Game 9: Ball State 5-4 (0-0) AT Georgia Tech 4-4 (1-1)
After dropping its last two games against Syracuse and Kentucky, Georgia Tech returns to McCamish Pavilion tonight to take on Ball State. This team is in need of a win if it wants to accomplish its postseason goals and this is a good opportunity to get one. The Jackets are home for just one game following their trip to Rupp Arena before heading out to beautiful Hawaii where they will take part in the Diamond Head Classic.
At first glance, this Cardinals team doesn’t look particularly threatening with just 5-4 record despite a fairly easy schedule up to this point that has featured no games against power 6 opponents. However, after a closer examination, one will find that they have lost a couple of close games and possess some qualities that could trouble a team like Tech.
They are a veteran squad led by leading scorer, Ishmael El-Amin, a junior guard from Minneapolis who is averaging 15.4 points per game on 50% three-point shooting. Also scoring in double figures are three seniors in Kyle Mallers, Tahjai Teague and K.J. Walton. Teague looks to be the Cardinals main inside presence as he also leads the team in rebounding and blocks, while Mallers is a long-range specialist and Walton is another guard who seems to rebound extremely well for his size. Ball State is an excellent defensive team, allowing just 60 a game, good for 31st in the nation. Going up against the Jackets who play a similar style, the Cardinals could try to rely on slowing the game to a halt and trying to grind out a win while not giving Tech much margin for error.
Tech will be looking to get its two best players in Michael Devoe and James Banks back in form for this game. The duo struggled against Syracuse and Kentucky, putting up single digit points in both games. Some good news for the Jackets is that they should be getting Jose Alvarado back for this game as they get closer and closer to being a full strength team pending Jordan Usher’s debut in Hawaii. The focus for Tech should be to take advantage of the size mismatch that exists, as the tallest Ball State player in its regular rotation is 6’8”. The Jackets should be able to pound the offensive glass that will ensure extra possessions for Tech, so long as they don’t give them back on turnovers like usual. Hopefully having Alvarado back will help in this area. This will be necessary if the two excellent shooters on Ball State’s roster in El-Amin and Mallers get hot from deep, who Tech should key in on and look to stop early.
The game can be seen at 7 pm ET on ACC Network Extra.