Georgia Tech accepted another kick in the gut Tuesday, this time in the form of an 80-59 loss to rival Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets capitulated in a second half in which they shot 25 percent from the field while permitting the Bulldogs to run wild, making 15 of 21 field-goal attempts (71.4 percent).
Georgia has now won three games in a row in the series, a first since 1999-2001. Tech dropped to 5-5 while Georgia improved to 8-2.
Five observations from the game:
Roasted from 3-point range
Tech was uncharacteristically lax in defending the 3-point arc. The Jackets failed to close out and challenge shooters and didn’t get through screens. The Bulldogs were willing beneficiaries, knocking down nine of 19 attempts from 3-point range (47.4 percent), well above their season rate of 34 percent.
Part of that was by design, coach Josh Pastner said. Tech game planned to let guards Juwan Parker, Jordan Harris and E’Torrion Wilridge – who were a combined 2-for-21 from 3-point range thus far this season – take uncontested 3-pointers, since the greater concern was the interior threat of forward Yante Maten. However, Parker, Harris and Wilridge were a combined 4-for-6.
“The problem was, we did not plan on them beating us from 3, which, they ended up beating us from 3,” Pastner said. “If you look at their numbers, that’s not their strong point.”
However, those three weren’t the only ones to take unchallenged 3-pointers.
“I think they did a good job of scouting our defense, and I don’t think we did the best job in practice of knowing how they were going to play our defense,” center Ben Lammers said. “I think it’s just working hard in practice.”
Tough night for Okogie
In his second game back from an NCAA suspension and finger injuries, guard Josh Okogie looked a little bit like someone who has been out for the first month and a half of the season. Always aggressive, Okogie attempted a number of difficult shots and ended the night 5-for-16 from the field. His driving did net him 13 free throws, of which he made 10, and he finished with a team-high 21 points. He was also active on the defensive end with deflections and three steals. But there were plays where he wasn’t as surehanded with the ball as he normally is and might have been wise to give up the ball.
“He forced some stuff,” Pastner said.
Said Okogie, “I felt like I was comfortable. I just missed layups I should have made.”
Tougher night for Lammers
Lammers was also off his game. He was 2-for-10 from the field for four points and conceded he relied too much on his fadeaway jumper rather than going strong to the basket.
“I definitely didn’t do a great job dealing with their physicality,” Lammers said.
The reigning ACC defensive player of the year also went without a block for the first time this season. In the first half, after UGA guard William Jackson beat guard Jose Alvarado off the dribble, he then drove right past Lammers for a basket. It was a most atypical play for Lammers, whose quickness and length have made him a superior help defender on plays exactly like that.
Since a phenomenal effort in the season opener against UCLA, Lammers has not been able to match that form or the All-ACC level he played at last season. Some of it, undoubtedly, is due to the sprained ankle he suffered against Bethune-Cookman in the second game of the season. From that point through this past Friday, Lammers was held out of practice to rest his ankle.
“Our entire offensive and defensive scheme is centered around Ben, and it’s just hard when he’s not playing better,” Pastner said. “I’m not blaming him – there’s no blame on Ben – just everything we do centers through him on both ends of the floor.”
Looking for answers
To give Lammers more practice time, Pastner decided after the game to practice twice Wednesday and twice again on Thursday to help get him find his rhythm and timing. Back-to-back two-a-days isn’t a normal approach with a game Friday (agains Wright State), but such is the height of Pastner’s concern.
Pastner said he thought that part of Lammers’ challenge to regain his form is him having the confidence in his ankle to go full throttle.
“We can dissect whatever we want – we need the old Ben back,” Pastner said.
Hammered in the second half
The Jackets went into halftime down 36-34, thanks in part to unusually effective offensive play. Tech shot 50 percent from the field, led by guard Tadric Jackson’s 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Jackson had not been expected to play due to an ankle injury suffered against Florida A&M on Sunday, but told Pastner at the shootaround Tuesday that he wanted to play. He ultimately finished with 17 points.
However, Tech fell apart in the second half. The Bulldogs scored on eight of their first 11 possessions, pushing the lead to 54-41, and the Jackets responded poorly.
“I think it was one of those things, especially in the second half, when we saw that they were making some shots, and we weren’t making our shots, we kind of went into panic mode and then we started playing selfishly, so then everyone was trying to win the whole game by themselves,” Lammers said.
Tech finished the game with five assists on 22 baskets. It was the fewest assists for Tech in Pastner’s 46-game tenure at Tech.
Georgia won the second half 44-25, the most points that the Jackets have allowed in a half this season.
“They just kicked our butt in the second half,” said Pastner, who accepted responsibility for the loss. “I thought they punched us in the mouth and just kept punching us. We didn’t respond really well.”