By D’Mitri Chin
ATLANTA — It was not pretty by any means, but Georgia Tech scrapped and fought their way to a 76-62 victory over Coppin State in what would’ve been an ignominious loss at McCamish Pavilion on Wednesday.
The Eagles (0-14), whose head coach is former professional basketball player Juan Dixon, showed great effort on both sides of the basketball but ultimately let the game slip between their hands with 7:04 left in the second half when Dixon was irate about a blatant foul that wasn’t called by the referees.
“I thought the call in the second half was questionable when I got the technical, and it allowed them to go on a little run,” Dixon said.
A little run is an understatement. In fact, before Dixon received a tech that sent Josh Okogie to the free throw line, the Eagles were only down by a point (55-54). After that, the Yellow Jackets exploded for a 12-0 run that sealed the deal.
From observing the game, these were the pros and cons of the game for the Yellow Jackets:
Georgia Tech wrecked the Eagles’ frontcourt
The Yellow Jackets, as some would say, played bully-ball against the Eagles, both offensively and defensively as they managed to score 40 of their 76 points in the paint. Lammers (22 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks) had a noticeable height advantage over the Eagles’ bigs, and he took full advantage. Dixon said that his coaching staff and his players knew that Lammers was going to be active in the low-post area, but unfortunately, they were unable to contain his right jump hook. Lammers’ presence also allowed the Yellow Jackets to take advantage of second-chance points. Tech had 11 offensive rebounds and translated them into 16 points.
Brandon Alston played big in crunch time
Alston, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, played significant minutes down the stretch when starting point guard Jose Alvarado went down with an undisclosed injury in the first half that prevented him from returning to game action. Before Alvarado’s injury, the Yellow Jackets’ offense was quite pedestrian, in the sense that the ball did not seem to be moving as fluid as Head Coach Josh Pastner would have liked. It is worth noting that in the 22 minutes that Alvarado played, he failed to notch a single assist. Moreover, Alston had four assists and one turnover. It was the little things that Alston did within the offense that gave Tech some continuity offensively.
Okogie prevented what would have been a total collapse defensively
Ladies and gentlemen, Karonn Davis, the starting point guard for the Eagles, was playing with much confidence, and at times it looked like he could have been the starting point guard for Tech — until the second half started, and a significant defensive switch occurred.
“Josh came to me at halftime, or while we were heading back on the court and said ‘coach, I want number 10’ and he guarded him the second half and was brilliant against him defensively,” Pastner said about the difference for his team coming out of halftime defensively.
During the first half, Davis had 10 points shooting 4-for-9 from the field with two three-pointers and five assists. Very impressive stats. Once Okogie took on the task to contain Davis, though, he finished the game shooting 4-17 with 10 points and six assists.
A lethargic first half offensively for Okogie
It was astonishing to witness the slow start the Yellow Jackets had, but what was more alarming was the offensive performance by Okogie. Yes, he had a stellar game on the defensive side of the ball, but for Tech to make splashes in the ACC this year, they will need not for Okogie to go 0-5 from the floor and finish the first half with a measly two points. It was not until the second half where he began to hit his stride offensively. However, he stayed aggressive for the duration of the game and shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Okogie finished the game with 13 points going 3-10 from the floor.
Preventing the three-ball from dropping
With a new year around the corner, the Eagles were in the spirit of ball-dropping. In fact, they were dropping three-balls in abundance against Tech, and that ultimately gave them a legitimate shot at securing an upset. Tech allowed the Eagles to shoot 46 percent from beyond the arc in what was presumably the best three-point shooting performance they have had all year.
“Juan Dixon, he’s going to get that program turned around, there’s no question on that. But I mean, they are second to last in the country in three-point shooting, and Cedric Council was shooting 18 percent coming in, and they shoot 46 percent from three, and he hits 5-6 from three,” Pastner said about the Eagles’ shocking performance from three-point range.
With Tech set to begin conference play (Notre Dame Dec. 30, and Miami Jan. 3.) it will be interesting to see how they compete against top-tier talent.