Open mobile menu

Inside The Chart: Georgia Tech vs. Virginia

By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets

“The Good Old Song,” Virginia’s unofficial school song, is set to the music of “Auld Lang Syne.”

How fitting, then, that Georgia Tech (7-5, 0-2 ACC) welcomes the No. 13 Cavaliers to McCamish Pavilion for a New Year’s Eve matchup to resume ACC play.  The Yellow Jackets have had 10 days to recharge following an exasperating ACC home opener against Clemson; Virginia (9-2, 1-1 ACC), Josh Pastner’s preseason pick for ACC champion, dropped its last conference game to Miami but will aim for a tenth straight win over Tech.

Before the ball drops, the ball gets tipped – and perhaps Tech can try to repeat the last time it hosted a ranked ACC opponent on December 31.

Enjoy the top notes from my chart in preparation for Tech’s last game before the calendar turns to 2023 (12 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):

Miles Kelly has scored 44 points over Tech’s last three games, 34 of those in the second half of those games. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

At first glance, Virginia’s roster looks like a glitch.

Did the site administrators forget to refresh the roster page from last season?  Nope, the Cavaliers just returned all five starters from last year’s team, including a pair of All-ACC players who opted to use their COVID year.  As a result, Virginia returned an NCAA-high 91.4 percent of its scoring from last season, including 58 of the 63 points it scored in a win over Georgia Tech in Charlottesville.

That enabled the Cavaliers to rise as high as No. 2 in the national rankings before a recent two-game slide.  Among the Cavaliers’ top returning playmakers:

  • Five-foot-10 Kihei Clark (11.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), the ACC’s leader in assists, is a shrewd, shifty point guard with an Alvarado-esque knack for making tough shots. He’s adept at driving the paint, then passing out or pump-faking his way into fouls or crafty shots.
  • Forward Jayden Gardner (11.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) was the main mismatch-maker in last year’s game, defanging Tech’s zone with elbow jumpers, catch-and-rips, and drives from the short corner. A rugged, 6-7 foul magnet, his 26 points against the Jackets were an ACC season high for him.  The Cavaliers complement him with 6-8 grad transfer Ben Vander Plas from Ohio, a skilled passer from the low post who can also step out and stroke threes.
  • Six-foot-4 Armaan Franklin (10.7 ppg, 40% 3pt.) struggled against Tech last year but comes off screens well and lurks as a catch-and-shoot threat on the perimeter.

The Cavaliers played their last game without guard Reece Beekman (9.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) due to a lingering hamstring injury; the 6-3, 190-pound junior is Virginia’s best slasher and floor-collapsing playmaker.  Tech can’t get detached from cutters early in Virginia’s mover-blocker offense, and they’ll need to stay disciplined late in the shot clock.  The Cavaliers have also suffered from some uneven shooting performances from three-point range lately.  Do they make a more concerted effort to attack off the dribble (as a team Virginia ranks fifth in the nation in free throw rate)?  Do they try to get 6-11 Kadin Shedrick and 7-1 Francisco Caffaro more involved in blowing up defenders on duck-ins?  Worth noting:  according to Synergy, Virginia has faced zone on 2.6 percent of its offensive possessions this year.  Could that work in Tech’s favor Saturday?

*****

In Virginia’s 66-46 win over Albany Wednesday, Clark surpassed Mark Price for 10th in ACC history in minutes played.

Price, of course, did it in one fewer season – and averaged an astounding 36.5 minutes per game across his four-year career.

Deivon Smith has played his last 59 minutes without turning the ball over. (photo by Danny Karnik)

 

In his last three games at McCamish Pavilion, Miles Kelly has scored 10 points in the first half … and 34 points in the second.  His three-point shooting splits are even more startling:

Miles Kelly vs. Georgia, Alabama State, Clemson

PointsFG3pt.
1st half103 of 18  (16.7%)2 of 12
2nd half3411 of 16   (68.8%)6 of 8

Virginia played against Albany without Beekman, an ACC All-Defensive guard who will likely have the tracking device on Kelly.  Georgia Tech can’t shoehorn dribble-drives or be indecisive on jump stops in the paint; Virginia wants to funnel action toward the middle in its Pack Line defense.  They’ll also need to head-hunt screens better and not get engulfed by Virginia’s hedges (of note: Deivon Smith has gone an impressive 59:06 since committing his last turnover).

The Yellow Jackets did a better job down the stretch of scoring off the second and third side in the half-court against Clemson.  That could be critical against a Virginia team that limits transition and early offense shots.  It sounds ludicrous given they rank 19th nationally in defensive efficiency – or maybe it’s indicative of their sky-high defensive standards – but the Cavaliers have dealt with more lapses and late closeouts they’re accustomed to seeing.  Jalon Moore and Ja’von Franklin’s athleticism could be key at the “4” and “5” spots.

*****

Gardner enters Saturday’s game with 2,113 career points, the fourth most among active players in the nation.

For perspective, Rodney Howard, Kyle Sturdivant, Ja’Von Franklin, Lance Terry, Deivon Smith and Deebo Coleman entered the season with 2,132 career points.

It may have gotten overshadowed, but Sturdivant’s 14 points against Clemson tied a career high for him in ACC play.

*****

Freshman guard Isaac McKneely made his first career start for Virginia Wednesday, scoring five points in 27 minutes.  As his online bio states, McKneely earned back-to-back West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year awards playing for Poca High School in his native Poca, W.Va.

Unfortunately his bio buries the lede a little:  it doesn’t mention his high school’s nickname.  McKneely played for the Poca Dots.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you at McCamish.

*****

Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well.  Join us for pregame coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports.  See you at McCamish Pavilion.

-AD-

RELATED HEADLINES

Men's Basketball FRIDAY REWIND: Men's Basketball Downs Georgia Southern

Yellow Jackets begin their first season under Damon Stoudamire with a 22-point win over the Eagles

FRIDAY REWIND: Men's Basketball Downs Georgia Southern
Men's Basketball George, Murphy Earns Spots on All-ACC Academic Team

Freshman guard, graduate senior performed well on and off the court in 2023-24

George, Murphy Earns Spots on All-ACC Academic Team
Men's Basketball Georgia Tech #ProJackets Basketball Report

News and notes on the Yellow Jackets in the professional ranks

Georgia Tech #ProJackets Basketball Report
Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Legends Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Partner of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets