The Yellow Jackets’ win streak is snapped at four by the Cavaliers
By D’Mitri Chin
ATLANTA — 8,600 fans were in attendance for the first sellout game of the year at the McCamish Pavillion, as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-8, 3-2) hosted the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers (17-1, 6-0) in a lopsided affair. While Georgia Tech took an early lead in the first half, it took just 41 seconds for the Cavaliers to even the score at two points apiece and ultimately prevent an upset by the surging Yellow Jackets with a 64-48 victory on Thursday.
Yes, the final score was indeed humiliating and discouraging for the students and fans, but quite honestly, Tech had a legitimate chance to shock the college basketball world. Of course, though, to knock off a top-two team — especially an elite Atlantic Coastal Conference team, one must play a disciplined, well-rounded game for 40 minutes. Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets found themselves playing catch up for the duration of the game and made some critical mistakes down the stretch.
The most significant play of the game was the four-point play made by De’Andre Hunter that gave the Cavaliers a nine-point lead heading into halftime.
“I said, `No three’s going into halftime,’ head coach Josh Pastner said, “because I knew it was their ball to start the second half. And I just told A.D. [Abdoulaye Gueye], because he was guarding De’Andre Hunter, `Don’t help off of ball side,’ and then the guy drove it, A.D. helped and then [they] kicked it to him for a three … But that happens. A.D. has come a long way. I love the young man. It was a tough game for him today, but he’s going to continue to get better.”
From observing the game, here were the good, bad and ugly moments that led to Georgia Tech getting their win streak of four games snapped:
Virginia is one of the most balanced teams in the NCAA, given they have multiple ways to score, but scoring points on this Yellow Jackets defense was not an easy task by any means for the Wahoos. Ben Lammers had a very active night around the rim defensively, totaling six blocks and forcing head coach Tony Bennett to alter his lineup to begin the second half.
“He’s a heck of a shot blocker, and they’re a shot-blocking team…They went more man in the second half and were switching off of De’Andre [Hunter] who was out there most of the time. We were just playing off of our five-man and trying to spread the ball a little more and get some ball screens, so it took him away from it and spread some of the other guys. When De’Andre is on the floor, you can do that and use Isaiah [Wilkins] as a five. Guys made some better plays – touching the paint, making the next pass or finishing. He was having a field day blocking our shots early.
Lammers was a big reason behind the Cavaliers shooting just 47 percent from the floor for the game.
Honorable mention: Tadric Jackson (14 points and four rebounds)
A big issue for the Yellow Jackets this year has been taking care of their most prized possession – the basketball. Tech had 18 turnovers and allowed 16 points off those turnovers. Lammers had five of those turnovers, and they mainly came in the painted area. The Cavaliers would trap Lammers whenever he touched the ball in the post forcing him to have to throw a blundered pass.
“Ben [Lammers] had five of them, and then Josh [Okogie] had three where they were just really unforced,” Pastner said about his key players having costly turnovers. “But you have to give Virginia credit. Coach [Tony] Bennett and his staff [have] an excellent club. But there were many [turnovers] that were unforced, and that’s something we’ve got to be better about.”
Here comes the agony. The final score alone was ugly, but some of the final statistics were so brutal, it was hard to pinpoint one aspect of the game that was the most harrowing to witness.
For starters, the 44 points in the paint the Yellow Jackets allowed was gut-wrenching and was perhaps what led to their blowout loss. Lammers had success protecting the rim before the start of the second half where he was forced to step out to the perimeter and the elbow area of the court to guard either Isaiah Wilkins (nine points) or Hunter (17 points).
Next up, the lack of offense from Pastner’s two most significant assets in Lammers and Josh Okogie. Unsure if the coaches game plan is to blame, but Okogie took just eight shots (3-8 nine points), and Lammers had five (1-5 four points). For Tech to make waves in the ACC, these two players, along with Jackson, will have to produce at a high level every time the team hits the hardwood. If not, outings such as Thursday night will become the norm.
Of the two, Lammers seemed very uncomfortable, and the few shots that he did take were contested. Virginia did an excellent job of executing their Pack Line defense.
What does this mean for the Yellow Jackets moving forward?
A wise man once said that you should not look at your defeats as losses, instead view them as learning your opponent. In this case, the loss against the Cavaliers will go on Georgia Tech’s record, but Pastner remains optimistic that his team will turn things around.
“We’ll be able to grow from it. Like I said, we’re building, and we want to be in this position as we move forward in the season, but also as we move forward in the future,” Pastner said. We want to get to this point where it’s because we have a great foundation defensively. I think we’re a very good defensive team.”
The Yellow Jackets have no time to dwell on the opportunity they had to knock off a second-ranked Virginia team, as they head to Chapel Hill to face No. 15 North Carolina on Saturday.