By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
Routed at Cincinnati, Georgia Tech rebounded with a wire-to-wire win over No. 21 Mississippi State at McCamish Pavilion on Tuesday.
Yes, the Yellow Jackets shot a lower percentage (34.4 percent) in an eight-point win than they did in a 35-point loss to the Bearcats (34.7 percent). But Damon Stoudamire saw his team play with an edge and will that had been lacking the week before.
“You need toughness on defense, but you also need toughness on offense – going to the hole, playing strong, being able to finish, being able to play through contact. I’m so proud of the fellas and the way they responded,” Tech’s head coach said in our postgame radio interview.
It’s that proof of concept that can give a growing team like Georgia Tech (3-2, 0-0 ACC) the boost it needs as it begin conference play. Not a moment too soon, either: toughness won’t be optional in the 20-game grind of the ACC, which opens Saturday with another ranked opponent, No. 7 Duke (5-2, 0-0 ACC), coming to McCamish Pavilion.
Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Jackets chase an upset over the preseason ACC favorites (2:15 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Miles Kelly went 4-for-9 from three-point range against Mississippi State. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Prompted by a question over text: When was the last time Georgia Tech beat a ranked opponent so early in the calendar? You have to go back to November 21, 2006, when the Jackets downed No. 11 Memphis, 92-85, at the Maui Invitational.
Duke has perennially (and rightfully) earned blueblood status in the ACC, but they’ve also had elevated levels of saltiness when playing Georgia Tech lately. Curiously, the Blue Devils are 1-4 in their last five games before facing Tech dating back to 2020-21. That includes an 80-75 defeat to Arkansas in the thunderdome of Bud Walton Arena Wednesday.
Spurning some first-round NBA Draft projections, 7-foot “stretch 5” Kyle Filipowski returns for his sophomore year and anchors the Blue Devils’ offense again. The ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year, Filipowski (19.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg) moves nimbly on slips, pick-and-pops, and relocations to the post. He can also dribble with either hand and is an adroit passer out of double teams.
Foul trouble handcuffed him against Arkansas (though he still finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds), but Filipowski creates constant mismatches and broken floors with his length, mobility and shot-making. Senior guard Jeremy Roach (13.0 ppg) is Duke’s best attacker off the dribble who has shown an improved touch from deep, while sophomore point guard Tyrese Proctor (11.7 ppg) has a nearly 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and maneuvers around screens well.
The Blue Devils haven’t hammered the offensive boards quite as hard as they have in years past – after finishing ninth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage a year ago, they rank 210th as of Thursday (28.5 percent) – but Tech can’t get worn down by Duke’s length when chasing rebounds and 50-50 balls. The Jackets did a good job staying in gaps and playing “help the helper” defense against Mississippi State. That’ll need to continue against a Duke team that’ll be looking to rediscover its rhythm following a choppy offensive night in Fayetteville.
Walk-on Emmer Nichols can offer a scouting report in two hemispheres for Tyrese Proctor, Duke’s preseason All-ACC combo guard and native of Sydney, Australia.
A Woodside, Calif., native, Nichols spent the second semester of his junior year of high school in Australia. Nichols’ Dad is Australian, which gives Emmer dual citizenship, and with high school sports cancelled in California for the year, the family moved to Australia for in-person schooling and to be closer to his Dad’s family. There, Nichols’ Australian Capital Territory team beat Proctor’s New South Wales Metro team in the third-place game of the U18 national championships. The 6-foot-6 Nichols had the defensive assignment on Proctor.
Walk-on forward Emmer Nichols drew the defensive assignment on future Blue Devil Tyrese Proctor in a 2018 U18 national championship third-place game in Australia. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Miles Kelly only had one instance last year where he failed to make a three-pointer in back-to-back games.
In the next two games, he went a combined 8-for-13 from deep.
So Kelly had no reason to feel flustered when he entered Tuesday’s matchup having shot 0-for-9 from three in losses to UMass Lowell and Cincinnati. Right on cue, the junior made 4-of-9 threes (against an MSU team that ranked 12th in the country in 3-point percentage defense) to pace Tech to the win.
Kelly’s shooting numbers will continue to straighten out, but don’t overlook his revitalized rebounding either. Last year, Kelly had 10 offensive rebounds in 1,069 minutes of floor time.
He grabbed his 10th offensive rebound by his 95th minute of the season against UMass Lowell.
Miles Kelly – # of minutes to get 10 OR
- Last year: 1,069
- This year: 95
Duke could sic 6-foot-9 Mark Mitchell, considered their top man-to-man defender, on Kelly with his agility and wingspan. The Blue Devils aren’t above reaching and swiping on the perimeter, but they prefer to stay home and use their length to clog the halfcourt. Among the keys for Tech Saturday: move and cut with pace, engage two defenders, make the “one more” passes, and shoot with conviction.
Jon Scheyer had a reputation as a long-range specialist at Duke, averaging 38 percent from three-point range over his four-year career.
His lowest career percentage against an ACC opponent? Georgia Tech (12 of 48, 25.0%).
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 1:45 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports. See you at McCamish.
Competitive Drive Initiative Turn 2
Looking to build on the success of last year’s Competitive Drive Initiative, Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Foundation and Georgia Tech athletics are partnering once again to launch Competitive Drive Initiative Turn 2. CDI Turn 2 has a goal of raising $2.5 million in new gifts to the Alexander-Tharpe Fund’s Athletic Scholarship Fund by Dec. 31, and Georgia Tech and the Georgia Tech Foundation will match eligible gifts to accelerate the impact for Tech athletics. Like last year, not only will gifts to CDI Turn 2 be matched, but so will the contributor’s benefits in the way of A-T Fund giving levels and priority points. To learn more and contribute online, visit atfund.org/turn2.
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.