Georgia Tech led the entire game. If you heard that, it might seem that this game was a blowout. That could not be further from the truth. Despite never trailing, they also never led by more than 8. This game always felt like it was going to come down to the final possession. It nearly did. Syracuse had their chances late in the game, but the same things plagued them that had hurt them all game, turnovers and airtight defense. In the end, Tech held on for the 55-51 lead (although it should have been more; Okogie bobbled an easy dunk out of bounds in the waning seconds).
Georgia Tech seems to always struggle against the zone and today was no exception. When they let the Syracuse zone get set they ended up playing very ugly basketball. There was far too much passing around the perimeter and when they did get the ball inside to Lammers they struggled getting the next pass. Their best success was by playing 6’2” guard Tadric Jackson down low. He found seams and was able to dink and dunk his way into four baskets in quick succession in the second half that kept Tech’s offense moving just enough. Defensively this team was dynamite. There were no open shots. Every shot, every pass, every dribble was contested. They held Syracuse to a dismal 30% from the field and turned them over 15 times. The Orange never looked like they had a chance on offense.
I want to give a couple shout outs for huge play by Georgia Tech players. Tadric Jackson came off the bench and added 15 points on 7/12 shooting as well as 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He has been struggling a little bit the last couple of games, but today he was showing off his post game against guys that were at least 6’9”. He had a monster game. Abdoulaye Gueye did not have the offense that had suddenly appeared for him, but his efforts defensively won this game. He had the unenviable task of guarding 6’5” guard Tyus Battle. He held the best offensive player on the Orange to just 4-17 shooting and gathered 5 blocks in the process. He was able to shoot 9 free throws, but if he had been able to get anything going from the field at all this would have been a very different game. And finally I’d like to shout out Jose Alvarado. Yes, he only went 1-8 from the field, but his hustle was insane. He got a hand on darn near every loose ball. He’s credited with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals, but there were at least two “rebound assists” that he had and his hustle with under a minute left wasted nearly 15 seconds for the Orange when they desperately needed time.
It was announced earlier today that freshman guard Curtis Haywood II was shut down for the rest of the year with a leg injury. That slimmed down Pastner’s rotation from a tight seven to a paltry six. Add onto that Gueye’s injury in the second half that saw him on the bench for most of the second half. These six (Ben Lammers, Jackson, Josh Okogie, Gueye, Alvarado, and Brandon Alston) made it work. Huge props to them. I don’t know if they can all keep up with this work load, but I suspect Pastner will try.
Lammers had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds (5 offensive). Okogie added 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. Alston had only 4 points on 2-7 shooting, but he played great defense and made some veteran plays.
This brings the Yellow Jackets to 4-5 in the ACC. Next they head to Boston this Sunday to take on the Boston College Eagles to get up to .500 in ACC play.