A second look at Georgia Tech/Notre Dame

Dec 31, 2017
Robert Franklin/AP
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner yells to his players during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

Taking a second review of Georgia Tech’s 68-59 loss to Notre Dame in both teams’ ACC opener Saturday in South Bend, Ind. You can read the “5 observations” posted Saturday here.

Four points

1. I noted this in the 5 observations, but it bears mention again. Tech defended Notre Dame really well. Players were alert, quick to rotate to the ball, had their hands up and were aggressive in trapping situations. They were sharp.

“I think we definitely had a great defensive game for the most part,” said center Ben Lammers, who cleared eight defensive rebounds.

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame’s All-ACC forward and player of the year candidate, scored 22 points, but had to work to get it, taking 21 shots. The defense of the 3-point shot, a problem thus far, was O.K. Tech extended its defense out on shooters but allowed a number of clear looks, which is going to happen against a team of Notre Dame’s caliber. The Irish were 7-for-20 (35 percent), which was below its season rate of 40.1 percent and also below Tech’s defensive rate of 38.4 percent.

By the KenPom calculations, Notre Dame’s point-per-possession average was 1.022, which was Notre Dame’s second lowest of the season. The Irish only had six games all last season under that number, and Tech was responsible for two of the three lowest.

It shouldn’t be lost how well the Jackets played on the defensive end.

2. On the other hand, Tech averaged .867 points per possession, which is all kinds of awful. (A 1.1 – good, 1.0 – below average, .9 – you may be playing with a watermelon.) It was not Tech’s worst of the season, though. The Jackets were .843 against Georgia.

“(The problem) wasn’t as much defensively,” Pastner said. “We’ve got to score the ball. And we went on some droughts there where we just couldn’t score.”

A significant part of the problem was Tech’s delinquency at the free-throw line – 7-for-18 for 38.9 percent. The Jackets have actually been better this season at the line – they’re still north of 70 percent, and were 20-for-21 in the most recent game against Coppin State – but that was horrendous. Going back to the 2011-12 season, it was Tech’s sixth worst effort, according to sports-reference.com, and the worst when taking that many free throws.

“You’ve just got to step up and make free throws,” said guard Tadric Jackson, who was 1-for-3 after a 4-for-4 game against Coppin State. “There’s nothing that happened, there’s nothing that’s going on. I feel like you’ve just got to take your time and put the ball in the basket. It’s simple.”

Guard Josh Okogie was excellent from 3-point range – 4-for-9, tying his career high for made 3-pointers – but a surprising 1-for-5 inside the arc. He also didn’t get to the line as much as he has been (four times, making two) thus far this season.

Lammers took a lot of shots that he normally makes, but was 5-for-18. He is now shooting 47.1 percent for the season. After the game, Pastner again ran through his talking points regarding Lammers’ play, that he is “an unbelievable young man” and that he played like a first-round pick against UCLA but hasn’t been the same since spraining his ankle and that he has to play better because the offense and defense revolve around him. It’s become this season’s “we have zero margin for error.”

“Ben’s going to get going,” Okogie said. “A lot of people put a lot of emphasis and stress on it, but I’m not worried about Ben. He’s going to show up when we need him to and he’s going to take us to the promise land this year.”

3. Jackson continued to do a highly effective job at scoring at the basket. He was 7-for-10 on two-point field-goal shots, many of them drives to the basket in traffic. As has been noted previously, he is the team’s best finisher, and by a considerable margin. He was also 0-for-3 from 3-point range, lowering his percentage from beyond the arc to 21.2 percent.

“Tadric was effective,” Pastner said. “He was efficient for the most part. The thing for Tadric is he’s got to stop taking 3’s. He knows that because he and I have talked about that.”

As things would have it, Jackson was sitting right next to Pastner at the post-game news conference when he said that. But, the numbers would strongly encourage such a tack. Jackson is now shooting 63.3 percent on two-point shots – three times more accurate than his 3-point shot – but 3-pointers account for a little more than a quarter of his shots.

4. Ultimately, a loss is a loss, and Georgia Tech deserved this one for its failures at the line and overall inefficiency on offense.

The Jackets were devoured on the defensive glass in the second half, taking down 11 defensive rebounds to Notre Dame’s nine offensive rebounds, leading to 13 second-chance points.

But, considering whom Tech has lost to, and the way it has looked in doing so, this wasn’t the most discouraging result. The defense looked better, and with better free-throw shooting and a more effective offensive game from Lammers – two things that could be reasonably expected – this game would have gone into the final minutes, most likely, which is all you can ask for a road game against a team of Notre Dame’s caliber.

Tech will try again Wednesday against Miami at McCamish Pavilion at 9 p.m.


* Lammers’ plus/minus is different than Okogie and Alvarado’s because he was taken out of the game for 30 seconds in the first half, during which Notre Dame scored on a free throw.

From my iPhone

Strong branding play by the Joyce Center custodial staff.

3 notes that have nothing to do with the game

1. The arena PA announcer welcomed the team from “Georgia Tech University” before the game and then repeated the mistake when announcing the starting lineups.

2. New Jersey governor Chris Christie was at the game, sitting in the front row. (Christie is close with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, and Christie’s daughter has been a student manager for the team.) Christie had a long, animated conversation with Irish coaching great Digger Phelps prior to the game.

Incidentally, with the win over Tech, Brey tied Phelps for most wins in school history with his 393rd victory at Notre Dame. Six have been at the Jackets’ expense.

It was judged that Christie is shorter in person than expected.

3. Perhaps no one appreciates Notre Dame being Tech’s permanent partner more than me. I grew up outside of Chicago, and my folks still live there, so for every trip I fly into O’Hare, drive down to South Bend for the game and spend a couple days with them. Great hospitality, but their points program is kind of lacking.