After defeating North Carolina with ease on the road, Georgia Tech hosted #2 ranked Duke Wednesday night. Despite keeping the game within 2 points, for the most part, Duke showed why they are one of the best basketball teams in the nation, defeating the Yellow Jackets 73-64.
Georgia Tech falls to 7-8 on the year, 2-3 in the ACC. Despite the loss, Head Coach Josh Pastner and his men have nothing to be ashamed of.
“It’s toughness; it’s motor; it’s competing and bringing energy every day, that’s who we gotta be… if we’re playing at that level, we’ll be a good team,” James Banks III said.
You’d think with a loss there would be a lot of negatives, but the score doesn’t reflect the play, Georgia Tech played great.
So what did Georgia Tech do well, and need to keep showing game in and game out?
James Banks III
Senior center James Banks III easily had his best game of the season for the Yellow Jackets. Banks finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 blocks, giving him his 4th double-double of the year. His 15 rebounds were a career-high as well. Despite the impressive stat line, his presence on the floor was simply a must for the Yellow Jackets.
The Blue Devils utilize big strong centers such as Vernon Carey, and Javin DeLaurier and Banks were the answer to them. Banks held Carey to 14 points, constantly bodying up the 6’10 center and forcing him into poor shots, and blocking a plethora of shots. Without Banks Wednesday night, the game could’ve gotten out of hand fast. Going forward if Banks can provide the output he gave, there’s no reason Georgia Tech cant experience success going forward into the brunt of ACC play.
Attacking the Paint
From the opening tip to the final buzzer, the Yellow Jackets attacked the paint and attacked it hard. Since the Yellow Jackets rank last in the ACC for three-pointers made, it was a great decision to take the offense inside, and it nearly paid off. The entire offense was constantly back, cutting and getting open layups or drawing fouls.
If you’ve played basketball in a high-intensity game, you know why this is always a great tactic. With the high intensity typically comes a chippy game with fouls and lots of free throws. The Yellow Jackets drew 17 fouls and shot 13-15 from the free-throw line. For Coach Pastner, this offense can prove to be very effective if they continue this style of offense and can shoot from the line at a high rate consistently.
On both ends of the floor, the Yellow Jackets dominated the boards. The team finished with 39 rebounds, 23 defensive and a whopping 16 offensive rebounds. Apart from Bank’s 15 rebounds, forward Moses Wright added 10. Despite the length of the Duke’s big men, even small guards like Bubba Parham contributed to the stat sheet.
The 16 offensive rebounds allowed 14-second chance points, which could’ve been much higher despite the struggles near the rim late. The assertiveness of the glass for the Yellow Jackets is so crucial for their success, and if they continue to rebound at this rate, those shots will begin to fall, and the second-chance points will add up for Coach Pastner’s offense.
An aspect of the game that is often overlooked is the crowd. When you play Duke no matter where you are in the country, the Blue Devil faithful manage to take up half of the arena and essentially turn a road game into a home game. This wasn’t the case tonight in McCamish. Students were lined up around the block waiting to get in and make some noise. During the game, any big play or turnover, the crowd was getting louder and louder and getting behind their team.
This energy electrified the team down the stretch to go on an 11-0 run and take back the lead from Duke. When the Blue Devils fans began to chant “Let’s go Duke’’, the Georgia Tech fans covered their chants with “Let’s go Tech.” In previous matchups, the atmosphere wasn’t anywhere close to Wednesday night, and that’s in part to the fact that Duke was is in town, but if fans and students can bring this energy night in and night out for their team, it’ll be tough for teams to get into rhythm when playing in McCamish.
“The [Georgia Tech crowd] was great, I thought they really supported their team, and that made the win even a little bigger for us,” Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Some negatives hurt the Yellow Jackets down the stretch.
For most of the game, it seemed that the zone defense of Georgia Tech was suppressing the offense of the Blue Devils, Cassius Stanley being one of them. The freshman guard struggled early, but down the stretch secured Duke the win. Stanley used his superior athleticism to throw down some enormous alley-oops to electrify the Duke crowd and kill any momentum the Yellow Jackets had picked up.
Stanley finished the game with 14 points of 6-9 from the field.
“For a freshman, especially to turn that around in an away game… that’s huge; it shows a lot about that kid,” Coach Krzyzewski
For the Yellow Jackets, this was by far their toughest game of the year physically. In a rotation that doesn’t go too deep as it is, Coach Pastner only went six deep, with two other players playing under 10 minutes each. After starting the first 10 minutes of the game so strong and dominating the Blue Devils, it seemed the fuel tank was getting close to empty.
Turnovers started to pile up, along with missed shots and failing to locate the shooters on defense, Georgia Tech found themselves down 40-29 at halftime. Luckily they regained their energy for the second half, but the damage was already done. They crawled back, but again towards the end of the game seemed to fall into that same funk, ultimately deciding the game.
The Yellow Jackets finished the game with 17 turnovers with both guards, Jose Alvarado and Michael Devoe having 4 of them. In a high-intensity game like this, it’s a shame the depth of the roster let them down, with fresh legs, Georgia Tech could’ve cut those turnovers down and maybe have pulled off the upset.
“We got 17 turnovers as a team, and as a guard, I had four, that just shows I need to be more focused on taking care of the ball and maybe out of those four we could’ve won the game,” Alvarado said.
Despite the team not wanting to take a moral victory, they played fantastically and shouldn’t beat themselves up about this loss. With a tough ACC schedule ahead, they’ll have plenty of chances to redeem themselves if they can fix the minor mistakes. The team hits the road to take on the Boston College Eagles on Saturday the 11th.