It is not easy to go into Charlottesville and face one of the top defenses on the country. Georgia Tech hung on early, but went into a looooong period where the offense just could not put the ball in the basket at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half.
Ben Lammers had one of his worst games all season, going only 3-12 from the field for just 7 points. When the Jackets were struggling, they kept feeding it to Lammers, but he could not hit some tough shots when they needed him to. The announcers heaped praise on Virginia center Jack Salt for his solid defense, and while he did make it tough for Lammers, Ben did miss shots that we have absolutely seen him make this year. It’s possible that all of the minutes he has played this year is starting to catch up with him, but I think it is more likely he just had an off day against a very good defense. I expect him to get back to his double-double ways soon.
With the Jackets best offensive player struggling, the rest of the team needed to step up, but they were unable to. Josh Okogie led with 14 points on 4-7 shooting, but he also had some very lazy passes that ended up in the hands of Cavaliers. He ended with 5 turnovers. The next best scorers, Tadric Jackson and Quinton Stephens, combined for only 9 points on 3-11 from the field. Neither of them could get much going today. The best play might very well have come from the point guards. Heath was 4-5 for 8 points, while Justin Moore had some very nice backdoor cuts on his way to ten points on 5-6 shooting along with 3 steals, 3 assists, and no turnovers. Moore is a little inconsistent, but he certainly looks capable of playing at an ACC level.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets did alright, though not spectacular. Virginia went uncharacteristically cold from deep, hitting just 22.7%, which certainly helped early. Their biggest problem was covering the red-hot Marial Shayok. He was quiet early, but scored the first 9 points for Virginia in the second half, and carried the offense when the rest of the team was going through a rough patch. He ended with 19 points on 6-9 shooting. Before he got going, it was London Perrantes doing most of the work. He scored all of his 11 points in the opening minutes including a deep, deep three pointer. Devon Hall also added 10 points for the Cavaliers.
This game was the last of a three game road trip. The Jackets ended 1-2 on the trip including that heartbreaking loss at Virginia Tech on Wednesday. That is a very reasonable result for a road trip in the ACC. Unfortunately for the Jackets, things are actually going to get even harder as they next welcome Florida State and then Notre Dame. Both of these teams are tied for first in the ACC. Florida State is coming off playing Virginia, Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, and Louisville in a brutal 6 game stretch and only came out with one loss. Notre Dame has played a slightly easier schedule, but 6-1 in this ACC is still impressive. The Seminoles are coming to McCamish on Wednesday followed by the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
Despite the loss, the Yellow Jackets continue to impress. They snuck into the top 100 on KenPom, and have played well long enough that they have left little doubt that this is the quality of team they are. This team was no fluke.