By Andy Demetra
- A two-game winning streak may not sound like "peaking," but Georgia Tech believes it's playing its best basketball of the season as it heads to the 2018 ACC Tournament.
A winless February has given way to a resurgent March for the Yellow Jackets (13-18, 6-12 ACC), who avenged a road loss to Wake Forest Saturday in their regular season finale. They'll now try to do the same against Boston College (17-14, 7-11 ACC), which edged them in overtime in Chestnut Hill last month. Enjoy the top notes, quotes and anecdotes from my chart in preparation for Tuesday's matchup in Brooklyn (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
— GT Men's Basketball (@GTMBB) March 6, 2018
The giant orange cones look better suited for traffic detail outside McCamish than the practice floor at Zelnak. But they've become a valuable tool over the last few weeks as Georgia Tech has tightened up its perimeter defense.
When defending pick-and-rolls, Pastner preaches the concept of "getting the lead leg over." In other words, the on-ball defender needs to whip his lead leg over the top of the screener, thereby allowing him to stay in front of the ballhandler. The Yellow Jackets work on that technique using those oversized cones in practice (they improvised with folding chairs at their practice in Brooklyn Monday).
The practice paid dividends in Tech's rematch with Wake Forest. When they faced the Demon Deacons last month, the Yellow Jackets switched on all ball screens. They opted to fight over the top of those screens Saturday. The result? The Yellow Jackets went from a season-low five turnovers forced in the first matchup to a season-high 22 turnovers in the second.
That ball-screen defense will again be crucial against Boston College, which features first-team All-ACC guard Jerome Robinson. The runner-up for ACC Player of the Year, the 6-6, 191-pound Robinson can put defenders in a constant state of skittishness with his drag dribbles and quick release from three. Crafty and cerebral, Robinson has posted some absurd numbers in conference play, including a 46-point outburst against Notre Dame Feb. 6.
Jerome Robinson (ACC only)
PPG: 24.3 (#1 ACC)
FG%: 55.1% (#5 ACC)
3pt.%: 44.5% (#1 ACC)
Along with 6-5 Jordan Chatman (19 pts., 5-12 3pt. vs. Georgia Tech last month), and 6-1 Ky Bowman (17 pts., 8 rebs., 3-6 3pt.), Boston College has arguably the most dangerous scoring backcourt in the ACC. Chatman sank several big threes in the second half against Tech last month. Bowman, who possesses Russell Westbrook-Lite speed, can often start fast breaks by himself with his defensive rebounding. Keys for Georgia Tech: bother BC's guards with active hands and stay sharp in the final seconds of the shot clock.
And of course, if they stay home on screens, get that lead leg over.
Jose Alvarado won't play in his home borough Tuesday, though the freshman guard still accompanied the team to Brooklyn. Alvarado, who continues to recover from a fractured elbow, grew up in the now hipster haven of Williamsburg. He's not the only Yellow Jacket making a homecoming this week: walk-on guard Jon Brown grew up in Harlem before moving to Miami for high school.
"He's been finally listening to us. The whole year we've been telling Brandon, `Shoot the ball.' Sometimes he'll catch the ball, we'll be wide open, [he] doesn't know if he can shoot. I told him, `Look, if you miss 10 shots, I have utmost confidence in you. I don't care. Shoot the eleventh one." - Josh Okogie, in our post-game radio interview Saturday, on the late-season surge of Brandon Alston. The graduate transfer sparked the Yellow Jackets off the bench Saturday, pouring in 12 points on a career high-tying 38 minutes. He also blocked his first shot as a Yellow Jacket.
Alston's ACC-high came against Boston College last month, when he scored 13 points and was especially aggressive attacking the rim. Now in Brooklyn, perhaps Alston can summon some more conference tournament magic against a team from Boston. As a junior at Lehigh last year, he scored a career-high 18 points against Boston University in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals.
Josh Okogie sat in agony.
The sophomore fouled out for the first time in his career last month, picking up his fifth personal with 1:36 to play against Boston College. Okogie then watched through clenched teeth as the Eagles rallied, forced overtime, and pulled away for the 80-72 win. The DQ also robbed Okogie of a chance to ice the game at the free throw line, something he has been exceptional at this year. In the final 5:00 of Tech's five close ACC wins, the sophomore has shot 86.7 percent (13 of 15) at the foul line.
Josh Okogie -- FTM/FTA last 5:00 of regulation
Notre Dame: 0-0
N.C. State: 1-2
Wake Forest: 8-8
Okogie, Alston and Tadric Jackson will need to negotiate Boston College's hedges and keep the offense running with pace. Georgia Tech did a good job not settling last month, shooting 57.1 percent against the Eagles in regulation.
Ben Lammers earned a second straight spot on the ACC All-Defensive team Sunday, cementing his reputation as one of the league's top rim protectors.
His defensive experience, though, goes beyond the court. Before committing to basketball full-time, Lammers played a season of junior varsity football as a 6-8 200-pound freshman defensive end/tight end at Alamo Heights HS in San Antonio.
It's an odd sight to conjure: the slender, soft-spoken, agreeable Lammers firing off the edge on a bull rush. Reminiscing on his Friday Night Lights days before practice Monday, Lammers said he enjoyed playing football. He also said he liked playing tight end more, leading to one of the more ironic quotes of the year.
"I had good hands, but I wasn't one for blocking," Lammers said.
ACC teams might disagree. The man who ranks third in school history in career blocks has averaged 14.0 points and 14.5 rebounds in his last two games against Boston College. Feeling as healthy as he's been all year, can Lammers continue to deliver against the Eagles' undersized front line? An unsung key in the win over Wake Forest: Georgia Tech outrebounded the Demon Deacons (#5 ACC rebounding margin) +10 in the second half.
Now that we're prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. It's been a pleasure swapping insights with you this year. Thanks for going "Inside The Chart" with us -- and one last time, see you in Brooklyn. --AD-