This Georgia Tech team is playing fantastic right now. No other way around it. Georgia Tech is 3-2 in the toughest conference in America.
And today, they did it with a sub-par performance by their best player. Although for Ben Lammers a 10 point, 11 rebound, 5 block performance counts as sub-par. That’s how good he has been this year. He dominated in the paint, but went only 3-11 from the field so Georgia Tech needed some help on offense from the rest of the team, and they delivered. Josh Okogie continued his fantastic freshman year with a 27 point performance shooting 10-18 from the field. He went toe to toe with Dennis Smith Jr, one of the best players in the country, and arguably outplayed him. I was excited about Okogie’s future, but now I am excited about his now. He is dangerous.
And lets not forget about Quinton Stephen’s performance. He had 22 points on 7-14 shooting along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. And Ben Lammers wasn’t the only Jacket with a double-double yesterday. Josh Heath contributed 10 points and 10 assists and 7 rebounds. Tadric Jackson added 13 points on 6-13 shooting and 6 rebounds.
On NC State’s side this game was all about guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Maverick Rowan. They put in 31 points on 10-21 shooting and 17 points on 7-16 shooting respectively. Otherwise, they could not get much going. As a team they shot only 40.6% from the field, although they did hit 40% from deep.
This team is not like the Brian Gregory teams in many ways. Perhaps the biggest way is how they win. Gregory’s teams would get out to a big lead early and slowly bleed the lead away, just hoping to hold on. That is not how the Yellow Jackets are doing it this year. This game was close for the first half and 10 minutes of the second half. Then the Jackets went on an 11-0 run and kept that lead for the rest of the game.
There are some things that stood out this game. The first is 3 point shooting. The Jackets hit 62.5% (62.5%!!!!) from deep. It was a team effort too. Stephens went 4-8. Jackson was 1-3, Heath was 2-2, and Okogie was 3-3. When was the last time teams were afraid of leaving the Jackets open on the perimeter? It was not just their three point shooting that was fantastic. They also went 14-17 from the line (82.4%). This has been a constant problem for the Jacket’s for years, but all of a sudden they have won several games because of their work from the line. This team is just about average on free throws, but it really feels like they are shooting a lot better.
The final interesting not is that Pastner really rode his best players this game. Stephens played 40 minutes, Heath played 39, Lammers played 36, Okogie played 32, and Jackson played 30. They rewarded him by all having solid games. It will be interesting to see if Pastner continues to pare down the rotation to just his best players. Lammers has been playing this many minutes all season and he has not slowed down yet. Maybe we will see Heath and Stephens to start playing very heavy minutes as well.
Now here is the part where I make fun of people for being so wrong about Georgia Tech this year.
“This is going to be an ugly season for the Yellow Jackets. They lack the talent to do a whole lot better.” - This was me during our season preview. Whoops.
“The 1-17 projection might be wishful, assuming they can beat Boston College or steal a game from somewhere else.” - Joey Weaver also was a bit pessimistic about this season.
“I'm predicting a BIG year. 13-18 overall with a 3-15 record in the ACC. HUGE surprise.” - Rane Martin brought the most optimistic prediction in the bunch and it still looks laughable.
Josh Pastner was supposedly warned by GT officials that they might not win an ACC game this year. I bet they feel really silly right now.
And last, but not least the winner for the wrong prediction category goes to prominent college basketball writer Jon Rothstein, who called this team the least talented Power 5 team of all time. He has given props to this team for their play so far, but wow is that an embarrassing prediction.