Before a packed out, white out house at McCamish Pavilion the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets pulled out a squeaker defeating the Syracuse Orangemen 71-65 in ACC Play. The atmosphere was amazing, far different than at the beginning of the year when the crowd was sparse. Bright Orange was represented well or shall I repeat Sandra Bulloch’s’ famous statement from the movie The Blind Side “that gaudy Orange” was everywhere. Tonight was the third sell out the season preceded by Notre Dame and arch rival Georgia. This marks the first time since the Yellow Jackets’ opening season in McCamish Pavilion that as many as three games have sold out. Head Coach Josh Pastner has the program in over achieve mode it is truly a beautiful sight to behold. From where they started in preseason to where they are now my eyes has seen the growth of poise, confidence, patience and most importantly belief and trust in the system Pastner is installing.
Earlier in the season, they didn’t know how to close out a game tonight they had an 11 point lead that evaporated down to 2 points late in the game. It appeared a disaster was about to occur when Stephens could throw the ball in from the end line resulting in a turnover with 57.3 seconds on the clock. # 20 was fouled and went to the line to shoot two he missed the first and hit the second making the score 67-65 in favor of Tech. That was right after Mr. Air Ball nailed a big time three pointer from the corner to cut the lead to three and muzzle the loud student section that serenaded him every time he touched the ball because he missed everything earlier in the game.
Tech went down and missed allowing the Orangemen to bring it down the court with an opportunity to tie the game or go up by one on a three pointer. A turnover at the top of the key gave possession back to the jackets. Josh Heath was fouled immediately in the back court to send him to the line. He took a deep breath in the midst of a pressure cooker and dropped both free throws in the bucket like a champion to give the Yellow Jackets a four point lead 69-65. Syracuse came down a bit helter shelter Heath ended up with the ball and was fouled again. This time he hit the first and missed the second but Ben Lammers perhaps the most improved player in the nation grabbed the crucial rebound. He was fouled and went to the line he nailed the first and missed the second to make the score 71-65 which was the final.
Big Ben lead the way for Georgia Tech with a monstrous 23 points, 7 rebounds, 7 blocked shots, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Tadrick Jackson was simply splendid scoring 20 points, grabbing 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Josh Okogie had a cameo role with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Perhaps the less glamorous star of the game was Quinton Stephens with his 8 assists and 6 defensive rebounds. A good team has a couple of stars and productive role players who buy into the system. The Chicago Bulls in the Jordan Era was just that with Michael being the superstar who could take over the game in the fourth quarter. Scotty Pippen was the sidekick he needed to produce 20 points but think of Rodman the defender/rebounder, Kerr the deadly 3 point shooter, and Horace Grant the solid ball player. No, I haven’t lost my mind and comparing the 2017 Jackets to the World Champion Bulls but they have developed into a solid team with a budding star in Lammers and two sided kicks in Jackson and Okogie.
Heath in addition to sealing the game with those free throws finished with 7 points, 3 being the most important in the game, 6 rebounds 5 defensive, and 5 assists. Tech had blossomed in the second half performing team converting 15-25 shots for 60% efficiency in the second half and 47.3% for the game. Syracuse was led by Taurean Thompson with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 offensive for second chance opportunities which are gifts by your opponent. He also had 3 blocked shots and 2 steals in an impressive performance. Andrew White lll put up 17 points in a supportive role with 7 rebounds. Tyler Lydon was an absolute force on the boards pulling down 15 rebounds and contributing 7 points. Give Syracuse credit they came to play down the stretch but Georgia Tech the Rambling Wreck was just that. They wrecked their late push to win it wearing that “gaudy orange’.
Pastner on the team:
“Seven ACC wins, sitting here on February 19. Sixteen wins overall. From where my bosses, coaches in the league, national media members, [local] media members told me what was going to happen this year, to be where we are right now is nothing short of amazing. It’s a modern miracle. God bless our young men. It’s a credit to our young men. It’s not me, it is our players and what they have done. They have bonded. It’s all about the team and that’s a credit to them. You don’t take those things for granted. [It’s] really, really special to be in the position that we’re in right now and that’s strictly because of our young men, those players.”
Tech held Syracuse to 65 points, 11.4 under its average in ACC games, and to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor, nearly 11 percentage points under the Orange’s season clip of 46.4 percent and its lowest rate of the ACC season. The Yellow Jackets have allowed its ACC opponents 40.3 percent (1st in the conference) and 39.4 percent overall (tied for 1st).