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A second look at Georgia Tech-Virginia


More from Georgia Tech’s 76-56 loss to No. 1 Virginia on Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena. You can read the “5 observations” story here.

1. Two very different losses

Saturday’s 76-56 loss to Virginia Tech and Wednesday’s 65-54 loss to No. 1 Virginia both counted the same in the standings, but the feel of the games was vastly different.

Against the Hokies, Tech did little well and was out of the game by halftime, and probably earlier. Effort seemed a problem, the Yellow Jackets were getting exploited on defense and not much worked on offense after a hot start by guard Tadric Jackson.

Against the Cavaliers, the Jackets were resilient, often playing the top team in the country possession for possession, didn’t give up many easy baskets, hit some key shots and got help from virtually everyone who played, particularly center Ben Lammers and Jackson.

“It just all comes down to playing hard, to actually playing hard,” Jackson said. “Like Coach (Josh Pastner) said, ‘When you’re playing hard, I think everything else really just follows.” Like you start making shots and you start getting deflections or getting steals and stuff like that.”

I’d assess the mood of the three players I talked to after the game Wednesday – guard Josh Okogie, Jackson and Lammers – and Pastner as encouraged. I’m not alarmed that they weren’t completely crushed after losing – the whole “no moral victories” thing – as it’s hard to get around the fact that they were playing a much better team in its own gym on a night when it had a lot on the table.

I think at some level it’s OK to recognize that Virginia is a much better team, but still find solace in that perhaps the Jackets figured some things out Wednesday, particularly given the way they played against Louisville and Virginia Tech in the past two games.

“Overall, we played well,” Pastner said.

2. Limited role for Gueye

Forward Abdoulaye Gueye did not start Wednesday, ending a 14-game start streak, and played only three minutes, which was by far his low in ACC games. Pastner went with a starting lineup of Jackson and Okogie at the guard spots, Moses Wright and Evan Cole at forward and Lammers at center. It was the eighth starting five that Tech has used this season, and the first time that Wright and Cole have started together.

Pastner said that Lammers was playing too well for him to be taken out for Gueye, although he also passed on opportunities to sub him for Wright, also. Wright was aggressive going to the glass and finished with seven rebounds and played 35 minutes before fouling out. Backup center Sylvester Ogbonda was the first post player off the bench, the second game in a row where he has gotten into the game in the first half after playing a total of 10 minutes up to that point this season.

3. Jackets torched by 3’s (again)

Virginia joined the growing list of teams to make hay from 3-point range against Tech. The Cavaliers were 7-for-14 from 3-point range, even better than their 37.2 percent accuracy in ACC play. Tech was late on a number of occasions after getting spread out or snagged on screens, but Pastner made a point to note some of the makes were defended well or late in the shot clock.

Guard Ty Jerome was 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

“I don’t know how much things opened for him,” Pastner said. “He’s really good. He’s just good. he hit some tough 3’s.”

Tech’s past eight opponents have shot a combined 47.6 percent from 3-point range (69-for-145). The Jackets’ season rate is now up to 38.2 percent, which is 321st of 351 teams in Division I.

4. Wright plays big

Pastner took time to praise Wright for his contributions – six points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes. He has some developing to do, but he has quickness, reach and explosiveness and the makings of a decent jump shot. As long as he continues to develop, he’ll help Tech win games in coming seasons.

He is perhaps the last contribution from former assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie, who was responsible for finding and recruiting him last spring. He was a pretty remarkable find – Wright doesn’t even have a recruiting ranking, although that’s more of an indictment on the trustworthiness of recruiting rankings than it is anything else.

Wright picked Tech over Charlotte and then-coach Mark Price.

5. From the winning side 

What Virginia coach Tony Bennett had to say about Tech:

“Credit Georgia Tech, how physical they were coming out. Lammers is a terrific player, Okogie, and then Jackson. They ran their stuff hard. We were not great tonight but that’s a credit to them, after having some tough losses and some injuries, coming out and playing.”

“Josh and that staff, they’ve been deal with some hared injuries and their last two games have been tough. You can tell they decided, ‘We’re going to be physical, we’re going to pretty simplistic in where we’re going,’ and I thought they did a heck of a job.”

6. My ACC travels

It occurred to me leaving Charlottesville that I have now covered seven Tech football or basketball games there and have witnessed one Jackets win (the 2013 win by the football team). That got me comparing my UVA assignments with the rest of the ACC.

Not counting Miami, where I’ve covered one basketball game, Clemson takes the cake, I think. I’ve been there 10 times (including the 2016 trip to Bon Secours Arena in Greenville, S.C., while Littlejohn Coliseum was being renovated) and Tech has won once, the 2008 football game (which was, among other things, Dabo Swinney’s head coaching debut). And I actually missed covering two other basketball losses because of national signing day. Dating to the 2005-06 season, Clemson has won 12 home games in a row over Tech, which, given that the Tigers aren’t exactly Duke, is pretty staggering. Tech is 6-7 at home against Clemson in the same span.

Speaking of which, Tech goes to Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday. (You’ll be uninterested to know that I go to church with descendants of the arena’s namesake, a school employee. When it was renovated, one of them kept badgering me for updates on whether Dan Radakovich was going to rename it.)

Of games I’ve covered, Tech probably has been most successful in Raleigh, N.C. I’ve written about two football wins and three basketball wins against N.C. State.


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About the Author

Ken Sugiura covers Georgia Tech sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.