Taking a second review of Georgia Tech’s 60-53 win over Notre Dame on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. The “5 observations” can be read here.
5 more observations
1. The feeling about this one is that Tech didn’t play as well as it could have, particularly on offense. The Jackets shot 20-for-47 on 2-point field-goal tries, 42.6 percent. To borrow a phrase of Josh Pastner’s, that gets you beat. Dating to the start of the Brian Gregory era, Tech has played 28 games in which it shot 45 percent or lower on 2-point shots. The Jackets are 5-23 in those games.
You can maybe take some consolation that included in the five wins are Tech’s past two ACC games (Miami last week and Notre Dame on Wednesday). And, actually, Pastner is actually 3-2 in those games dating to last season. So maybe it isn’t actually, technically speaking, losing basketball.
It wasn’t just the shooting percentage. The Jackets made bad decisions with the ball (13 turnovers, including some egregious ones) and the ball movement wasn’t consistent. Tech had assists on 13 of 25 field goals, a touch low.
As it appeared to me, Tech outplayed Notre Dame for two brief stretches – one in the first half and another in the second – and that carried the Jackets to a win over a team that was without its two best players.
I don’t know how valid the “If they played like that vs. Team X” argument goes, but, to the extent that it does, but if Tech did indeed deliver a performance like that against most ACC teams, it would have resulted in a loss.
2. That said, the fact that an ACC win can be dissected is something of an accomplishment in and of itself. Tech has reached a point where, on its home court against an admittedly outmanned opponent, a win is expected. That is progress, particularly in a year where the non-conference was so bumpy and the team is so young.
3. Pastner praised his team for taking only 12 3-point shots, making five. It tied the second high. Notre Dame went full time to a zone in the second half, which can sucker a team into launching 3-pointers willy nilly.
“We kept it simple and just worked the ball and kept it within the confines within our offense,” Pastner said.
Tech has not been effective beyond the arc (275th nationally at 32.5 percent), but the return of guard Curtis Haywood (21-for-45, 46.7 percent) and Josh Okogie’s game coming back to him (13-for-29, 44.8 percent) are good news for Tech in that regard. Brandon Alston continues to start, although he played just 12 minutes Wednesday. He is shooting 37.9 percent (11-for-29). (A note about Alston: As I was finishing up at McCamish Pavilion well after the game, Alston came back onto the court to shoot for about an hour.)
If Tech, which needs to squeeze as much from its offense as possible, can nudge its team’s 3-point shooting percentage up to maybe 36 percent, that would be a big boost.
4. Forward Abdoulaye Gueye continues to progress. He scored eight points on 4-for-6 shooting with six rebounds with a block and a steal (and a turnover and three fouls). Gueye has become more and more of an option in the low post and his explosiveness off the floor and his reach help make him a capable shot blocker. He also runs the floor well, putting back a missed layup that was part of Tech’s 13-0 run in the first half.
He also made a jumper from the baseline as the shot clock expired on a possession in the second half to increase Tech’s lead to 37-29. On the ensuing possession, Notre Dame flubbed what looked like a sure basket, ultimately turning the ball over. It was essentially a four-point swing, one that could have cut the lead to two had Gueye missed and Notre Dame scored. Instead, the lead moved to eight.
Pastner said the team ran the same play that Gueye scored on in practice Tuesday, and he said he told Gueye not to shoot that shot, but to drive to the rim instead.
“God bless him for that,” Pastner said. “It was a big shot he hit.”
5. Tech played more man defense than it typically does. It normally mixes defenses, but plays more 2-3 and 1-3-1 than man. Pastner typically goes by feel, sticking with one scheme if it’s working.
“We played a lot of man-to-man because they have a lot of shooters on the court at one time, so it’s kind of hard playing zone and having to guard everyone up close because they can shoot,” Okogie said.
9 Tech is now 9-2 at home in ACC games in Pastner’s tenure. That includes wins over five ranked teams (if you consider Notre Dame, ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll, a ranked team).
40 Jose Alvarado played the full 40 minutes for the third time this season. He is the first freshman to play the full 40 minutes of a regulation game since Stephon Marbury did it in the 1995-96 season.
11 Notre Dame finished the first half missing its last 11 shots, a stretch covering the final 8:54 of the half.