Previewing Georgia Tech’s 8 p.m. Saturday matchup with No. 19 Notre Dame at McCamish Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Allen Bestwick and LaPhonso Ellis, a former Notre Dame star and one-time Atlanta Hawk, will be on the call. Game advance story about Tech’s challenges in stopping Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste and the Irish’s ball-screen game here.
Looking for more from Stephens
Forward Quinton Stephens’ efforts against Clemson and Florida State were perhaps his best back-to-back games of his career. Coming off the bench against Clemson and then starting against Florida State, Stephens scored a combined 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting and had 13 rebounds, five offensive. Stephens, a junior, has shown flashes as a scorer, notably his 16-point outburst against Virginia, but has not been able to take the next step to scoring consistently.
A case in point: Stephens was 4-for-4 from 3-point range against Virginia but then was 2-for-16 in the next nine games before making three of six against Florida State.
“It’s not that hard to figure out,” coach Brian Gregory said. “When we have him making shots, we’re just a much better team. We’re just a much better team because it eliminates a lot of pressure on the post guys and it eliminates a lot of pressure on Adam (Smith) and Marcus (Georges-Hunt).”
Saturday’s game is the only one that Tech will play this season on a weekend night. Forward Nick Jacobs gave the likely itinerary. Breakfast at the team hotel, walk-through at McCamish Pavilion around 11 or noon and then time off either in the dorm or the hotel and then back for the pre-game meal around 4 or 4:30 p.m.
As for the afternoon time, “as a team, I’m pretty sure all of us will sleep or just read the scouting report or go up to the office to watch film just to make sure we’ve got everything covered,” he said. “Probably some guys are going to come in early, put up shots, shoot free throws, stuff like that. We do a good job of preparing for games on game day. Guys don’t do unnecessary stuff like drink soda and eat. This team is definitely mature enough to handle their business on game day.”
Notre Dame is something of an anomaly in at least one way. The Irish are ranked first in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, but are 232nd in defensive efficiency. Among the top 100 teams in the Ken Pomeroy ratings, there are only three teams whose offense or defense is lower than 232nd – No. 70 San Diego State (offense is No. 251), No. 97 Oakland (defense is No. 256) and No. 99 Richmond (defense is No. 233). (Oakland is Gregory’s alma mater; his former coach, Greg Kampe, is still coach of the Grizzlies.)
Notre Dame is No. 25 overall. It’s a testament to how efficient is on offense that it’s still that high despite such suspect defense. Notre Dame averages 125.3 points per 100 offensive possessions, 3.6 points better than the No. 2 offense, Duke. At 121.7 points per 100 possessions, Duke is closer to the No. 8 offense than Notre Dame.
Tech has played the Nos. 1 (Notre Dame), 2 (Duke), 10 (North Carolina), 12 (Virginia), 15 (Villanova) and 21 (Miami) offenses this season.
Notre Dame has done this, Gregory noted Friday, despite losing two players off last year’s Elite Eight team, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, to the NBA. (Unrelated, but Connaughton was a two-sport athlete at Notre Dame – he also pitched – and now is a backup with Portland, but still sees himself pitching in the major leagues. And, it’s conceivable he could have played at Tech.)
“That’s hard to say that they’re better offensively, when they lost two NBA players, but other guys have been asked to do more and are more than capable of doing it,” Gregory said. “In particular (point guard Demetrius) Jackson. (Forward Bonzie) Colson has really come on in this year for them, and I think (guard Steve) Vasturia’s one of those guys that’s just kind of a glue guy. He was last year. He made some big plays for them but he could have been scoring 15 a game last year, but that wasn’t his role, and that’s the mark of a good team.”
Forward Charles Mitchell enters the game with 998 career points. He scored 418 at Maryland and has added 580 the past two seasons with Tech. At 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds, he is trying to become the first Tech player to average a double-double since Alvin Jones in 2000-01.
Managers triumph again
The best that Notre Dame can do this weekend is a split. Friday night, Tech’s team managers routed Notre Dame’s managers 134-65 at the Zelnak Basketball Center. Team managers often play the night before the varsity game, and Tech’s managers are quite good. Following their Friday night conquest, their record is 9-2.