By D’Mitri Chin
ATLANTA — Looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Grambling State on Friday (64-63), the Yellow Jackets once again fell at home on Sunday, but this time to a stable Tennessee team. Lamonte Turner, whom Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner said was “the biggest difference in the game” had 24 points and went 9-9 from the free throw line to give the Volunteers a 77-70 win in McCamish Pavilion.
“In our offense, shots are going to come,” Turner said as to how he was able to find a rhythm offensively. “You just have to understand if you’re open, or you’re free as coach would say, and I feel like I got some open shots tonight and I was able to knock them down.”
As for the Yellow Jackets, scoring continues to be the downfall to Pastner’s team’s success, mainly because of the absence of Josh Okogie, who is still dealing with a finger injury.
“We struggled. And, scoring wise, we just haven’t been able to get over the hump,” Pastner said about his team’s weak performance offensively. “When you’re missing Josh Okogie that’s 18 points a game, it’s hard – especially when teams are pressuring you, and you don’t have that one guy that can just beat people off the bounce.”
Pastner has a valid point. The Yellow Jackets certainly miss the presence of Okogie who create baskets not only for himself but his teammates. As a team, Tech shot a dismal 38.9 percent from the floor.
However, there were aspects of the game that led to their second consecutive home loss.
Here’s what I observed:
Poor free throw shooting
Whether the referees were heavy on the whistle or the level of physicality was extremely high, both teams went to the line over 20 times. The big difference here, and what ultimately could’ve led to Tech winning this game, was Tennessee shooting 85 percent from the stripe and Tech shooting just 66.7 percent. It’s almost impossible to win against a stout Tennessee defense, that proved to be the more physical team with seven blocks, and not cash in at the charity stripe. Senior Tadrick Jackson had his fair share of struggles, as he failed to knock down a single free throw (0-3). With a player who looks to create contact while driving to the rim, he needs to be a reliable option for his team moving forward when shooting free throws.
Ben Lammers’ slow start
The Yellow Jackets’ most coveted player Ben Lammers had a slow start to the game and had a difficult time producing for his team down the stretch. Lammers only had six points during the first half, and he finished with 17 points going 4-11 from the field. Lammers has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, but he credited Tennessee’s defense for making it difficult for him to get into a groove offensively.
“They were just doing a good job of help defense and making sure I didn’t get the ball in the high post where I’ve been able to do a lot of damage in the past,” Lammers said.
Lammers also failed to generate much defense for his team against the Vols. He had just one block for the game, and at times Tennessee was able to finish at the rim with Lammers contesting. Tennessee finished the game with 20 points in the paint.
What’s next for Tech?
Georgia Tech (4-3) is set to play their first road game (in the US) against Wofford (4-4) on Wednesday, and according to Pastner, this will be no cakewalk for the Yellow Jackets.
“We’re playing, obviously, in a hostile environment at Wofford, it’s gonna be a hard game, there’s no denying that,” Pastner said. “These freshmen are gonna have to grow up quick, so it will be an interesting road trip, and I wanna see how they handle it.”
Georgia Tech is a rambling wreck at this point in the season, but they have a prime opportunity to sting their opponent and secure a much-needed win on the road.