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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Louisville

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Lackluster nights can’t linger for long, especially in the unrelenting grind of the ACC.  But as Damon Stoudamire sees it, there’s only one way for Georgia Tech to move forward from its 80-51 loss to Wake Forest on Tuesday.

“We’ve got to lose ourselves in what Georgia Tech basketball is, and what I want it to be,” Stoudamire said after practice Friday.

He started rattling off his list of what that meant – none of which involved anything offense-related.

“We’ve got to sprint back in transition.  We’ve got to dive for loose balls.  We’ve got to rebound with two hands.  We’ve got to get in a defensive stance.  We’ve got to be out in gaps.  We’ve got to run three-point shooters off the line,” he explained.

In other words, all the small, effort-related items that can help a team weather a cold shooting night and still give itself a chance to win.  Georgia Tech (10-13, 3-9 ACC) has bounced back from dreary games before this year – in their other two losses by 20 or more points, the Yellow Jackets responded to beat No. 21 Mississippi State and No. 3 North Carolina in the following game.  They’ll now aim for a similar reboot against Louisville (7-16, 2-9 ACC) in a game that’s suddenly gained more significance for ACC Tournament seeding.

Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Yellow Jackets seek their first-ever win at the KFC Yum! Center (6:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Naithan George is the only freshman in the nation to average 10 or more points and five or more assists. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Road games naturally raise a team’s focus level, but Georgia Tech may need to find its shooting form quickly.  Despite its 2-9 ACC record, Louisville has topped 90 points and averaged 54% field goal shooting in its last two games.

Louisville – Last 2 games

  • PPG:  96.5
  • FG%:  54.1%
  • PPP:  1.20

Head coach Kenny Payne’s team is stocked with athletic, herky-jerky slashers like Mike James (13.6 ppg), Skyy Clark (13.2 ppg) and 6-7 Tre White (12.7 ppg), all of whom have free rein to attack switches and create off isolations.  Louisville makes the fewest three-pointers in ACC play, though as their 11-of-24 performance against Syracuse attests, low volume doesn’t mean a lack of ability.  They’ve also gotten a boost from forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (11.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg), a strong, 6-10 space eater who has scored 48 points and grabbed 20 rebounds over his last two games.

The Cardinals still struggle with turnovers, but they’re at their best when they play in space.  They also use that athleticism to rack up foul shots, ranking 29th in the nation in free throw attempts per game.  The Yellow Jackets’ ability to ward off paint touches and defend in one-on-one situations will be paramount on Saturday.  So will their ability to defensive rebound – Louisville catapults to the rim well, and the Cardinals have outscored their last three opponents by a combined 35 in second chance points.

*****

Who says a different backdrop makes shooting more difficult?  Georgia Tech currently has three players shooting 42 per percent or better in ACC road games:

ACC road games

  • Kowacie Reeves – 50.0%   (15-of-30)
  • Naithan George – 44.0%   (11-of-25)
  • Miles Kelly – 42.3%   (11-of-26)

They’ll face a Louisville team that’s allowing 37.6 percent from three in conference play, the second highest average in the league.  The Cardinals aren’t an aggressive hedging team like Wake Forest, but the Yellow Jackets can’t let the ball become stuck.  Doing so may only weaponize the Cardinals’ athleticism more.

*****

Georgia Tech opened its 2000 football season with a 21-17 win over UCF at Bobby Dodd Stadium, a game principally known to Tech fans as the starting debut for quarterback George Godsey.

The Jackets had to rally that day after the Knights jumped ahead 17-7 midway through the third quarter thanks to a rushing and receiving touchdown – the latter covering 79 yards – from wide receiver Kenny Clark.

His son, Skyy, is now a sophomore guard for Louisville.  He poured in a team-high 23 points (4-8 3pt.) against Syracuse on Wednesday.

Oddly, in Louisville’s two ACC wins against Miami and Florida State, its second- and third-leading scorers on the year, Clark and White, only scored nine points combined.  It underscores how many different weapons the Cardinals have on offense.

Miles Kelly (13) hits one of his five three-point field goals in Tech’s win over Louisville last February. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

Despite being the only major-conference freshman averaging more than 10 points and 5 assists per game, Naithan George, remarkably, has yet to win an ACC Rookie of the Week award.

The Toronto native built a compelling case last week when he averaged 17 points and 4.5 assists (including one clutch game-winner) against North Carolina and N.C. State.  Alas, George was upstaged by Louisville’s Ty-Laur Johnson (8.7 ppg), who dominated Florida State for 27 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in a 101-92 win.  A 6-0 Brooklyn native, Johnson played in the same AAU program as another 6-0 Brooklyn guard of some renown, Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado.

*****

Back in their post-Metro Conference but pre-ACC days, Georgia Tech and Louisville staged a home-and-home series in 1988 and 1989.  Both games ended in nip-and-tuck affairs:  the Yellow Jackets took the first meeting 62-61 at Freedom Hall, while the Cardinals returned the favor with a 67-65 win the following year at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (you can watch the full NBC broadcast here).

And who, pray tell, hit the game-winning bucket for Louisville that day?  Let the UPI wire report fill you in:

“ATLANTA – Kenny Payne hit a 3-point shot with 42 seconds left Sunday to lift No. 9 Louisville to a 67-65 victory over No. 16 Georgia Tech.”

For his part, Damon Stoudamire harbors no ill will toward his coaching counterpart.  He considers Payne a good friend, and Payne recruited his cousin, Terrence Jones, Jr., to play for him while he was an assistant at Kentucky.

*****

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

-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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