Georgia Tech was losing this game almost the entire time. Howard was in control, but some foul outs and GT making the plays late let the Yellow Jackets escape this game with the win.
The first half was close basically the whole time. Howard went on a mini-run late to get their lead to 6. Then they started the second half with another mini-run to take a 14-point lead. Things at this point were looking hairy. Instead GT went on a 16-2 run to tie it back up. Now it seemed like Howard might fold. They had just given up a big run and were running a tight rotation. Instead they fought right back. The Yellow Jackets weren’t able to take a lead until 2:43 left after two of Howard’s most important players had fouled out. Georgia Tech was able to hit their late free throws to seemingly keep it out of reach, up 6 with 8 seconds left. Then Howard hit a three-pointer and the Yellow Jackets threw away the inbound and Howard had a desperation three point chance, but it didn’t fall.
The problem this game wasn’t the offense. Although I have my gripes there. But the defense was bad bad. The Bison were getting to the lane with ease. Help defense was late. GT only managed three blocks against a shorter team. Quite often Howard was making an extra pass to a wide open guy under the basket. They even got quite a few offensive rebounds.
The entire second half focused on two plays. Miles Kelly iso and Miles Kelly/Tyzhaun Claude pick and roll. It worked pretty well. Kelly started slow again before turning it on. He finished with 27 points on 9/24 shooting. Something is clearly wrong with his shot right now, but he is still scoring despite that. Claude was very impressive with 19 points on 8/15 shooting. He was frequently in the right spot at the right time including getting a massive putback to make it a two score game late.
The team as a whole did not shoot well. They shot 4/18 from deep and a lot were ugly. This team was bailed out by offensive rebounding. They combined for 22 offensive rebounds (That’s over a 50% OReb%). That’s insane. You can’t count on that all season especially against bigger teams. Another issue I had was the second slow start in a row. It’s only two games so I don’t want to read too much into it. Something to keep an eye on though.
The Jackets started with a long rotation, but the second half was pretty much the same crew the whole time. Kelly and Claude were joined by Deebo Coleman, Kowacie Reeves, and Kyle Sturdivant. We’ll see if that was just who Damon Stoudamire liked today or if they have the inside track on playing time in the future.
I was very impressed by Howard today. In particular Shy Odom was a monster. He played almost the whole game and ended with 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists including some clutch plays late. Bryce Harris (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Joshua Strong (18 points on just 5/8) backed him up. But really most players on Howard were making plays on offense.
After the game both Stoudamire and Sturdivant emphasized the grit of the team to pull this off. I’m not sure that’s how I’d describe this performance, but I’m just glad they pulled it off. A loss like this early can derail a whole season. Stoudamire also emphasized that they need a sense of emergency earlier in games.
The Yellow Jackets get one more relatively easy game against UMass-Lowell (ranked #190 on Kenpom) at home on Tuesday. This one isn’t a gimme, but it comes before a really tough stretch so they need to get another win here.