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Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Virginia

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech’s last game:  On the road, facing a team in ESPN’s “Last Four In” for the NCAA Tournament, that had beaten them once before this season and had gone 15-0 at home.

Mission accomplished.

Georgia Tech’s next game:  On the road, facing a team in ESPN’s “Last Four In” for the NCAA Tournament, that had beaten them once before this season – and has won 11 straight in the series, is coming off a midweek bye, will be playing on its Senior Day.

Hey, it’s March.  Why not?

The Yellow Jackets can continue to be the ultimate chaos agent as the regular season winds down – while continuing to burnish themselves as a dangerous double-digit seed for the ACC Tournament.  After defying the odds at Wake Forest, Georgia Tech (14-16, 7-12) now takes its late-season revenge tour to Charlottesville to face Virginia (21-9, 12-7 ACC) at John Paul Jones Arena.  Despite sitting in third place in the ACC, the Cavaliers have dropped three of their last four and find themselves teetering on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” Virginia forward Ryan Dunn said after a 73-48 rout at Duke last Saturday.

Motivation, desperation, home court advantage, the emotion of Senior Day – the Cavaliers have all the propulsive intangibles a team can want in March, not to mention the confidence of a 75-66 defeat of Tech in January.  But as they also surely know, Georgia Tech has beaten five of the top seven teams in the ACC.  Can the Jackets overcome those intangibles and deliver one more head-turning win to close out the regular season?  Enjoy the top notes, quotes and anecdotes from my chart as Tech hits the road for the final time (8 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network):

Miles Kelly has hit 50 percent of his three-point tries in Tech’s ACC road games. (photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletics)

 

With its tortoise-like pace and bristling defense (No. 9 in NCAA defensive efficiency), Virginia has never needed to light up a scoreboard to win.  Yet scoring has been even more of a challenge than usual for the Cavaliers, whose offensive efficiency rating ranks 13th in the ACC in conference play.

Virginia’s offense looked plenty functional in Atlanta, where they shot 50 percent and sank 11 threes to erase an early 11-point deficit.  Guard Reece Beekman (19 points, career-high 11 assists vs. Georgia Tech) is a terrific reader of defenses coming off wide pindowns and baseline screens, which Virginia used often to enter into its offense in Atlanta.  Isaac McKneely (12.2 ppg, 45% 3pt.) remains a cunning catch-and-shoot threat off screens who drilled 6-of-9 threes against the Jackets, while the Cavaliers recently inserted 6-11 Jacob Groves (48.3% 3pt.) into the starting lineup to give them another outside shooting threat.  Tech will need to play well when cross-matched and win 50-50 balls on defense.

Virginia doesn’t attempt a gratuitous number of threes – their three-point rate (3PA/FGA) ranks 13th in the ACC, ahead of only Florida State and Louisville – but it’d be wise to pay attention to the arc this Saturday.

Virginia is 14-2 when it shoots better than 33 percent from three-point range.

They’re 7-9 when they don’t.

*****

In its win over Wake Forest, Georgia Tech became just the fourth team in Division I to win a game this year while attempting two or fewer free throws.

Wins with 2/less FTA – 2023=24
DateTeamFTM-FTA
3/5/2024Georgia Tech @ Wake Forest2-2
1/28/2024Marist @ Canisius2-2
1/24/2024Lafayette @ Loyola (MD)2-2
1/15/2024Cornell @ Penn1-1

Virginia rarely sends teams to the foul line, but the Cavaliers have struggled mightily at the line themselves – they rank 338th in the nation, converting just 64.9 percent of their free throws.

*****

The state of Wisconsin had five players named Associated Press first-team boys’ all-state in 2022.

Four of them play in the ACC – Danilo Jovanovich (Louisville), Seth Trimble (North Carolina), and Virginia’s tandem of Leon Bond III and Andrew Rohde.

That pipeline shouldn’t strain credulity in Charlottesville – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett grew up in the state and played collegiately at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Tafara Gapare has averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 reboounds in Tech’s last five games. (photo courtesy of Wake Forest athletics)

 

The state of Wisconsin had five players named Associated Press first-team boys’ all-state in 2022.

Four of them play in the ACC – Danilo Jovanovich (Louisville), Seth Trimble (North Carolina), and Virginia’s tandem of Leon Bond III and Andrew Rohde.

That pipeline shouldn’t strain credulity in Charlottesville – Virginia head coach Tony Bennett grew up in the state and played collegiately at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

*****

Bubble or not, Virginia can still make you question your life choices on offense.

With its hard hedges and devotion to taking away middle drives, the Cavaliers can make every possession feel like a battle of attrition.  Beekman broke UVa’s all-time career steals record against Duke and gives the Cavs an artful, always-lurking defender á la Wake Forest’s Cameron Hildreth, who had four steals against Tech.  Beekman could become the first player to win back-to-back ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards since 2012 – but he could get upstaged by teammate Ryan Dunn (2.4 bpg, 1.3 spg), a 6-8 snapping turtle whom assistant Pershin Williams compared to Atlanta Hawks forward Jalen Johnson.

To succeed on Saturday, Tech will need to play well out of “randoms”Damon Stoudamire’s term for when a halfcourt set starts to go off script.  Dunn will likely be utilized on Baye Ndongo, who still ranks second in the ACC in field goal percentage, or Tafara Gapare, who has strung together some balanced box scores lately.  Check out Gapare’s plus-minus splits over the last three games:

Georgia Tech point differential

Gapare on floor:  +34

Gapare off floor:  -20

Also worth noting:  Miles Kelly has made 50 percent of his three-pointers in ACC road games.

*****

Damon Stoudamire knows a thing or two about knocking off Virginia in March.  Thirty years ago, he scored 20 points in Arizona’s 71-58 defeat of the Cavaliers in the second round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament in Sacramento, Calif.  One of Virginia’s starters that day was Jason Williford, a current UVa assistant.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network.  See you in Charlottesville.

-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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