aI’ll admit it. I was very, very wrong about this team. I bet you were too. With this win, the Yellow Jackets are now 2-2 in the ACC despite having arguably the toughest opening schedule of any team. They have already surpassed many people’s win expectations and ACC play has barely started. The ACC has been crazy so far, but what GT has accomplished so far is incredible.
Ben Lammers has easily been the Jacket’s MVP this season, and he played like it tonight. He posted yet another double-double and led the game with 23 points on 8/17 shooting. He had a couple of bad post-ups in the first half, but that was the only negative I could find from him this game. He was money on his jumpers, made some clutch rebounds, and was fantastic as usual at positioning himself under the basket to receive a pass. He plays nearly every minute of every game and is always out there gaming.
He was helped out offensively by the trio of Quinton Stephens, Josh Okogie, and Tadric Jackson. Stephens had a sequence that really defined his Tech basketball career when he followed up a beautiful deep three with an airball on the next possession. He has struggled with his shooting at times this year (5-15 in this game) but has helped out in other ways on offense. Josh Okogie had two highlight plays that bookended the game. Just a couple plays into the game, Okogie dribbled behind the back to split two defenders and make an acrobatic lay-up. Right as GT was putting the game away, Okogie made an athletic offensive rebound, drew the defender and made a perfect no-look pass to Stephens for an easy dunk. Those two plays were just part of a very good 13 point day for Okogie. Jackson was relatively silent for much of the game, but he made some big plays down the stretch on his way to an efficient 10 points on 3-5 from the field.
Jaron Blossomgame as expected had a strong game for the Tigers with 20 points on 8-13 shooting. Due to strong defense, he was unable to truly take over though. And what fantastic defense it was. Taking out Blossomgame’s contributions, Clemson shot just 14-47 from the field, under 30 percent! Avry Holmes backed up Blossomgame with three 3-pointers on his way to 14 points. They also got some help off the bench from Marcquis Reed and Gabe DeVoe with 9 and 8 points respectively. But that was about it for the Tigers who just did not have the shooting and offensive rhythm to keep up with the Yellow Jackets today.
The most impressive part of this team today was the defense. Clemson missed some wide open threes which helped, but they looked all out of sorts on offense especially in the first half. The major factor though was that Georgia Tech got their defensive rebounds, even in the zone. Offensive rebounds have killed the Jackets all year, but today they only gave up 8, just 21.1%. On the other end, the Jackets grabbed a 32.3% of their offensive rebounds. Georgia Tech has not done better on the offensive boards than the other team in any game since Penn State.
So where does this leave the Jackets? They are now 2-2 in the ACC and have hugely raised expectations. They now head on a tough road trip, not that any ACC road trip is easy. First they head to Raleigh to take on NC State, who is struggling hard. Their last two games were a 51 point loss to UNC and an 8 point loss at Boston College. This is the make or break moment for them so they could either come with intensity or fall apart. Then they head to Blacksburg to take on VT. The Hokies were riding high after an upset over Duke in their opener, but they are now also at 2-2 with a bad loss by 26 to NC State. Finally, they face Virginia, who also finds themselves at 2-2 with a surprising loss to Pittsburgh. Any wins from here are now gravy, but I think the Jackets have a good chance to take at least one of these three.