March 4, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Looking to Wednesday’s game at Miami, Georgia Tech will have a chance to show improvement. The Hurricanes soundly beat the Yellow Jackets 62-49 in the ACC opener.
Turns out that was no fluke. The ‘Canes are pretty darned good. Tech head coach Brian Gregory believes they’re one of a handful of squads that can stake a legitimate claim to being national championship caliber.
The Jackets didn’t play especially well in Sunday’s 70-57 loss to N.C. State, but they’ve frequently, if not always, been better than they were the first time against Miami.
Freshman forward Robert Carter Jr. has been a big part of that.
He was named ACC Rookie of the Week on Monday after averaging 13.5 points and seven rebounds while shooting 50 percent in a pair of league games last week. This is Carter’s first honor. Fellow Tech freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt has captured it twice.
Carter and center Daniel Miller will be critical to the Jackets’ prospects at both ends of the floor, and yet Tech’s biggest concern with a team of big guys will be Miami’s smallest starter.
Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, the son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, is a high-speed player, and he’s good at – among many things – getting the ball in the lane. That’s been a sore spot for the Jackets.
Larkin leads the ACC with 1.8 steals per league game, he’s 12th in scoring with an average of 14.1 points, fourth in assists (4.8) and he’s shooting 49.7 percent. That’s stout. Mfon Udofia and others will be busy on the defensive end Wednesday.
“He’s cat-quick, and causes problems on both ends. He leaves his man and doubles down in the passing lanes, and pressures the ball,” Gregory said. “Offensively, he makes the whole thing go; he’s in complete control of the game.
“Either he’s scoring, or he’s getting someone a basket or like in hockey he’s creating the action where the next person is going to get a basket. In my opinion, if you look at who had the best season individually in our league, it would be [Erick] Green for Virginia Tech. If you’re looking at maybe the most valuable player, it would be Larkin.”
The Jackets don’t usually start their offense much like Miami does, which is to say Udofia’s not a high-volume assist man and Tech doesn’t often break down an opposing defense with dribble penetration.
They have to get the ball inside both to score it and to move the defense. There, Miller in particular can swing the tenor of a game with his combination of passing skills and – especially – if he’s aggressive with the ball.
“His baskets are high-percentage shots. In addition to that, when he’s being aggressive as a scorer he demands help and . . . we’re pretty good when we can get the ball inside,” Gregory said. “If we have to play on top of the defense all the time, at this particular point we don’t have the ability to make enough plays offensively.”
Can somebody explain how Duke’s Ryan Kelly is named ACC Player of the Week after scoring 36 points in one fabulous home win over Miami while Virginia’s Joe Harris is not PoW after scoring 36 points in a home win over Duke AND 14 points in a loss at Boston College? Was it because Kelly didn’t play in Duke’s road loss?
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