By Andy Demetra - It didn’t make him lose his hair. Not all of it, anyway.
Head coach Josh Pastner arrived for his weekly press conference sporting a fresh haircut, an overdue bit of grooming during the grind of basketball season. But after watching his team’s performance in South Bend, few could’ve blamed Pastner for wanting to pull it all out.
The Yellow Jackets (6-7, 0-1 ACC) took care of the basketball and played solid defense against the Irish, but missed free throws and missed putbacks spoiled their chances at an upset in the ACC opener. Those opportunities can’t be wasted Wednesday when they return to action against #15 Miami (12-1, 1-0 ACC), a team with one of the toughest defenses in the nation.
As we get set for tip-off, here are the top five notes from my chart in preparation for Wednesday’s matchup with the Hurricanes (9 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
They may not frolic around the sidelines with a diamond-encrusted chain like their football counterparts, but Miami’s defense has been equally ferocious this year. The Hurricanes come into Wednesday’s contest with some of the stingiest numbers in the nation:
• #3 NCAA scoring defense (58.5 ppg)
• #5 NCAA FG% defense (36.8%)
• #5 NCAA 3-point percentage defense (27.7%)
• #7 NCAA Defensive Efficiency
The Hurricanes have athletic guards who can get around screens, stay in front of ball handlers, and run out to shooters. Their guards are also active rebounders, which shut down second-chance opportunities. Pay close attention to Bruce Brown, a 6-5, 202-pound shooting guard who leads Miami in rebounding (7.2) and has drawn NBA draft lottery buzz. Getting the ball to the second and third side – i.e., multiple swing passes in the halfcourt – will be important for leeching the Hurricanes of their length and athleticism.
Rarely does a statistic involve geography, but here goes: Miami has not trailed in the second half on the mainland this season. The only times they did were in their three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets are still looking to shake out of their post-halftime malaise. In its last four games, Tech has allowed 57.5 percent shooting before the first media timeout of the second half:
Start of 2nd Half to first media timeout
Opponent Score Length of Time
Georgia 3-8 (-5) 4:05
Wright State 6-13 (-7) 4:33
Coppin State 8-7 (+1) 4:01
Notre Dame 6-16 (-10) 6:51
Total: -21 in 19:30
In almost 20 minutes - essentially, a full half of basketball – Tech has been outscored by 21 points during the opening stretch of the second half. With six of eight rotation players back from an NCAA Tournament team, the Hurricanes know how to play with poise down the stretch. Can Georgia Tech finally shed those slow starts against Miami.
Georgia Tech still awaits the return of freshman guard Curtis Haywood II, who has missed the last five games with a nagging shin injury. Whether or not he plays Wednesday, Haywood shares a unique connection with Miami senior guard Ja’Quan Newton: both of their fathers starred collegiately in the state of Oklahoma in the late 90’s. Newton’s Dad, Joe, was the Division II National Player of the Year the University of Central Oklahoma in 1998. Haywood’s Dad, Curtis, was a standout guard at NAIA Oklahoma City University at the same time. He went on to a decade-long career overseas, wrapping up before the start of Curtis’s freshman year of high school.
Newton is part of a headlining group of guards for the Hurricanes – no surprise considering head coach Jim Larranaga attended the same high school in Brooklyn, Archbishop Molloy, as Tech’s Kenny Anderson. The Hurricanes’ offense is heavy on pick-and-rolls, with Brown (11.1 ppg) an especially skilled creator off that action. Six-foot-7 Anthony Lawrence (8.0 ppg) has handles and might be Miami’s best shooting threat. McDonald’s All-American freshman Lonnie Walker IV has attracted NBA draft lottery buzz with his physical gifts. Miami also does a good job sending its bigs downhill on rim runs, both off screens and jumpers. Six-foot-11 Dewan Huell, the team’s leading scorer (13.5 ppg), is adept at both driving and posting and drilled several short-corner jumpers when Tech played zone last year.
Key for Tech: stay in a stance and not get baited into Miami’s jukes and shot fakes to set up their dribble-drives. They’ll also need to win 50-50 balls, something that eluded them in last year’s matchup. The Yellow Jackets only managed two offensive rebounds against the Hurricanes, resulting - like the Notre Dame game - in zero second-chance points.
Pastner hasn’t forbidden Tadric Jackson from shooting threes – if he’s open and his feet are set, fire away – but the Jackets’ head coach would prefer his senior guard use his finishing touch around the rim. Jackson is averaging 63 percent from two-point range this year, a remarkable number for a 6-2 guard. And yet, Jackson’s three-point shooting was one of the hidden barometers for Tech in ACC play last year.
Tadric Jackson 3pt. shooting – ACC play 2016-17
Wins: 38.5 percent (10 of 26)
Losses: 17.5% (7 of 40)
Don’t show that number to Pastner – it may cause him to lose even more hair, barber’s clippers or not. But if Jackson starts to feel it from outside, good things often happen.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 8:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. Check back all season for more “Inside The Chart” previews as Tech winds its way through the ACC. See you at McCamish. –AD--