The Yellow Jackets came into today facing a very tough task against the #10 USC Trojans, and today they were not up to the challenge. The Trojans have a ton of size and it was clearly bothering the Georgia Tech offense all day. USC’s offense wasn’t explosive, but they had impressive ball movement which always seemed to find the open man.
This looked a lot like the LSU game. GT’s defense looks stingy early letting the Yellow Jackets get out to an early lead, but then the opponent starts hitting their shots and Georgia Tech doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up. With 6:15 left in the first half the Yellow Jackets were down 20-18. In the next three minutes the Trojans ripped off a 13-0 run to put them well ahead where they stayed for nearly the entire rest of the game. The only time GT threatened was halfway through the second half. Michael Devoe and Deebo Coleman hit a couple of shots in quick succession to bring GT within 6 with 6:30 left in the game. Then USC drained a three on their next possession and the Yellow Jackets never threatened again.
The offensive troubles were the same as they’ve been all season. Michael Devoe got his, 25 points (albeit on 22 shots), but other than that, where’s the offense going to come from? The bench combined to shoot just 4-20. Jordan Usher is clearly pressing and it showed in his 5-14 shooting line. The offense as a whole shot just 32.8% from the field and 26.3% from deep. The real bright spots on offense were the lack of turnovers (just 7) and 12 offensive rebounds (for a respectable 29% offensive rebounding percentage). That let Georgia Tech jack up a lot of shots, but it doesn’t really help you if you’re not making any shots. GT was doing a good job of getting chances in transition early in the game, but those opportunities dried up as the game went along. Georgia Tech keeps giving the ball to the center in the high post, but it’s not leading to good shots. It’s mostly wasting time on the shot clock before they give the ball back to a ball handler back behind the three point line with no momentum. There’s got to be a better way to get good shots for this team.
The Yellow Jackets held up defensively for a little bit, but the Trojans were just too much. They hit 9-19 from deep and got 9 offensive rebounds (on only 27 misses). They were balanced with all 5 starters scoring between 11 and 16 points. They scored inside and out. They didn’t light it up, but with their defense they didn’t need to.
Jordan Usher has the ability to be the second scorer that this team so desperately needs, but he’s struggling right now. He’s pressing on offense and it is leading to lots of turnovers and wild shots. This game was a perfect example of his struggles. USC was able to heavily contest nearly all of his shots which seemed to throw him off. He needs to take a step back and find his rhythm again if Tech is going to improve in the next few games.
Saba Gigiberia got more playtime today in the first half and he looked better than I’ve ever seen him play defensively. He was very active. He made decisive moves in the zone and was able to contest a lot of shots and got 2 blocks. He also did very good at wrangling rebounds, even some strongly contested ones. The issue was on offense. He looked indecisive on that side of the ball. USC was giving him the mid-range jumper, but he hesitated every time, only choosing to shoot it once. Given that Rodney Howard has been struggling on offense, I think Pastner should give Saba some more minutes to see if he can’t become more comfortable on the offensive end.
Next week Tech rounds out the non-conference season. They first welcome Georgia State to McCamish on Tuesday night. The Yellow Jackets should beat the Panthers, but given how the season has gone this is not a gimme. Then on Thursday the Jackets take on Alabama A&M on Thursday. If that game is close, something has gone very wrong.