Jan. 7, 2017
By Andy Demetra, Georgia Tech Radio
– The swing between Georgia Tech’s first and second ACC game may be equaled only by the swing in weather this weekend in Atlanta.
After a 12-point upset of North Carolina Saturday, the Yellow Jackets (9-5, 1-1 ACC) ran into a blue-colored buzzsaw Wednesday, falling 110-57 to No. 8 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The ACC demands a short memory, though, and head coach Josh Pastner said his team can’t suffer from a “woe is me syndrome” heading into Saturday’s contest with No. 9 Louisville (12-3, 0-2 ACC) at McCamish Pavilion.
Let’s see what the forecast calls for to get a win. My five favorite notes from my chart while preparing for Louisville:
The main concern for Tech: cracking Louisville’s suffocating defense, which leads the nation in efficiency (86.8 points allowed per 100 possessions). Though not as reliant on the press as years past, Rick Pitino’s team will trap, confuse, and use their octopus-like length to get deflections and deny clean looks. Louisville’s length is particularly troublesome outside the arc, where the Cardinals rank fifth in the country in three-point defense (28.0 percent). That might not be as fatal for Tech, though, as the Jackets only score 17.7 percent of their points on three-pointers, the sixth-lowest percentage in the country.
After the Duke game, Pastner told us his players too often let their missed shots affect their intensity on the defensive end. Can they avoid feeling deflated and continue to “play through,” even if Louisville’s defense makes life difficult on them?
Duke buried Georgia Tech under an avalanche of threes, shooting 16 of 31 on the night. Saturday’s game might offer some relief – despite its record, Louisville ranks last in the ACC in three-point shooting (32.4 percent). In fact, the Cardinals have the lowest field goal percentage of any team currently ranked in the top 25. Can the Yellow Jackets not get broken down as easily off the dribble, which leads to late rotations and open looks off “plus-one” passes? Louisville also excels on the offensive glass (No. 13 NCAA on offensive rebound percentage); getting out of shape defensively can lead to poor angles for possession-ending rebounds.
Shooting guard Donovan Mitchell may be the Cardinals’ most likely heat-check candidate: he’s scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games, including 20 in a 77-70 loss to Notre Dame Wednesday.
Jodan Price won’t be the only Price who’s busy in Atlanta Saturday. His uncle, Joseph Price, is the head coach at Central State in Wilberforce, Ohio. At the same time Jodan and the Jackets are facing Louisville, Joseph will be across town coaching Central State against Morehouse. Price faced Louisville last season as a member of Eastern Michigan, scoring three points and grabbing three rebounds.
Duke was lethally efficient converting off Georgia Tech mistakes, scoring 26 points off 13 Tech turnovers. That could again be a hazard against Louisville: the Cardinals average 15.8 points per game against turnovers.
Pastner told us before the Duke game that his team needed to be “ball-tough” and value possessions. That principle might again apply against the Cardinals, who have a reputation for uneven offense in the halfcourt. Josh Heath’s steady hand could be key as the Jackets look to cut off Louisville’s transition.
Saturday’s game pits the top two shot blockers in the ACC in Tech’s Ben Lammers and Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud. A 7-foot native of Egypt, Mahmoud also poured in a career-high 15 points in the Cardinals’ win in Atlanta last season. Lammers endured his first block-less game of the season against Duke, but still comes in averaging 3.3 swats per game. Who was the last Yellow Jacket to lead the ACC in blocks? Chris Bosh in 2003.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our coverage of Georgia Tech versus Louisville begins at 1:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you at McCamish. -AD