Indiana gifted Georgia Tech home court advantage for murky reasons, and that very well may have been the difference in this game. The non-student portion of the crowd appeared to lean towards Indiana, but the student section was as loud and raucous as it has been in a very long time. The crowd clearly lifted this team when they were struggling with sloppy play and the Hoosiers were surging.
Georgia Tech bolted off to a fast start in this one thanks in large part to some Quinton Stephens three-pointers, and improbably, a Corey Heyward three-pointer as well. It looked like the Yellow Jackets might pull away from a demoralized Indiana team, but it did not stay that way for long. The Hoosiers got their offense going, and Georgia Tech was struggling to get a rhythm on offense. Indiana quickly pulled it close, but the Jackets were able to keep a little separation going into halftime. Early in the second half the Hoosiers went on a big run, but were never able to make it to more than a two point lead. Then the Jackets took over. GT didn’t quickly pull away, they slowly and methodically extended the lead with a rowdy crowd behind them. Indiana never really looked like they were going to win the game in the final 10 minutes.
Who are the Yellow Jackets four best players? Lammers, Okogie, Jackson, and Stephens. Who won this game for GT? Lammers, Okogie, Jackson, and Stephens. Ben Lammers was solid on offense, 11 points and 3 offensive boards and a ginormous dunk, but it was his defensive presence that made the biggest difference. He had 6 monster blocks and made any Hoosier think twice before shooting inside which likely led to many more missed layups. Josh Okogie had some great chemistry with Tadric Jackson in the second half on a couple of fast breaks that lead to easy dunks. Okogie spread his offensive production out all game, which made his 24 points seem quiet, but they were important. He got those 24 points on 9-15 shooting. Then there was Tadric Jackson. His first three or four possessions all turned into either a turnover or a close call. But he turned it around big time. He hit contested layups, he hit an answer three, he hit a monster dunk, he made steals leading to fast break points. After the first ten minutes, he was a difference maker. And finally, there was Quinton Stephens. He has struggled from deep this season, but he hit 4-7 tonight on his way to 16 points. Then there is his 9 rebounds, most of which were heavily contested. And you cannot forget the importance his length has in this defense. He did plenty to help the Jackets win tonight.
Indiana spread out it’s offense a little more. Star big man Thomas Bryant had his moments on his way to 13 points, but the defining moment of his game may be getting repeatedly stuffed by Lammers. James Blackmon Jr. recovered from an early airball to have a respectable 11 points on 4-8 shooting. The high scorer for the Hoosiers was Juwan Morgan who had 14 points, largely due to his 8-10 shooting at the free throw line. What doomed Indiana was their inability to hit a three. That has been Georgia Tech’s deal all season, if you’re going to score on them, you have to do it from outside. Indiana is normally a strong shooting team, but went just 5-19 from deep.
Georgia Tech has now advanced to the second round of the NIT for the second season in a row, although this season feels a lot more satisfying. Next, they either face the Georgia Dwags in Athens, or Belmont back at McCamish depending on who wins their matchup tomorrow. You can decide who you’d rather face, but I want another home game.