Jan. 15, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
Something about those 75-63 finals…
Riding the tailwind of a 75-63 win over Clemson — the exact score as its first conference win over North Carolina — Georgia Tech (10-6, 2-2 ACC) heads to PNC Arena Sunday night to face mercurial N.C. State (12-4, 1-3 ACC). Once again, its opponent won’t lack for motivation: for a fourth straight game, Tech’s opponent comes in following a frustrating loss. N.C. State fell 74-66 to Boston College on Wednesday. Don’t let that score deceive you, warned Josh Pastner.
“They’re one of the most talented teams in the league,” Pastner said. “And they’re really good at home, too.”
Presenting my five favorite notes from my chart for Sunday’s contest in Raleigh (6:30 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Is the highest projected draft pick in the ACC a one-and-done at Duke? A member of the national runner-up Tar Heels? Nope, it’s NC State freshman Dennis Smith Jr., tabbed by Draft Express as the #3 overall pick. A 6-3, 195-pound point guard, Smith laid down his bona fides Jan. 4 when he became the first freshman in ACC history to record a triple-double in a conference game, dropping a 27-11-11 against Virginia Tech.
Wildly athletic and a ball-on-a-string dribbler, Smith can explode to the rim in the mold of a John Wall or Eric Bledsoe. He leads the ACC in assists (6.2); his ability to attract weakside help on dribble-drives often opens the floor for backcourt mates Terry Henderson (39.6 percent on threes), Torin Dorn (46.5 percent on threes) and Maverick Rowan (8-18 on threes vs. the ACC). He’s also gained an emerging pick-and-pop presence in freshman center Omer Yurtseven, who became eligible in December. The Jackets will have to be sharp in their ball screen coverages and do everything they can to keep Smith out of the paint — he only shoots 29 percent on two-point jumpers according to HoopMath.
How is Justin Moore holding up following the news that his hometown San Diego Chargers have relocated to Los Angeles? Moore told me he’s a lifelong Raiders fan, but he feels sick that a civic institution like the Chargers would flee his city. He also has a more personal connection to the Chargers: his cousin is San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen.
A hidden key in Tech’s win versus Clemson? The Yellow Jackets only allowed one offensive rebound on 15 missed field goal attempts in the second half. The Tigers managed just one second-chance point after scoring 9 in the first half. Beware Abdul Malik-Abu, NC State’s main mauler inside: the 6-8, 240-pound junior poured in a career-high 22 points against Tech last season.
“When guys watch, I lose it.” – Josh Pastner on his guards’ inability to grab rebounds.
That skill may get overlooked amid the more traditional measuring sticks for guard play (shooting, assists, steals, etc.), but not to Pastner, who believes it can single-handedly swing a game. After a lackluster showing against Louisville, Pastner had praise Thursday for his trio of Moore, Josh Heath and Tadric Jackson, who combined to grab eight rebounds against Clemson.
Why could it be important Sunday? Guard rebounds often lead to runouts, and NC State has struggled this year in defensive transition. In their loss to Boston College, the Eagles outscored them 10-2 in fast break points.
Former Yellow Jackets Jarrett Jack and Thaddeus Young teamed up together on the 2015-16 Brooklyn Nets. On October 5, 2015, the Nets played a preseason game at the Barclays Center against Turkish club Fenerbahce. One of Fenerbahce’s reserves that night was Yurtseven, NC State’s freshman center, who scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds in 15 minutes. His performance, though unremarkable, was historic: at 15 years old, Yurtseven became the youngest person to ever play in a preseason NBA game. Young and Jack were both on the floor when Yurtseven subbed in for the first time.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 6 p.m. Sunday on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you in Raleigh.