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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Miami

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

“On paper it doesn’t look like we’re playing for anything,” head coach Damon Stoudamire said on Friday, “but we’re playing for everything.”

A listless, late-season loss can sometimes cause a team to lose its fight, to let its habits fade, to let its hustle fall off.  Stoudamire doesn’t want that.  Won’t permit it.  Which may be why that line served not just as some banal, press conference fluff, but a mission statement for Georgia Tech (11-16, 4-12 ACC) as it heads into another road matchup in the ACC.

Miami (15-12, 6-10 ACC) also suffered a tough home loss on Wednesday, falling 84-55 to Duke.  The Hurricanes, their chances of an NCAA Tournament berth getting remote, will be looking to avoid some of the same emotional pitfalls as the Yellow Jackets.

That shared mindset – and which team can bring the effort and fight coming out of a rough, late-season loss – may be the game within the game Saturday, giving Tech and Miami’s lone meeting at the Watsco Center an intrigue all its own.

Enjoy the top notes, quotes and anecdotes from my chart as Tech prepares for the Hurricanes in Coral Gables (4 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network):

Tafara Gapare (5) has scored in double digits in Tech’s last two games. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

After an historic run to the Final Four, followed by a preseason No. 13 national ranking, Miami entered the year with visions of another deep run in March.

The Hurricanes instead limp in to Saturday on a five-game losing streak, with injuries unraveling almost any hope of an encore.  The Hurricanes’ starters account for 88 percent of their points, meaning any injury would have an outsized impact on their scoring, and lately Miami has dealt with a pair of them to forward Matthew Cleveland (14.0 ppg) and guard Nijel Pack (13.7 ppg).  Both remain questionable for Saturday.

Regardless of their availability, Tech will still have to deal with 6-7 Norchad Omier (17.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg), who roams in the alleys and gives Miami a bouncy, forceful presence underneath.  After a 3-of-14 shooting performance against Duke, the pre-season, first-team All-ACC forward will likely waste little time getting engaged.  Outside, guards Wooga Poplar (13.7 ppg) and Bensley Joseph (8.8 ppg) have deep range and can score off isolations, with Poplar especially gifted at pull-ups.  Along with Pack, the Hurricanes hunt threes and are effective at chasing down long offensive rebounds.

Head coach Jim Larrañaga has lamented his team getting outworked during its losing streak.  Tech will need to defend well against Miami’s dribble weaves and DHO’s, which aims to clear out the lane for them to attack off a pick-and-roll.  They’ll also look to strike quickly after defensive rebounds and turnovers, even if a team hurries back.  Can the Jackets force a steady diet of non-rim two’s and limit transition against a Hurricanes team that still features plenty of talented individual scorers?

*****

Georgia Tech upset Miami 76-70 at McCamish Pavilion last year, highlighted by a career-high 24 points from guard Lance Terry.

Alas, Tech won’t have his services for the rematch:  while he still accompanies the Yellow Jackets on most of their road trips, a nagging leg injury forced the senior to take a redshirt in December.

Though if the situation calls for scoring Saturday, he’s already found a workaround to maintain his eligibility.

“I’ll check in and wear Marcos’ jersey,” Terry joked, referring to walk-on Marcos San Miguel.

*****

Damon Stoudamire said he can live with mistakes from Tafara Gapare, so long as they come from a place of aggression.

The sophomore has obliged of late, using his long strides and condor-like wingspan to attack the rim more consistently.  It’s no surprise, then, that Gapare has scored in double figures in back-to-back games after having only one such game all season.

It’s also resulted in a late-season harvest of free throws for the Wellington, New Zealand native, who has helped give Tech a much-needed boost from their front line.

To wit:  Gapare and Baye Ndongo have gone 23 of 29 at the free throw line in their last five games (79.3 pct.).

Gapare & Ndongo 
FT%FTA/g
Last 5 games:79.30%5.8
Previous 22 games:59.50%3.8

Free throw trips may be hard to come by against the Hurricanes:  Miami averages the fourth-fewest fouls in the nation, and they allow the lowest volume of points to come off free throws in the ACC.

Though they share the same surname and family ties to Canada, Tech’s Naithan George (2) and Miami’s Kyshawn George are not related. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

They’re slender freshmen guards who are both easy to spot by their frizzy, billowing tendrils of hair.

It’s tempting to ask, but no, Georgia Tech’s Naithan George and Miami’s Kyshawn George aren’t related.  The 6-8, 205-pound Kyshawn George came to Coral Gables via Monthey, Switzerland – though his Dad, like Naithan, also grew up in Canada.

Stoudamire has acknowledged that George may be weathering a bit of a freshman wall, but he’s still shooting 41 percent from three in ACC road games.  Why may that be worth monitoring on Saturday?  Miami allows the most three-pointers in ACC play, with 46 percent of their opponents’ shots coming from behind the arc.

*****

Georgia Tech assistant Bonzi Wells still holds the Ball State arena record for assists in a game, dishing out 12 in 79-75 overtime win over MAC powerhouse Bowling Green in February of 1997.

He’s likely not the only one at the Watsco Center who remembers that record-setting performance:  Bowling Green’s head coach at the time was Jim Larrañaga.  He led the Falcons to a school-record 22 wins that year before leaving to take the head job at George Mason.

Overhearing that after practice Friday, fellow assistant Pershin Williams couldn’t resist.

“How was that possible?  You only had 13 assists all year,” Williams quipped to Wells.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network.  See you in Coral Gables.

-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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