Reviewing Georgia Tech’s win over Pittsburgh

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Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers led the Yellow Jackets with 20 points. (GT AThletics/Danny Karnik)

Looking back at Georgia Tech’s 61-52 win over Pittsburgh Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion.

Game story

Five observations

Post-game quotes

Four factors*

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Tech hitting 49 percent in effective field goal percentage is, for the Jackets, not bad. Interestingly, they were above 50 five times in a six-game stretch in the first half of the ACC season but have cleared 50 percent only twice in the back half of the conference schedule.

I’d think part of that is opponents getting a better handle on the Jackets high-post offense. The three opponents who’ve played Tech twice, Clemson, N.C. State and Notre Dame (Syracuse will be the fourth), all did better in the second meeting. It has seemed like Tech hasn’t scored on as many backdoor cuts as it had in the earlier part of the league schedule. Also, I think teams are probably paying more attention to Ben Lammers than they were at first.

But the 49.0 is the third highest percentage since the first Notre Dame game, a stretch of eight games. Finishing the game 7-for-7 helps. Pitt’s FTA/FGA rate was the second lowest for a Tech opponent in ACC play and particularly low for Pitt, which coach Kevin Stallings noted. Pitt’s ACC average going into the game was 37.6 percent. Pitt was averaging 20.5 free throws in ACC play and took 10 against the Jackets.

*Four factors follows the idea that the four statistics that most lead to success are effective field-goal percentage (which weights 3-point baskets proportionately), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throws per field-goal attempts.

One thought

Stallings’ weariness with the season was completely evident after the game. In his first season, the Panthers have lost game after game in which they’ve led or been in the game late only to fall short. It sounds a lot like Georgia Tech’s 2014-15 season, when the Yellow Jackets were 0-13 in ACC games decided by seven points or fewer. (Which, now that I write that again, is bananas. What a mad season that was.)

“We can play most people competitively and then get to the end and we don’t execute well enough to get the job done, and that’s on both ends,” Stallings said. “It’s not just offensively, it’s defensively, as well. Just not a good effort, especially down the stretch.”

But it isn’t simply a matter of mistakes. Stallings said that the team sometimes lacks coachability. He recognized that it’s been a long season.

“I get where they’re at,” he said of his players. “I get where we’re at in the season. So it’s kind of a pride thing, I think, at this point.”

Not to belabor the point that has been made repeatedly about Tech’s season surpassing expectations, but the thought occurred as Stallings spoke after the game Tuesday night that his words were along the course of what I might have expected Josh Pastner to be saying at this point of the season.

I figured there’d be a lot of games where the Jackets would play with effort but just not have enough to pull off wins. Perhaps games where the growing pains of a first-year coach were revealed in confusion or breakdowns. And then also games where the Jackets were completely overmatched and run out of the gym.

But, as you know, against all expectations, that hasn’t been the case, and Pittsburgh made for a useful reminder of what might have been.

Instead of offering his laments, Pastner was the one raving about the crowd support and laying out his vision for what kind of home-court advantage McCamish Pavilion could provide in the future. He was the one making his case that a team with eight wins in league play in the ACC should automatically qualify for an NCAA tournament berth. He gushed over the seniors, thanking them for how they had accepted him as their coach in their final seasons. He praised the team for its offensive execution in the final minutes.

Tech had at least one more (relative) surprise in store Tuesday night. Unable to pull off the road upset Sunday night against Notre Dame, the Jackets summoned the will to come back 48 hours later and come back to beat their senior-night opponent.

“We just gutted it out,” Pastner said.

Stat of the game

Tech has trailed at halftime of its past six games. The Jackets are 3-3 in those games (wins over Boston College, Syracuse and Pitt, losses to Miami, N.C. State and Notre Dame.)

Quote of the game

“I think we’re going to go in with the same mentality we’ve had these last 17 ACC games. We’re going to go in and play as hard as we can play for each other, move the ball and we hang our hats on defense. We’re going to try to defend our butts off and the scoreboard’s going to take care of itself.” – Josh Okogie on playing Syracuse on Saturday

Individually speaking

Lammers led the team with 20 points, 15 in the second half, when he shot 6-for-7 from the field. He had a deft pump fake and lay-in with his opposite hand for a basket and foul, among the more polished moves that he’s demonstrated this season.

“I guess I just kind of got more in a rhythm,” Lammers said. “The first half, especially offense, I wasn’t able to just kind of feel it out, but second half, once I got going, I was just able to kind of ride that for the rest of the game.”

Okogie scored 14 – nine in the second half, all in the final 6:17, to go with seven rebounds. With Lammers drawn out of the paint to defend Michael Young, Lammers’ teammates were called upon to pick up his slack. Guard Josh Heath and forward Quinton Stephens both had six rebounds.

“I didn’t even notice, to be honest,” Okogie said. “I was wondering why I had seven rebounds (actually six) in the first half.”

Okogie also played multiple trips down the floor at one point without his left shoe after it fell off in a tangle under the basket.

“My shoe, if I tried to put it on, I couldn’t have left them 5-for-4 on defense. So I was like, I’m just going to play without a shoe until something happens,” he said.

Heath had nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers, with five assists against an atypical five turnovers. The schedule allowed for Heath’s father Stan, an assistant at Boston College, to make senior night along with Heath’s mother Ramona. Boston College plays at Notre Dame Wednesday.

Forward Sylvester Ogbonda gave five minutes off the bench, holding his own and allowing Lammers some time on the bench.

From my iPhone

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I took this just before I left the arena for the night, for the last time of the season unless the Jackets make the NIT and get a home game. There’s games still to play, but the seasons always seem to go fast.

On a personal note

I meant to take a picture with the regular media contingent who have been to most, if not all, Tech home games, folks like Rod MacKenzie (Scout), Kelly Quinlan (Rivals), William Peace (AP), Stan Awtrey (Macon Telegraph), Matt Winkeljohn (AP and ramblinwreck.com), Jon Cooper (ramblinwreck.com), assorted AP writers (Charles Odum, George Henry) and Tech athletic department staffers Mike Stamus, Mike Flynn, Alex Keator and Simit Shah. We laugh a lot together and they’re part of what makes my job a lot of fun (most days). Alas, the picture didn’t quite happen. I got a little distracted. Regardless, I appreciate their company and it’s always a little bit sad when seasons come to an end.


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