5 observations from Georgia Tech’s win over North Texas

Georgia Tech won its third game in a row with a 63-49 win over North Texas on Friday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets turned the ball over a season-low six times and forced a season-high 19 turnovers, helping overcome a first half in which they scored only 22 points. 

Tech (3-1) turned it on in the second half, shooting 55.6 percent from the field and scoring 41 points.

Here are five observations from the game.

1. Freshman point guard Jose Alvarado was the best player on the floor. He was on his game from the start when his teammates were not quite as productive and kept it up in the second half. He finished with a career-high 19 points, shooting 7-for-9 from the field and making two of his four 3-point tries. Alvarado also was tough on the glass with seven rebounds and had three steals, one in which he simply swiped the ball away from a guard who was holding the ball, but not paying enough attention.

“Jose saved us the first half with 12 of our 22 (points),” coach Josh Pastner said. “When we couldn’t score, he made shots.”

In four games, the freshman from New York is averaging 14.3 points, 4.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. Pastner particularly likes the rebounding.

“When guards stick their nose in there and rebound, that’s everything,” he said. “That sets the tone.”

2. In his first game back after serving a three-game suspension for an NCAA rules violation, guard Tadric Jackson finished with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting. He scored four of his baskets at the basket, including a couple of tough finishes. Jackson showed some rust, and he drew Pastner’s ire a couple of times, including once for not going to get a rebound and another time for forcing a pass. But he probably is the team’s best finisher and was able to score from the line (4-for-5).

“It’s nice to have Tadric back,” Pastner said.

3. Guard Curtis Haywood played a breakthrough game. Seen as a perimeter threat coming out of high school – and a much-needed one for the Jackets – he had not done much through three games, making two of seven tries from beyond the 3-point arc. But he was 5-for-7 from 3-point range Friday, dropping four of them in the second half when the Jackets surged away from the Mean Green. He finished with a career-high 15 points, all scored on 3-pointers.

For a team that last season often was desperate for scoring punch from 3-point range to take heat off center Ben Lammers, any consistent production that Haywood can create will be a help. Pastner praised Haywood’s defensive work the past two games.

“It’s when he doesn’t focus on the offense he’s actually a pretty good offensive player,” Pastner said.  

4. The defensive effort had some positives. The Jackets gave the Mean Green problems by deflecting a high number of balls, leading to 11 steals and 19 turnovers, the latter the most by a Tech opponent since the upset over North Carolina on New Year’s Eve last year.

Forward Moses Wright and Lammers, who was hobbled on an ankle sprained in the Texas-Rio Grande Valley game Wednesday, both had three blocks. The Mean Green’s ball movement and driving often opened up shots at the basket, but Wright and Lammers’ work at the basket cleaned up. North Texas coach Grant McCasland said that “their length at the rim was he difference.”

North Texas point guard Ryan Woolridge was able to beat Tech defenders off the dribble. It wasn’t as punitive as it might be in games down the road, as the Mean Green didn’t have the shotmaking ability to finish plays that he opened, but Pastner acknowledged the trouble spot.

“We haven’t done a great job guarding straight-line dribbles,” he said.

5. Tech is through a relatively easy portion of the schedule. After the opener against UCLA, the Jackets have had three games against teams who finished above 300 in RPI last season. Now comes two power-conference opponents in two of the next three games, both at home – Northwestern next Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then Tennessee on Dec. 3 – and then the first road game of the season, at Wofford on Dec. 6.

Guard Josh Okogie, serving a six-game suspension for violating NCAA rules, is scheduled to return for the Tennessee game. Alvarado already looks like a solid contributor and there have been flashes from others such as forwards Abdoulaye Gueye and Wright and guards Brandon Alston and Haywood. They certainly could use Jackson to find his form soon.

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