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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Louisville

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

When coaches construct their scouting reports, they only see talent, not records.

So follow that lead and set aside Louisville’s 4-24 record, 2-15 in ACC play.  Since a 68-58 win over Georgia Tech February 1, the Cardinals have taken No. 6 Virginia to the wire, beaten Clemson by 10 at home, shot 58 percent in a road game against league-leading Miami, and jumped out to an 18-9 lead at Duke on Monday.  It may still qualify as an annus horribilis in the Derby City, but the Cardinals come to McCamish Pavilion with increasing confidence in their identity.

Then again, Louisville’s coaches could say the same thing about Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-14 ACC).  They’ve had five straight games averaging better than a point per possession, consecutive home wins in the ACC, and 40-minute fistfights on the road against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh.

To paraphrase the old investment disclaimer, past performance does not guarantee future play.  Saturday’s home finale figures to be a hotly-contested one.

“We’ll have to play really, really well on Saturday, with great energy,” head coach Josh Pastner said.

Then again, there’s also this:  Louisville has lost 17 straight road games since beating Tech at McCamish last January.

In a game that could be played on a razor’s edge, can that help tilt Georgia Tech to a Senior Day win?  Enjoy the top notes from my chart before the curtain closes at McCamish (2 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports).

Lance Terry has played all 40 minutes in each of Tech’s ACC wins. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

In another sign of its improvement, Louisville has averaged 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range over its last four games.  Even more impressive, their opponents (Miami, Virginia, Clemson, Duke) rank 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th in the ACC in defensive efficiency.

Leading the charge is 6-3 guard El Ellis (18.1 ppg, 4.6 apg), the ACC Co-Player of the Week who scored 31 in the Cards’ win over Clemson.  One of the ACC’s top heat-check scorers, he’s an athletic finisher with a knack for making tough pull-ups.  One of their favorite actions for him involves a down screen for a post player, who sprints from the block to the top of the key to set a screen for Ellis.  The Cardinals have also gained back 6-10, 250-pound Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (7.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg), who didn’t play in the first meeting with Tech due to a foot injury.

El Ellis – Last 4 games

  • PPG:  25.8
  • FG%:  55.3%
  • 3pt.%:  48.0%
  • FT%:  90.4%

As Louisville smooths out its dribble drive-heavy offense, teams no longer have the luxury of loading up on Ellis.  Six-foot-8 J.J. Traynor has scored 16 points in back-to-back games and has made 7 of his last 10 threes.  Six-foot-8 Jae’Lyn Withers (42.9% 3pt.) only had 2 points against Duke but poured in a season-high 19 against Tech in Louisville.  Guard Mike James (9.3 ppg) can also rip and shoot off the bounce.

Despite their record, the Cardinals rank a surprising 5th in the ACC in three-point percentage in conference play (35.6%).  They’ve also tamped down their turnovers of late, which had been a season-long source of frustration for Cardinals fans.  Tech will need to keep its stick hand high against Louisville’s jumbo shooters – its close-outs were sometimes a tick slow against Pittsburgh, leading to some untimely threes.  They’ll also need to win 50-50 balls and rotational-rebound better – a minus-14 margin didn’t help Tech’s cause in the first meeting.

*****

An impressive turnaround that may have gone overlooked Tuesday:

When they faced Pittsburgh in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets slogged through their second worst two-point field goal percentage of the season.

In the rematch, they finished with their second highest percentage of the season.

2pt. FG%

  • Jan. 14 vs. Pittsburgh – 32.4% (12 of 37)
  • Feb. 21 at Pittsburgh – 63.0%  (17 of 27)

The Jackets will aim for a similar 180 against the Cardinals, who possess long, athletic guards and forbidding size underneath.  Georgia Tech’s season worst two-point field goal percentage was against Louisville (32.3%), part of a languid shooting night against the ACC’s worst efficiency defense.

Tech didn’t have Deivon Smith or Lance Terry, but they’ll need to do a better job getting below the free throw line against Louisville’s zone.  Can Tech’s ball movement test Louisville’s defensive discipline and chop down their size?  And can they avoid the erratic shots that Louisville uses to trigger fast breaks, where they love to set drag screens for Ellis?

*****

When Josh Pastner pursed his lips and subbed out Lance Terry after the senior picked up his third foul at the 12:04 mark of the first half against Pittsburgh, it was a reluctant but necessary move.  It also set an ominous tone for the Yellow Jackets’ chances.

No pressure Lance, but he’s played all 40 minutes in each of Georgia Tech’s ACC wins.

Miles Kelly struck for six threes and 24 points, both career highs, at Pittsburgh. (photo by Brandon Chmura)

 

The opening minutes didn’t offer much of an omen.

Miles Kelly missed his first four shots, including all three of his three-point attempts, as Georgia Tech trailed Pittsburgh 15-7.  For good measure, he picked up two fouls and tweaked his leg while contesting a three-point shot.

Clearly the slow start didn’t scare him.  Kelly finished with a career-high 24 points, including a career-best six threes in 13 attempts.

His career night also included a 2-for-2 trip at the free throw line, which has quietly inched Kelly toward a school record.  After his performance Tuesday, Kelly has lifted his season free throw percentage to 88.9 percent, which has nudged him past Anthony Morrow for the highest average in school history:

Highest Single-Season FT%
PlayerYearFT%FTM-FTA
Miles Kelly2022-2388.90%40-45
Anthony Morrow2005-0688.70%63-71
Mark Price1982-8387.70%93-106

He hasn’t made enough free throws to qualify for the ACC or NCAA leaderboards, but Georgia Tech recognizes anyone who was a regular part of the rotation as eligible for its school record books.  His accuracy may need to rub off on the rest of the team Saturday:  Louisville has made a staggering 87.5 percent of its free throws (77 of 88) over its last six games.

*****

Perhaps they left it out of his online bio out of modesty, but Louisville innocuously lists sophomore guard Hercy Miller as the son of Percy Miller.

As in Percy “Master P” Miller, the legendary rapper and music producer.

Yet in his online bio, Hercy Miller lists his favorite musician as … Travis Scott.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  For the last time this year, see you at McCamish.

-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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