5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Duquesne

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Josh Heath #11 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets drives against Ryan Arcidiacono #15 of the Villanova Wildcats during the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship game at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech guard Josh Heath has a 50/15 assist/turnover ratio through 12 games this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

A look at Georgia Tech’s matchup with Duquesne Tuesday night

Better defense

After gaining the 10th win of the season, a better defensive effort is probably coach Brian Gregory’s highest priority for Tuesday’s night’s game at McCamish Pavilion against Duquesne in the team’s final non-conference regular-season game of the season.

After holding their first nine opponents to 42.2 percent shooting from the field, the Yellow Jackets permitted Georgia, Southeastern Louisiana and Colgate to shoot a combined 46.5 percent in the past three games. (Tech lost to Georgia but beat SLU and Colgate.)

To provide a little context, 46.5 percent field-goal defense would be good for 292nd in Division I out of 346 teams. Further, it’s not like Georgia, Southeastern Louisiana and Colgate came down from Mt. Olympus to hoop it up with the Jackets.

Georgia (6-3) is shooting 44 percent for the season, Southeastern Louisiana (2-10) is 43.7 percent and Colgate (4-7) is at 42.2 percent. It can be explained away to a degree – Tech got in foul trouble against Georgia, losing linchpin defenders Marcus Georges-Hunt and Charles Mitchell. Plus, Georgia got hot and was itching to settle a score. Both SLU and Colgate play at slower paces that Tech hasn’t seen much of thus far and, being well ahead, may not have been as dialed in as you might want.

“What you always do defensively is you fight human nature,” coach Brian Gregory said. “You’re up 18 points and now the coach is screaming at you to lock down defensively for 30 seconds. Then they look at you like you’re nuts. But, to be good, that’s what you do. It’s not that we’re not capable. It’s not that guys don’t understand it. We just need to up our level of conviction on that.”

The unexpected part of this is that Tech is actually handing itself on the other end of the court, ranking No. 78 in field-goal percentage at 46.4 percent. Through Gregory’s tenure, it’s mostly been the opposite – Tech has been able to hold its own on defense but has often gone long stretches incapable of making baskets.

There’s likely merit to what Gregory is saying – the fact that Tech is in the somewhat unusual position of being well ahead of its opponent. Last year, Tech only had two double-digit wins in the non-conference portion of the schedule. This year, seven of the Jackets’ nine wins have been by 10 points or more.

Regardless, Gregory is right about this much – to be good, that’s what you do.

Better hands, feet

An interesting number to note: Through 12 games, Mitchell has 17 turnovers in 318 minutes, an average of 1.3 turnovers per 25 minutes of play. Last year through 12 games, he had 31 turnovers in 288 minutes, an average of 2.7 turnovers per 25 minutes of play.

After the Colgate game, Gregory and Mitchell both addressed it, which is probably worth going into in greater detail later on. After last season, Gregory made ballhandling and footwork a point of emphasis for the offseason for Tech’s bigs, working on quickly recognizing double teams and making decisive and aggressive moves to get away from trouble. Mitchell also mentioned not rushing shots and trusting his teammates enough to know that, if he gets a post touch, he can kick it out and know the ball is in good hands and that it will come back to him in time.

“That’s kind of like selfish basketball,” he said. “I haven’t touched the ball in a while so I’m going to try to throw a shot up and it ends in a turnover and me just shuffling my feet because I’m so happy to get the ball. It’s just one of those things you just learn over time. You just have to be mature about something like that.”

Back in action

Tech will be back after a six-day break for the Christmas holiday. The Jackets’ last game before the break was a 76-60 win over Colgate Dec. 23 in which guard Adam Smith scored a season-high 20 points on just 11 field-goal attempts.

On the opponent

Duquesne is coached by Jim Ferry, in his fourth season at the school. He was hired after taking Long Island to back-to-back NCAA tournaments. Ferry was 33-58 in his first three seasons, but made slight progress in the Atlantic 10, going from 1-15 to 5-11 to 6-12. The Dukes’ 9-2 start (not counting a win over a Division II team) is their best since 1979-80.

The record has been accomplished against a pretty light schedule, but Duquesne has beaten two RPI top-100 teams, Penn State and Western Kentucky. Duquesne is without guard Jeremiah Jones, who had started all 12 games this season and played 95 career starts before tearing his ACL.

RPI update

Tech’s RPI as of Tuesday afternoon was 110, according to realtimerpi.com, 11th among ACC schools. Duquesne’s was 131. The Jackets’ ranking will change drastically, regardless of result, when the ACC schedule starts with back-to-back road games against North Carolina (No. 3, Jan. 2) and Pittsburgh (No. 17, Jan. 6).


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