Ben Lammers found an extra gear Sunday night in the second half, when he made a pair of 3-point shots while scoring 15 of his team-high 17 points, but Georgia Tech couldn’t catch up to Tennessee’s late barrage of free throws in a 77-70 loss at McCamish Pavilion.
Tech guards Tadric Jackson (15 points), Jose Alvarado (14) and Curtis Haywood II (12) added scoring punch.
Here are five observations from the Yellow Jackets’ second consecutive loss:
Or at least the senior center looked more like the himself in the second half.
Lammers has struggled offensively since spraining an ankle Nov. 19 in a win over Bethune Cookman, especially when he scored just four points in Friday night’s upset loss to Grambling State. He hasn’t been able to practice since the injury, and estimated Sunday night that his right ankle is at, “60, 70 percent.”
On Sunday, he missed both his shots in the first half before getting un-tracked in the second. Lammers made two from beyond the arc, and he was more agile than in weeks. He made a modest 4-of-9 shots overall in the second half (missing a third try at a triple), and was so active that he kept going to the free throw line, where he hit on 7-of-9. He added nine rebounds, three assists a block and a steal.
“This game was better . . . It’s not a huge pain thing, and it’s wrapped, but it limits my mobility and my game is very much being mobile,” Lammers said after playing all 40 minutes. “You have to adapt. Lack of mobility can make it difficult.”
After the Jackets play Wednesday at Wofford, Tech will go 11 days without a game. Maybe Lammers will heal up then.
“He’s out of rhythm, he’s out of sync and he’s not in a flow,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “And it’s just because he hasn’t practice and he’s favoring a bad ankle . . . Playing with Ben at 50 percent is better than playing without Ben.”
The Jackets couldn’t corral Tennessee third-year sophomore guard Lamonte Turner, who led led Tennessee with 24 points off the bench. He scored eight points as the Vols (6-1) built a 35-29 halftime lead, twice hitting 3-pointers as the visitors made 5-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Tech (4-3) pulled within 41-40 on Haywood’s layup off a nifty pass from Jackson with 13:54 to go. As the shot clock was winding down on Tennessee’s ensuing possession, Turner hit a 3-pointer even as Jackson was playing tight defense.
While scoring 16 points in the second half, the 6-foot-1 guard made 9-of-9 free throws.
“I think Lamonte’s experience was really huge,” said Tennessee head coach Cliff Barnes. “He had that look where I thought he had great command of himself and what we needed to get done. A big play was when the fans got into it and they cut it to one and we were trying to shorten the game. Then, Lamonte raised up and hit that shot.”
Tennessee expanded its lead to 11 points in the middle of the second half, but the Jackets kept battling. They cut the deficit to 58-57 on a pair of free throws by Haywood with 2:59 left in the game.
The Vols countered by making eight straight free throws over their next four possessions, and a three-point play by Turner put Tennessee up by 11 again with less than a minute to play. Early in that stretch, Haywood tried a 3-pointer that would have tied the game, but it rimmed out and Tennessee rebounded.
Overall, the Vols made 21-of-25 free throws in the second half, and 17 of their final 19 points came from the charity stripe. Tech made 12-of-19 free throws in the second half, and 22-of-33 in the game.
Digging them out
Pastner places great emphasis on his guards rooting around for defensive rebounds, and the Jackets once again got plenty of help in that area from Alvarado and Haywood as Tech outrebounded Tennessee, 36-35. Seven of Haywood’s eight rebounds were of the defensive variety as were four of Alvarado’s seven. Haywood also had a game-high six assists.
Tech’s freshmen guards are promising.
Alvarado got busted in the chops in a first-half collision with burly Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield, who goes 6-feet-5, 238 pounds, and the 6-foot, 174-pounder went down because of it.
The newcomer from New York City not only got up and kept playing, but made three 3-pointers in the game’s final 32 seconds to finish with 14 points. That came after he missed 10 of his first 11 shots in the game.
Sophomore guard Josh Okogie has the cast off his left hand, where he suffered a compound fracture to his ring finger in a preseason exhibition against Georgia State, but Tech’s leading scorer from last season (16.1 points per game, 17.1 in ACC games) and Pastner said he hopes he’ll be able to play in Tech’s ACC opener Dec. 30 at Notre Dame.
“We’ve struggled scoring-wise, and just haven’t been able to get over the hump in some key times,” Pastner said. “When you’re missing Josh Okogie, that’s 18 points a game. It’s hard, especially when teams are pressuring you and you need that one guy who can take guys off the [dribble].”