Jan. 27, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Georgia Tech Radio
– How do you celebrate a rout over the No. 6 team in the country, a win that turned heads across college basketball?
If you’re Josh Pastner, you fulfill five interview requests the following day. And another one Friday morning. Then dive back into your preparation for another gifted offensive team Saturday.
After a 78-56 thrashing of Florida State – Tech’s largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 1991 – the Yellow Jackets now play host to No. 14 Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2 ACC) at McCamish Pavilion. The Fighting Irish, who have advanced to back-to-back Elite Eights, will look to shake off two losses in their last three games.
The Jackets, meanwhile, will look to get people talking even more.
Here are my five favorite notes from my chart in preparation for Saturday’s game at McCamish (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network).
Defense, if you believe the old coaching adage, takes no special skill. So perhaps it’s fitting that Georgia Tech – a team Pastner insists does not have elite skill – has evolved into an excellent defensive unit.
Just how suffocating have the Yellow Jackets been lately? In their last three games, they’ve faced the top three teams in the ACC in shooting percentage. Now look at how they’ve fared against the Jackets:
ACC Rank – FG% – vs. Georgia Tech
1. Virginia – 2nd lowest 3pt.% of season (.227)
2. Virginia Tech – Season-low FG% (.400)
3. Florida State – Season-low FG% (.282)
The Yellow Jackets have suddenly turned into straitjackets on defense. Even Pastner’s texting buddy, Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, might approve.
Ben Lammers recorded his 10th double-double of the season Wednesday, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the Seminoles. He’ll now face the ACC’s leader in that category, junior forward Bonzie Colson II (15.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg).
That might seem surprising on the surface. Colson – whose Dad, Bonzie, played for Rhode Island in the same East Regional as Georgia Tech in the 1988 NCAA Tournament – only stands 6-5. But he excels at creating angles and using energy and balance to outmaneuver taller defenders (a near-7-0 wingspan doesn’t hurt either). Watching Lammers and Colson will be terrific theater for college basketball fans.
Notre Dame’s most jaw-dropping display of shooting actually came in a loss. On Jan. 18, the Irish connected on 15 of 21 three-pointers, only to lose to Florida State 83-80 in Tallahassee.
Notre Dame was stifled by Virginia Tuesday, making a season-worst 3 of 18 in a 71-54 loss. Still, they began the week ranked ninth nationally in three-point percentage (41.0 percent). They’ll also be the third team Georgia Tech has faced this year that was ranked in the top 10 nationally in three-point percentage at the time of their meeting, following Wofford (4th) and Virginia (6th).
Those teams shot a combined 27.5 percent from three against the Yellow Jackets.
Notre Dame runs a lot of “five-out” motion, meaning all five players cut, curl and slip around the perimeter in search of drives, kickouts and spot-ups off screens. Senior Matt Vasturia (14.9 ppg, 43.8 percent 3-pt.) and junior Matt Farrell (14.0 ppg, 42.6 percent 3-pt.) both use screens well and play with tremendous feel. Six-foot-8 senior V.J. Beachem (14.1 ppg, 3rd on team) might look to get re-engaged following a 3-point outing against Virginia. Notre Dame also drives to the rim harder than its three-point numbers would suggest. And they make teams pay for their overzealousness – at 82.0 percent, the Irish lead the nation in free throw percentage.
Georgia Tech’s switching defenses have done a good job keeping opponents off-kilter. On Wednesday, they shrunk the floor and shut off dribble-drives against Florida State, leading to plenty of “high and hard” close-outs on FSU’s three-point attempts. Can that formula hold again versus the Irish?
You didn’t think we’d last this long without mentioning Josh Okogie, did you?
Okogie, a freshman, has done it twice — in the last two months.
The Snellville, Ga., native continues to dazzle, dropping 35 points in the win over Florida State. He also did it with James Forrest – another member of Tech’s 35-point club – sitting next to NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo near the Jackets’ bench. Mutombo had a good reason to be at McCamish Wednesday: his nephew, Mfiondu Kabengele, plays for FSU.
As delighted as Pastner was with Okogie’s 35 points, though, he applauded his career-high 14 rebounds even more. Okogie had zero rebounds against Virginia, and Pastner challenged him afterwards to reassert himself on the glass.
Pastner evangelizes often about the importance of guard rebounding. Through eight ACC games, the numbers have started to back up his words. In Tech’s ACC four wins, its guards (including Okogie) grab 44 percent of the team’s overall rebounds. In its four losses, that number drops to 28 percent.
Guard rebounds – ACC
4 wins: 75 of 172, 43.6%
4 losses: 33 of 118, 28.0%
Guards getting their noses dirty has been an important, if overlooked, ingredient of the Yellow Jackets’ success. They’ll try to continue that against Notre Dame’s scrappy backcourt.
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Notre Dame has a backup forward named Matt Ryan. When he reports to the scorer’s table, does he #RiseUp from his seat on the bench?
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you at McCamish.