanta native Chase Hunter (14.9 ppg, 4.8 apg, 49% 3pt.), a junior whom Pastner calls one of the most improved players in the ACC.  He’s a dynamic point guard with great burst, but teams can’t sell out solely to stop the drive – he’s also Clemson’s leading shot-maker from three.

That two-way ability is the lynchpin to a Clemson offense that has plenty of balance.  Pre-season second-team All-ACC center P.J. Hall (12.1 ppg) is a pick-and-pop threat who uses a variety of artisanal moves in the post (part of Clemson’s success is the way their bigs can range out and facilitate).  Pay attention to senior Alex Hemenway, a 43-percent career three-point shooter who has only made 2-of-13 three-pointers all-time against Tech.  He may be one of the hidden bellwethers of the Tigers offense:

Alex Hemenway

  • Wins:  11.5 ppg,  54.3% 3pt.  (25 of 46)
  • Losses:  4.3 ppg, 25.0% 3pt. (2 of 8)

All told, Clemson has a core of savvy veterans who space the floor and circulate the ball well.  But keep this number in mind too:  Georgia Tech has forced Clemson into a turnover rate above its season average in 5 straight meetings.

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If Tech needs to match Clemson’s firepower, history has proven they can do it.  In their last three games against the Tigers at McCamish Pavilion, the Jackets have averaged 48.5 percent from three (33-of-68).

Last 3 home games vs. Clemson

  • 2022:  10 of 25
  • 2021:  16 of 27
  • 2020:  7 of 16

Clemson likes to come off ball-side corners, which could lead to baseline threes for Tech.  The Jackets will also need to play well off two feet and keep their sharpness and pace throughout the shot clock.

Deivon Smith recalls his first duel with Clemson well – mainly because it was the first game of his career.  The Loganville, Ga., native started for Mississippi State in the Bulldogs’ season opener against the Tigers on November 25, 2020.

 “Hardest game of my life,” Smith told me last year with a smile.  He finished with two points and four rebounds, but even for a turbo-charged player whose quickness earned him the nickname “Sneak” in high school, the speed and physicality of the college game took him by surprise.

Suffice to say, the game has slowed down for him since.  With his 3-assist, 0-turnover performance against Alabama State, Smith entered the week leading the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio, a remarkable turnaround from his numbers a season ago:

Deivon Smith – Assist/Turnover Ratio

  • This year:  2.7   (38 assists, 14 TO)
  • Last year:  1.1   (48 assists, 42 TO)

Smith’s energy and hand activity led to his best all-around game of the season last year against Clemson (16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists).  While Tigers head coach Brad Brownell has said, “we haven’t played as well defensively as we need to,” Smith will have to fend off a Clemson backcourt that has good positional length.  He’ll be reunited Wednesday with forward Ian Schiefflein, his former teammate at Grayson High who followed him as Gwinnett County Player of the Year.

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Jalon Moore (in photo above) had multiple motivations going for him Saturday.  Alabama State was one of the first schools that offered him a scholarship as a junior at Gardendale High School outside Birmingham.  His Mom, Walidah, also played collegiately at Alabama A&M, ASU’s chief rival.  Moore joked that his Mom may have been more inclined to wear Alabama A&M gear Saturday than Georgia Tech gear.

With a streak of six straight double-digit scoring games since entering the starting lineup, Moore will need to finish with force against Clemson’s physical, well-built front line.  He’ll be an intriguing foil for 6-8 Hunter Tyson (14.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg), whom Pastner described as the key to Clemson’s team.  A COVID senior, Tyson has a fluid inside-out game (he’s second on the Tigers in three-pointers) who knows how to post hard and find seams off cuts.

Also, how fast Moore has developed?  The sophomore didn’t appear in either of Georgia Tech’s games against Clemson last year.

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Wednesday marks the earliest that Georgia Tech and Clemson have played in a season since 1973.

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Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you at McCamish Pavilion.

-AD-

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