I went to Georgia Tech for 4 and a half years. I went to a lot of games. It was so quiet against Presbyterian that I nearly had a conversation with their coach from across the floor. I watched us lose to ETSU on a buzzer beater along with about 60 other people. I watched an ugly game against Wake Forest on a lazy Sunday afternoon with about 10 other students. Never was I ever a part of a crowd that was anything like tonight. The crowd was packed full and rowdy. They held an airball chant for an entire half. It was incredible. It made me sad I moved away and truly made me miss Atlanta despite being gone for only 3 months. I look forward to seeing this type of crowd for years to come.
This game was an interesting one. For the longest time in the first half, neither team could get anything going on offense. It took until about 15 minutes into the game for anybody to get going. Syracuse finally went on a run, and pulled out to a nine point lead. Georgia Tech was able to come back some before half, especially thanks to a buzzer beating three by Tadric Jackson that pulled it to within 3. In the second half, it was all Jackets. Jackson made some huge plays and the Jackets started getting into a rhythm of beating the zone down the floor. They were able to get their lead up to 13 with 7 and a half minutes remaining. Despite that, I was never comfortable. The Orange have made their hay this year by making improbable comebacks. The Jackets held on strong until about 3 minutes remaining. Syracuse abandoned the zone, and started full court pressing. The Jackets were able to get some easy baskets, but they also gave up some very dumb turnovers. Syracuse was all of a sudden knocking down shot after shot and chipping away at the Georgia Tech lead. It looked like Georgia Tech was going to hang on, but on an inbound, the ball slipped out of Quinton Stephen’s hand straight to a Syracuse player for an easy bucket. Then, Tadric Jackson got called for an offensive foul which gave the Orange the ball down 2 with less than 30 seconds. Luckily, Syracuse got called for a moving screen with 14 seconds left in the game. That is all anybody is going to talk about this game. No, that should not have been called a foul, but it always stinks when 40 minutes of play is ignored for one call (especially when Lammers was fouled on an offensive rebound that led to a 3-pointer less than a minute earlier). Next, Georgia Tech mostly made their free throws to finish it out while Syracuse missed their desperation three pointers.
The MVP of this game was undoubtedly Ben Lammers. He was the only one who could score for most of the first half. He hit several key jump shots and had some monster dunks. He ended with 7 blocks and influenced plenty of other shots that he wasn’t able to get a hand on. He had 23 points on 11-18 shooting and added 7 rebounds and 7 blocks. Helping him was Tadric Jackson. Tadric came off the bench and had his usual mix of head-scratching plays and offensive prowess. He hit a big three to get Georgia Tech it’s biggest lead of the game. He made some fantastic plays on the fast break to keep Georgia Tech going near the end of the game. Josh Okogie added 13 points and 6 rebounds, but never seemed like he was in a rhythm. Neither Quinton Stephens nor Josh Heath added much scoring with 7 points each (with several of those points coming on late free throws), but they were still very useful on the offensive end. Stephens added 6 rebounds and 8 assists while Heath had 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Without their contributions this game is a different story.
John Gillon and Tyler Lydon are two of Syracuse’s best players, but they were totally shut down today. They came on at the end to hit some key shots, but it was well into the second half before either of them scored a point. John Gillon had an airball chant following him for the entire second half. They ended up shooting a combined 5-21 from the field. They needed help from their other big scorers, and they did get it. Andrew White shot 4-12 from deep on his way to 17 points and Tyus Battle added 11 points on 4-8 shooting. But the real star for the Orange was Taurean Thompson. He struggled some in the second half, but he dominated the first half and still ended with 18 points on 8-21 shooting. Syracuse plays a very, very short bench and it is tough to come back from two solid offensive players struggling like they did. As a team, Georgia Tech held Syracuse to just 35.7% from the field, although they did grab 16 offensive rebounds (all by Lydon or Thompson).
Georgia Tech is now 7-7 in the ACC and still firmly on the bubble. This was a must-win game for them, and they have been able to hold serve at home. They have a very short turnaround as they welcome the struggling NC State Wolfpack on Tuesday in front of what I hope is another packed house.