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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Virginia

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

They fought.  They didn’t fold.  And this time, they finished.

After several games where its offense stalled or the defense slipped late, Georgia Tech (9-8, 2-4 ACC) finally got the ending it wanted Tuesday in a nail-biting, double-overtime win over Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Back to the “left side of the column,” as Damon Stoudamire casually calls it.

Tech’s head coach had seen this breakthrough coming.  And after working so hard to achieve it, neither he nor the Yellow Jackets want to see any slippage.  Even if it means getting past one of the ACC’s stingiest defenses to do it.

Virginia (12-5, 3-3 ACC), Georgia Tech’s next opponent at McCamish Pavilion, brings in the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense and has spent time in the Top 25.  Yet stunningly, the Cavaliers have gone 0-4 on the road this year – with an average margin of defeat of 20 points.

The Jackets will need to address that urgency early if they want to finish the night with another visit to the left side of the column.  Enjoy the top notes from my chart as Tech looks for its first win over Virginia since 2016 (6 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Kowacie Reeves, Jr. (14) made 5-of-7 three-pointers at Clemson, and his 52.9-percent rate in ACC games is the best in the conference. (photo by Jaylynn Nash)

 

No, your eyes weren’t deceiving you.  Georgia Tech did throw in some surprise 2-3 zone against Clemson, hoping to throw off a Tigers team that led the ACC in offensive efficiency.

Damon Stoudamire prefers man-to-man, but as he relayed on his radio show, he isn’t averse to sprinkling in some spurts of zone.  Still, how rare was it to see that tactic from Tech?  The Yellow Jackets played more possession of zone against Clemson than they had all season combined.

Total zone possessions – 2023-24

  • First 16 games:  11
  • Clemson: 15

The zone proved especially effective in overtime, when Clemson managed just 5 of 18 field goals.

*****

Scoring has been a grind for Virginia this year, but the Cavaliers come in refreshed following a crisp, 65-57 win over Virginia Tech.

The Cavs lost four starters from last year’s ACC regular season championship team, but they still feature senior Reece Beekman (12.9 ppg), a heady, versatile guard and preseason first-eam All-ACC pick who leads the ACC in assists.  Six-foot-8 wing Ryan Dunn (9.5 ppg) has started to appear in the first round of NBA mock drafts for his skills as a lob threat and attacking, athletic driver.  Guard Isaac McKneely (11.4 ppg), a 46.8-percent three-point shooter, does a terrific job manipulating screens in the Cavaliers’ mover-blocker offense.  His ability to get going can ignite the rest of his teammates – and he may be seeking threes early after going 0-for-4 from deep over his last two games.

The Cavaliers also got a boost Wednesday from 6-8 grad transfer Ryan Minor, who scored a season-high 16 points and gave Virginia some much-needed “grown man strength” on drop-off and pocket passes.  Tyzhaun Claude, who logged a career-high 38 minutes against Clemson, could be a physical counterpoint to him.

Tech will need to stay disciplined working around the wide pindowns and baseline pindowns that Virginia likes to use to enter into its offense.  Can they also protect the defensive glass better?  The Cavaliers rank last in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, but Tech can’t take anything for granted after allowing 22 offensive boards to Clemson.  Pay attention to Beekman, whose shooting has been a bellwether of the Cavaliers’ ACC success this year:

Reece Beekman – ACC games

  • Wins:  55.5%   (15 of 27)
  • Losses:  29.8%   (10 of 34)

*****

Georgia Tech has surpassed 50 percent shooting in five games this year.

Four of them have come in ACC play.

A sixth may be tricky against Virginia and its vaunted Pack Line defense, which has helped them rank 12th in the nation in defensive efficiency and sixth in turnover margin (+5.6).  Beekman, the ACC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is a clingy defender around pick-and-rolls, and Dunn is a one-man possession wrecker who recorded seven steals in a win over Florida.

Look for Virginia to take away straight line drives, collapse quickly on post touches, and stifle pick-and-rolls with hard hedges.  Damon Stoudamire knows his team isn’t flush with one-on-one creators, which could cause problems against a Virginia defense that forces plenty of late shot clock possessions.  The Jackets have averaged 11.7 three-pointers over their last four games; with the Cavaliers’ ability to overheat an offense, they’ll need to keep their rhythm and not get rushed when shooting off the catch.

Tech played more possessions of zone defense at Clemson than it had in the previous 16 games combined. (photo by Jaylynn Nash)

 

Kowacie Reeves, Jr., shot 19% from three-point range in SEC play last year.

The ACC’s current leader in three-point percentage in conference play?  Kowacie Reeves.

Kowacie Reeves – 3pt.% (conference games only)

  • Last year (Florida): 19.2%   (15 of 78)
  • This year (Georgia Tech):  52.9%   (18 of 34)

Don’t overlook Naithan George’s floor-stretching ability either.  The freshman started the year 7-of-37 from three.  He’s 7-of-13 over his last two games.

*****

They didn’t realize it at the time, but freshmen Ibrahima Sacko and Ibrahim Souare shared the same building as one of their basketball mentors Monday.

While Tech was bunkered in a morning film session at the Zelnak Practice Facility, several coaches and players from the San Antonio Spurs had stopped off at McCamish Pavilion for a workout session ahead of their MLK Day game against the Atlanta Hawks.  Among them was forward Mamadi Diakite, a former standout at Virginia and native of Conakry, Guinea, Sacko and Souare’s hometown.

Sacko brightened when told of Diakite’s presence Monday.  Though he and Souare missed seeing him, he said he texted with him a couple days earlier.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 5:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  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 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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