Photo: Danny Karnik/GTAA
Photo: Danny Karnik/GTAA

A second look at Georgia Tech-Wake Forest

´╗┐Another review of Georgia Tech’s 64-56 win over Wake Forest Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. For the “5 observations” story, read here.

1. The charge that guard Josh Okogie with 23.1 seconds left in the game with Tech leading 58-56 changed the game, giving the Jackets possession and forcing the Demon Deacons to foul. It was made necessary, coach Josh Pastner explained, because of poor execution at the other end on the previous play.

Okogie and Tadric Jackson messed up a handoff, allowing Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford to tie up Okogie for a held ball, which gave the Demon Deacons possession and a chance to tie or take the lead.

On the handoff, Okogie was to cut hard to Jackson to get the ball to get clearance from Crawford. Okogie stutter stepped before making something of a nonchalant cut to Jackson and Crawford stayed with him and got between him and Jackson. After the game, Pastner, who preaches sharp cutting, was not happy.

“He’s got to be able to set him up better,” Pastner said. “He kind of stepped softly and that doesn’t work. If you’re not violently cutting in one direction to get a guy off you, it’s not going to work.”

Pastner said the same thing happened in the loss to Clemson, when Pastner drew up a play for Okogie but he didn’t cut hard enough and foiled the play. Pastner said he told Okogie after the game that he wouldn’t run the play for him anymore if he couldn’t get open. (Okogie actually did make the cut much more sharply in the first half on a similar play and took a handoff to set up a jumper.)

To Okogie, that mistake led to him taking the charge.

“We drew up a play, (Crawford) kind of blew it up, got a jump ball, I took it kind of personal,” Okogie said. “I made sure my teammates, we all hung together and made sure we got this stop.”

On the charge itself: “I didn’t know I was going to get (the call). I was more focused on not letting him get to the basket, but I squared him up and he kept going towards me, so he made it easy on my part.”

It was one of three charges that Okogie took on Saturday. 

“I call it not opening the gate, where you allow a guy to drive it,” Pastner said. “But also pushing off your back foot, lunging and being able to take contact in your chest. You can’t be afraid to get hit in your chest. You’ve got to be able to take the contact.”

2. Forward Evan Cole went to the line with 2:43 remaining and Tech up 54-48. Cole had already been to the line once, missing the front end of a one-and-one. Before his two free throws, Josh Okogie had a quick talk with the freshman. The day before, the two had a free-throw shooting competition following Cole’s 1-for-4 effort on Thursday against N.C. State.

“I think he was like, 4-for-10,” Okogie said. “Obviously, these little competitions, I was like, Yeah, you can’t shoot free throws, you can’t shoot free throws.”

A day later, Okogie had to change his tune.

“I grabbed him and I told him, I was like, I know yesterday I was saying all this, but we need you to step up and I know you’re going to make these, and that’s what he did.”

Cole, a 47.8 percent free-throw shooter going into the game, indeed made both to push the Jackets’ lead to 56-48.

Pretty good leadership.

3. Three team members, Jose Alvarado, Justin Moore and Jon Brown, were not on the bench or even in the arena Saturday because they were late to a Saturday morning shootaround, Pastner said.

None of the three was expected to play in the game. Alvarado is out for the season with an elbow injury. Brown is a walk-on who has played a total of five minutes this season. Moore, a backup point guard, has not played since December.

4. If you’re wondering, and you’re probably not, what might Tech’s situation be if the five losses that might be deemed most winnable were flipped – Wofford, Grambling State, Wright State, Clemson (at home) and Boston College – here’s your answer. (It could be argued quite convincingly that any “what if?” scenario that requires five results to be flipped is a bit on the fanciful side. But, for instance, had center Ben Lammers not gotten hurt, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine all five going Tech’s way and perhaps a few more.)

Tech would be 18-13 and its RPI, according to rpiforecast.com, would be 68. That would likely be too high (or low, depending on how think of it) to be considered a NCAA Tournament bubble team, barring a deep run into the ACC Tournament and perhaps even then. Tech would be 3-9 against RPI top 50 and its most significant road win would be over Boston College (RPI: 100). Plus, its non-conference schedule was fairly weak.

It would likely be enough to get the Jackets into the NIT for a second consecutive year, though. Tech made it in last year with a record of 16-15 (not counting the win over Tusculum) and an RPI of 105.

If’s and but’s, as they say.

5. Tech won two ACC games with an offensive efficiency rating (KenPom) of 85.1, against Syracuse and Wake Forest. For the sake of context, 85.1 is really low. The team with the lowest rating in Division I, Alabama A&M is at 87.0.

The lowest rating in an ACC win this season besides Tech’s twin 85.1 scores was 92.3 (Notre Dame over Syracuse). You could argue that it points to Tech’s defensive prowess.

I would suggest it’s indicative of the Jackets’ ability to muck up games, for better or worse. The wins over Syracuse and Wake Forest were not defensive gems as I saw them, just teams struggling to create offense. Still, it’s a credit to Tech to be able to win in a fashion that most teams evidently cannot.

6. When center Ben Lammers went to the line in the first half, a fan (presumably supporting Wake Forest) yelled out “Nice hair!” at him. Not the most clever insult to toss at Lammers, whose hair can be a bit unkempt, but not the worst. Lammers acknowledged he heard it.

“I always know, especially when my hair gets longer, I’ll wipe it off with a towel and it’ll be kind of crazy,” Lammers said. “It’s at a point where it’s just going to stay like that and I can’t do much about it. I’m just like, if we play good enough, they can’t make fun of you that much.”

7. A thoughtful response from Okogie about joining the 1,000-point club on Saturday.

“It feels great just to be in company with a lot of great guys, including Ben and Tadric and do it for them on their senior night and to do it for the Georgia Tech community on the last home game of the season. It felt really good. Just got to keep going and make a run in the ACC Tournament.”

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