By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
It turned into a longer holiday break than expected, but after an 11-day pause due under health and safety protocols, Georgia Tech finally returns to the court Sunday for a pair of New Years.
There’s the conventional, Gregorian calendar New Year, obviously. But there’s also the more pertinent New Year for Josh Pastner and the Yellow Jackets: the restart of ACC play, which brings Louisville (8-4, 2-0 ACC) to McCamish Pavilion.
The Cardinals have already had a rust-buster coming out of their COVID break, rallying from a nine-point deficit to beat Wake Forest 73-69 on Wednesday. Tech will need to find its chemistry quickly against another rugged, rejuvenated defensive team.
Enjoy the top five notes from my chart as Georgia Tech looks to ring in 2022 with its first conference win (6 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Tech players other than Michael Devoe were 8-of-14 from three-point range against Georgia State. (photo by Danny Karnik)
It may have gotten overlooked amid the drama and whiplash-inducing momentum swings, but Georgia Tech’s guards put together an impressive defensive performance against Georgia State’s top three scorers. The Jackets held the Panthers’ guard trio of Corey Allen, Justin Roberts and Kane Williams to a combined 20.0-percent shooting (7-of-35) in their 72-62 overtime win on Dec. 21.
Louisville had to reconstruct its backcourt this offseason after losing All-ACC guards Carlik Jones and David Johnson to graduation and the NBA Draft. After finishing 297th in the nation in three-point percentage, head coach Chris Mack tilled the transfer portal for some immediate shooting help:
|3pt% last season
Louisville knocked down 10 of 22 threes against Wake Forest, highlighted by a 5-of-7 performance from Locke, but an improved three-point shooting team hasn’t quite materialized for the Cardinals. Louisville ranks 13th in the ACC in three-point percentage (31.5 pct.) despite attempting the second-highest volume of threes in the ACC behind Notre Dame (43.6 percent of their overall FGA). The Yellow Jackets will have to limit breakdowns off ball screens and use their “stick hand” when closing out on Louisville’s shooters. The Cardinals’ last two losses (DePaul and Western Kentucky) came against teams that primarily played zone, though Louisville has had above-average success against Georgia Tech’s zone in recent seasons.
Having breakdowns off ball screens can also put a team out of rotation for defensive rebounds. Tech allowed 20 offensive rebounds and an ACC-high 20 second-chance points against the Cardinals in their meeting last year, a 74-58 Louisville win at the KFC Yum! Center. Samuell Williamson, a bouncy, sinewy 6-7 guard, had a career-high 20 points and 18 rebounds in that game, while 6-11, 250-pound Malik Williams gives them a rangy presence around the rim. In addition to catching on slips and post-ups, Williams will also pick-and-pop for three.
In Georgia Tech’s six wins, players other than Michael Devoe have made 43.7 percent of their threes.
In Georgia Tech’s five losses, players other than Devoe have only made 20.7 percent.
The Jackets were able to weather Devoe’s worst three-point shooting game of the season versus Georgia State (1-of-8) in large part because his teammates connected on 8 of 14 of their threes.
Georgia Tech will have to re-discover its rhythm Sunday against yet another bracing defensive team. Louisville leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense (38.6 pct.) and ranks 22nd in the nation in KenPom defensive efficiency, marking the fourth time in Tech’s last six games that an opponent comes in with a top-25 defensive rating.
|Defensive Efficiency Rating
Look for a Louisville team that packs the lane, fronts the post, forces action to the middle, helps hard from the weak side, and closes hard on shooters. West, whose 277 career steals rank third among active players nationally, is an effective irritant at the point of attack. On Wednesday he held Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams, a 21-point-a-game scorer, to just 4-of-14 shooting.
Georgia Tech shot a season-low 32 percent against the Cardinals last year, though that can be partly attributed to the Yellow Jackets playing less than 48 hours after a grueling win over No. 16 Florida State. Josh Pastner says his team needs to be efficient in offensive transition and cut down on the turnovers that almost cost them against Georgia State. Along with more balanced three-point shooting, can Tech also avoid the kind of late-half lulls that have hampered them in recent games?
|12-4 last 3:53
|8-0 last 1:45
|8-0 last 1:58
Dallan “Deebo” Coleman has emerged as one of the foremost freshmen in the ACC, (photo by Danny Karnik)
The nickname has come in vogue in recent years, with players like San Francisco 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel bringing it into the national spotlight. The timing makes sense: parents of that generation came up watching the movie, so naturally they’d transfer the nickname over to their kids.
So it begs the question. Did Dellan Coleman’s parents nickname their son “Deebo” after the oversized bully from the 1995 film Friday?
Not exactly, Coleman told me. He said his parents nicknamed him Deebo because, in his words, “I was a chunky baby and I ate everything.”
It almost defies belief, but Louisville forward Jae’Lyn Withers became the Cardinals’ first Freshman All-ACC selection last year since they joined the ACC in 2012. Withers attended North Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte as a junior, where assistant coach Julian Swartz scouted him that spring.
The Jackets couldn’t land Withers, who played a small-ball center role for the Cardinals last season, but Swartz’s visit didn’t go completely for naught. One of North Mecklenburg’s assistants tipped him off about another player on his team, a sophomore who had started to show major-college potential.
The player? Withers’ teammate, Tristan Maxwell.
By the way, Georgia Tech beat Georgia State with Maxwell making more field goals in the second half (1) than Michael Devoe, the nation’s second-leading scorer (0).
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.