Before turning their attention to the season opener against some non-descript school, Georgia Tech hosted a friendly competition with Clayton State. The Lakers from Morrow, GA held even with the Jackets through the first 12 minutes or so but Georgia Tech would pull away and win 74-41. It was just an exhibition, but it was still an important test for the many new faces on this team.
The question of who starts at the shooting guard position, Chris Bolden or Tadric Jackson, may not be a binary choice. To my surprise but not dissatisfaction, Coach Gregory started a big lineup with 6'5" Marcus-Georges Hunt at shooting guard and Quinton Stephens, Robert Sampson, and Demarco Cox joining point guard Travis Jorgenson at the halfcourt circle.
According to Kenpom's position designation algorithm over the last 5 games of the 2013-14 season, MGH played only 5% of available minutes at the SG compared to 62% of available minutes at SF. That measure is just an estimation, but I don't remember any stretches where MGH played shooting guard. In any case, I like this line of thought. Georges-Hunt presents an even greater matchup problem at the 2 than the 3 and frees up Stephens to work around the arc off two accomplished post players. In addition, it's evident Chris Bolden's struggles aren't going away soon so this may be the best option until it's decided that Tadric is ready to start.
I was previously unsure whether the seniority of Chris Bolden or the potential of Tadric Jackson would win out. After Friday, I'm sure it will be the latter, at least in the short run. Tadric caught fire from long range, draining 3 threes before the half, the only successful three pointers for Tech in the game. Tadric finished with 12 points on 11 shots in 20 minutes of play. There was a lot of good that came from the game, but let's start on a more negative note.
As compared to Tadric and everyone else, Bolden looked lost on the court. He was unable to free himself for catch-and-shoot opportunities and made a couple of cringeworthy turnovers. Not even attempting a shot in 14 minutes of play when your best asset is your shooting in a game against a D-II team is not a good look. With the big lineup deployed and Tadric breathing down his neck, Bolden starting spot is almost certainly gone and he may see his minutes slashed if he can't find the rhythm he had his freshman year.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's move on to happier news.
Travis Jorgenson tipped off the scoring with a blow-by along the baseline but didn't score the rest of the contest. Still, he ran the fastbreak well early so I don't see him relinquishing the starting guard duties anytime soon.
Despite the speed and vision Jorgenson possesses, Josh Heath may be the best pure passer on the team. He threaded the needle with a bunch of passes, especially in heavy traffic around the basket, including one no-look assist while falling out of bounds underneath the goal. Heath finished with 5 assists and 4 rebounds and a tidy 3-4 night from the field. The Heath-Heyward battle for minutes has swung very favorably toward the USF transfer.
Ben Lammers is another that impressed Friday night. While his offensive game isn't too much more than getting position for put-back dunks, he blocked a couple of shots and remains a very solid passer. Lammers finished 4-4 tonight, but the total distance he shot from I'd imagine was 0 feet due to his dunk finishes.
The Demarco Cox-Charles Mitchell tandem is still very effective. They combined for 10-16 shooting and 22 points. Robert Sampson hasn't quite found his shot yet but I really like his defensive intensity, showing really hard on screens out past the arc. Abdoulaye Gueye's play was somewhat erratic, flashing some good with the bad, but had a monster block late and brought energy to the team.
I've mentioned the good and the bad, but the ugly was undoubtedly the free throw shooting. I don't remember the last time I saw a team shoot better from the field than the free throw line, and I hope to never see it again. Demarco Cox was the main offender, finishing a poor 2-8 from the stripe. The team shot 44.4% overall from there, and post that mark at the line is just akin to handing the other team any close game you may encounter.
The Jackets shot 50.8% overall, but only 27.3% from beyond the arc. They racked up 50 points in the paint, more than the Lakers had total. They also outrebounded the Lakers 53-28. But they're not going to be able to rely on just the inside game since most power conference teams can match or exceed the size on this team. At some point, they need to prove they have capable three point threats to help stretch out the defense.
As a whole, the defense looked solid but it's hard to gauge in a game against an opponent at a different talent level than the Jackets. They forced the defense into some late possessions in the shot clock through good rotations, and their length on the perimeter helped hold Clayton State to just 24.6% shooting overall and 13.6% from three.
I noticed that the shot clock was only reset to 30 seconds as opposed to the normal 35 seconds for some reason. That factor may have rushed both sides into hastier shots.
In addition, coach Brian Gregory mentioned in the post-game press conference that he was looking to get minutes for everyone, hence the even distribution of those minutes. We won't know the normal rotation until we see it in a game that counts. Speaking of which...
The biggest news from Friday's meeting is that Hate Week, Part 1 has begun. Start your "What's the good word?" chants and place that bulldog sticker you have in your toilet. It's time for some Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, basketball style. Remember to wear your gold gear for the gold-out in McCamish Pavilion at 7PM on November 14 as we take on some motley crew from Athens.