Following up on Georgia Tech’s 55-51 win over Syracuse on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. Thoughts, observations and statistics. The “5 observations” story can be read here.
1. In a four-point game, every possession matters, and Tech played that way. The Yellow Jackets came up with a number of effort plays to either take possessions away from Syracuse or to extend their own. Jose Alvarado took a charge in transition on Syracuse’s third possession of the game to deny a fast-break opportunity. Tech got its second basket for the game when guard Josh Okogie lunged for a steal and then threw a behind-the-back pass to center Ben Lammers as he fell out of bounds, which led to a layup for guard Brandon Alston.
Lammers secured an offensive rebound in heavy traffic and muscled up a putback to go with a foul for a three-point play. Forward Abdoulaye Gueye was able to tie up Syracuse guard Tyus Battle on a drive for a held-ball call. The Orange kept possession, but Gueye’s play prevented a shot at the basket, and Tech regained possession when forward Oshae Brissett airballed a jumper. After Okogie missed a fadeaway 3-point try at the end of the shot clock, Alvarado (6-foot) challenged guard Frank Howard (6-5) for the rebound enough that Howard couldn’t catch it cleanly and went out of bounds with the ball. With the possession extended, Lammers scored on a jump hook.
That was just the first half.
Coach Josh Pastner said that Tech won the battle for 50/50 balls, a stat that his staff charts during games. Lammers had five offensive rebounds and helped the Jackets score 11 second-chance points, 20 percent of Tech’s total.
2. At the risk of belaboring a point, the game illustrated Pastner’s contention that, if Tech can limit turnovers, it will give the Jackets a chance. Tech turned the ball over nine times for the second game in a row after having double-digit turnovers in the previous seven games. Syracuse, thanks in no small part to Tech’s nine steals (tied for the second most against the Orange this season and the most in ACC play), had 15 turnovers.
Consequently, Tech took 63 shots and Syracuse took 50 (although the Orange took 20 free throws to the Jackets’ 12).
3. Lammers and Alvarado had parallel games of a sort. Both had tough shooting nights, as Lammers was 4-for-13 and Alvarado was 1-for-8. But both contributed significantly in other ways. Lammers cleared 12 rebounds, had four assists (three to Tadric Jackson when the two played a deft high-low game) and blocked two shots and didn’t turn the ball over.
Alvarado had five assists against one turnover, four rebounds and a career-high four steals. Alvarado had a 14/22 assist/turnover ratio in his first seven games. He’s 10/3 in the past two. Further, he was better on defense against the drive.
You could group Gueye in there as well. Caught in the traffic of Syracuse’s zone, he was held scoreless (after someone wrote an article about his improvement as a scorer), but contributed five rebounds and a career-high five blocks.
4. Tech needed a win, particularly at home, and it didn’t particularly matter who the opponent was. I’m not sure how much of a feather in the cap a win over Syracuse is, however. The Orange do have a top-50 RPI (43), but in ACC play, the Orange have beaten Virginia Tech (RPI: 68), Pittsburgh twice (180) and Boston College (87). They also lost on the road to Wake Forest (116).
And, as Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim observed after the game, “Our offense is terrible.”
Beating Boston College on Sunday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., might be a more significant accomplishment.