Feb. 9, 2017
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– Tuesday night was about regaining rhythm and boosting spirit, and as Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team rolled past Tusculum, 96-58, the Yellow Jackets found fun in McCamish Pavilion.
The rare mid-winter, non-conference game against a Division II school – scheduled chiefly because first-year head coach Josh Pastner preferred his team not to be idle during its ACC bye – offered several firsts.
Graduate transfer guard Jodan Price scored his first points as a Jacket with five, including a 3-pointer. Walk-on guards Norman Harris and Shaheed Medlock scored their first collegiate points, and so did former walk-on Rand Rowland.
That, in fact, was the singular highlight of the game. As the third-year senior forward from White County High School, who earlier in the day was named to the AllState NABC Good Works Team® converted a layup with 6:32 remaining in the contest, just about every one of his teammates erupted.
Never mind that Tech led 88-51; Rand was on the board.
“He deserved it. He’s one of the most hard-working athletes in this school,” said freshman guard Josh Okogie, who led the Jackets with 15 points and nine rebounds. “Rand is the type of guy who’ll do whatever he needs … Seeing him score those points was well deserved. He worked hard for that.”
Senior point guard Josh Heath sprained an ankle, and while Pastner said after the game it wasn’t clear how severe the injury was, everybody seemed fine to have played a game rather than not.
Tech (14-10, 5-6 ACC) was ragged in losing last week at Clemson and Wake Forest, and with seven conference games remaining – beginning Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against Boston College – the Jackets went searching for lost mojo.
They seemed to have found it, registering a season-high 25 assists, shooting 56.3 percent and tying a season high with 10 3-pointers.
“We weren’t sharp last week. We had the injury bug, we were sick and we played that way,” said Pastner, who’s battling a cold himself. “We needed to get back to playing in a rhythm and in a groove. We needed to be sharp. We were sharp today.”
All 13 other Jackets played, and scored.
Redshirt freshman center played a career-high 14 minutes for the second consecutive game and notched career highs with eight points and five rebounds.
Junior center Ben Lammers, who had 13 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in 22 minutes, enjoyed all of it.
“It’s definitely nice where you can sit on the bench and watch the rest of the team,” he said. “I think it’s also good for the guys who don’t get as much playing time to get in and get a little confidence.
“I think [Ogbonda] looked pretty good. He hasn’t played a whole lot, and he’s going to have to start playing some of [Gueye’s] minutes and start getting used to the flow of an actual game situation not just practice.”
Freshman forward Christian Matthews and graduate forward Kellen McCormick played season highs of 21 and 18 minutes, respectively, scoring 12 and nine points each. McCormick made all three of his shots from beyond the arc.
After Harris popped a jumper with 1:17 left, and Medlock made a layup 36 seconds later for Tech’s final points, every Jacket had scored.
Pastner went into the game looking for, “Just energy … get back to our winning ways,” Okogie said. “This is a good confidence builder going back into ACC play.”
Best of all, everybody played and wound up on the scoreboard.
“It’s just fun,” Okogie added. “It makes the game fun, and brings the morale of the team up.”