THE FLATS - Georgia Tech comes out of its 10-day break for fall semester exams by playing three games in six days this week, beginning with a 4 p.m. nationally televised contest against Florida A&M Sunday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion.
The Yellow Jackets are in their second season under head coach Josh Pastner, the 2017 ACC Coach of the Year, after going 21-16 overall, finishing 8-10 (11th) in the ACC and reaching the championship game of the NIT last season. Tech has dropped its last three games, including a 63-60 decision at Wofford in the Yellow Jackets' most recent action on Dec. 6. The Jackets have lost twice at home this season (Grambling State and Tennessee) after compiling a 17-4 mark last season at McCamish Pavilion.
Florida A&M (1-12) is in its first season under head coach Robert McCullum, a former Georgia Tech assistant coach who served on Paul Hewitt's staff for the 2009-10 season. The Rattlers have played all but two of their games on the road (0-11) and have visits scheduled to Fordham and Ball State before opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play Jan. 3 at home against Howard.
Sunday's game will be televised live on ESPNU and streamed live on the ESPN app. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network and can be heard in Atlanta on flagship station 680 the Fan (680 AM/93.7 FM). Tech's broadcast can also be heard nationally on SiriusXM satellite radio (Sirius ch. 217, XM ch. 193).
THE STARTING LINEUP
Beginning with Florida A&M, Georgia Tech plays three games in six days this week, visiting Georgia Tuesday night and hosting Wright State Friday leading into the holiday break. The Yellow Jackets then host Coppin State Dec. 27 before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play Dec. 30 at Notre Dame.
The Yellow Jackets have lost their four games by a combined 15 points, with their largest margin of defeat coming to Tennessee by seven points. Two of Tech's wins have come by 14 (North Texas) and 10 points (Texas-Rio Grande Valley), and the other two by a combined four points.
Tech has played its first eight games without its leading scorer and ACC All-Freshman player from last season, Josh Okogie, on the court at all; without senior guard Tadric Jackson for its first three games; without sophomore point guard Justin Moore for three games; and with its All-ACC senior center Ben Lammers playing on a twisted ankle for the Jackets' last five games.
Six Atlantic Coast Conference teams are currently ranked in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls - Duke (4/4), North Carolina (7/7), Miami (6/8), Virginia (16/16), Notre Dame (18/18) and Florida State (19/19). Tech plays Notre Dame and Virginia twice each. The Jackets have already faced UCLA (No. 21 in preseason) and Northwestern (No. 20 in preseason).
Head coach Josh Pastner needs eight victories to reach 200 for his head coaching career. In nine-plus seasons, Pastner has a record of 192-93.
SERIES VS. FLORIDA A&M
Georgia Tech has won all six prior meetings against Florida A&M, including a 92-59 victory in the teams' most recent meeting to open the 2011-12 season at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.
The first five meetings all were played at Tech's former home, Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Tech has scored 100 points or more in three of the teams' six games, the Yellow Jackets' most against any opponent except Georgia State (six times).
This is the second of three games Tech has scheduled against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams this season, having beaten Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 19 and also facing Coppin State on Dec. 27. The Yellow Jackets are 31-0 all-time against members of the MEAC.
The Rattlers' first-year head coach is Robert McCullum, who was a member of the Yellow Jackets' coaching staff for the 2010-11 season.
AUDIO FROM COACH PASTNER'S FRIDAY MEDIA SESSION
JACKETS ENDURING TIGHT GAMES
With the exception of Georgia Tech's wins over Texas-Rio Grande Valley (78-68) and North Texas (63-49). All of the Yellow Jackets' games have been decided by seven points or fewer and six of those have not been settled until the final minute.
UCLA - Tech rallied from a nine-point deficit to within one possession in the final minute (62-60 with 21 seconds left).
Bethune-Cookman - Tech never trailed in the second half but also never led by more than six inside the final five minutes, needing a pair of free throws by Abdoulaye Gueye with seven seconds left to seal a 65-62 win.
Texas-Rio Grande Valley - Tech led by as many as 19 late but still needed to pull its walk-ons in the final minute to preserve a 10-point victory
North Texas - Easily Tech's best defensive game of the season, the Jackets led by eight under the 4-minute mark before winning by 14.
Northwestern - The Jackets led by 10 with 13:49 to go but didn't score another field goal until Tadric Jackson's layup at the final horn lifted Tech to a 52-51 win.
Grambling State - A furious Tech rally turned a 16-point second-half deficit with 10 minutes left into a three-point lead with 43 seconds left, but a pair of turnovers, two missed free throws and an own-goal on a Grambling State miss with sevens seconds left helped the Tigers win, 64-63.
Tennessee - Tech shaved a nine-point second-half deficit down to one inside four minutes to go, but the Volunteers held off the Jackets from there by going 16-for-18 from the free throw line.
Wofford - Tech led by 10 with 5:53 left, but scored just twice the rest of the way while the Terriers crept back to a 60-60 tie and won on Fletcher Magee's three-point field goal with 1.7 seconds left.
For the third straight game, head coach Josh Pastner started Tadric Jackson along with Jose Alvarado and Curtis Haywood II on the perimeter, and Abdoulaye Gueye and Ben Lammers in the frontcourt against Wofford. Alvarado, Gueye and Lammers have started every game this season. Lammers has started Tech's last 45 consecutive games.
Georgia Tech has lost three straight games for the first time since Jan. 30-Feb. 7 of the 2015-16 season (Syracuse, Duke, Miami), and has lost three consecutive non-conference games for the first time since Dec. 22-Jan. 3 in the 2011-12 season (Mercer, Fordham, Alabama). The three-game skid also is the first for Josh Pastner in his head coaching career. The Jackets had lost two in a row seven times in his 45 games at Tech.
Tech led at the half (34-29) for the first time since Nov. 28 against Northwestern. Tech is 4-1 this season and 21-3 under Josh Pastner when leading at the half.
Tech lost for the first time under Josh Pastner when holding a lead with five minutes left in the game (55-48). The Yellow Jackets are now 23-1 when leading at the five-minute mark.
Tech shot a season-high 57.1 percent from the floor against Wofford, the highest accuracy rate for the Yellow Jackets under Josh Pastner, eclipsing the 56.8 percent night against Tusculum last season, and the highest for Tech since hitting 60 percent against Cornell in the season-opening game of the 2015-16 season. Yet the Jackets took only 42 shots from the floor, 17 fewer than Wofford and the fewest since attempting 42 in last year's 62-49 loss at Virginia.
Tech canned five three-point field goals in 13 attempts against Wofford, and has made 37 three-pointers in 100 attempts (37 percent) its last six games.
Tech held Wofford to 35.6 percent from the floor, the fifth opponent in eight games to convert less than 40 percent. But it was one of the rare nights the Jackets held an opponent to less than 40 percent and lost (19-6 under Josh Pastner) and shot better than an opponent and lost (25-4).
The Yellow Jackets have held every opponent under its season scoring average this season, all of them significantly lower except for Tennessee. Wofford averaged 76.2 points per game through its first eight games and scored just 63 against the Yellow Jackets.
Through eight games, Tech has limited its opponents to 62.1 points per game, compared to 68.2 through eight games a year ago. The Jackets' opponents are hitting 39.2 percent of their field goals, compared to 40.8 percent at this time last season, and have attempted 47 fewer three-point field goals.
Tech's eight free throw attempts against Wofford were its fewest since going 5-for-8 at Notre Dame last February. But the Jackets made seven and got back over 70 percent (70.6) for the season, compared to 63.5 percent at this point a year ago. Tech is still averaging 15.9 points from the charity stripe this season, significantly higher than the 13.6 points is averaged last season.
Tech ranks No. 20 nationally in scoring defense at 61.9 points per game, and No. 43 in field goal percentage defense (39.7 percent). The Jackets are No. 34 in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com.
Tech also 11th nationally according to KenPom.com in lowest two-point field goal percentage yield (41.1 percent), and No. 20 in block percentage (15.6).
Two Georgia Tech players rank among the ACC's top seven in average minutes played - Ben Lammers (No. 1 at 36.2) and Jose Alvarado (ninth at 34.2). Curtis Haywood II has averaged 34.0 in Tech's last six games.
Pastner meter 1 (assists to made field goals): Tech assisted on 11 of 24 made field goals (45.8 percent), falling short of its nightly goal of 60 percent for the first time this season. The Jackets have assisted on 67.2 percent of their made field goals in eight games (ranked No. 5 in the nation according to KenPom.com), after finishing last season at 62.7 percent (63.2 percent rate in ACC games).
Pastner meter 2 (free throws made to opponents' attempts): Tech made 7-of-8 free throws to Wofford's 9-of-13 (goal of making more than opponent tries not accomplished). For the season, Tech has converted 127 free throws, while opponents have attempted 132. Tech is 24-6 under Josh Pastner when attempting more free throws than the opponent.
Pastner meter 3 (guard rebounding): Tech's guards combined for 11 of Tech's 30 defensive rebounds, five from Jose Alvarado.
Tadric Jackson has scored in double digits in every game since returning to the court, and posted a season-high 26 at Wofford (11-of-15 FG). The senior guard has reached double figures 14 times in his last 16 games and for the 27 times since the beginning of last season. Jackson scored the last 13 points of the game for Tech against Wofford.
Jackson, who finished second in the balloting for ACC Sixth Man of the Year last season, made his third start of the 2017-18 season and played a career-high 36 minutes. The 6-2 senior has started 15 games in his career.
Ben Lammers has scored in double figures seven times in eight games this season, getting 12 points (6-of-10 FG) with seven rebounds in 39 minutes against Wofford. It was the 38th double figure game in the 6-10 senior's career, all since the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
Lammers blocked three shots against Wofford, giving him 203 for his career. He is in sole possession of fourth place in Tech history, needing 40 to catch John Salley (243 from 1982-86) for third place.
Lammers played 39 minutes against the Terriers, one game after logging the sixth 40-minute game of his career. The senior, who has practiced very little since turning an ankle against Texas-Rio Grande Valley, has nonetheless played 32, 31, 38, 40 and 39 minutes in the five games since and leads the ACC in minutes played per game (36.2).
Lammers needs six points to reach 800 for his career.
Curtis Haywood II scored only three points (took one shot) in 30 minutes, but is 18-for-34 FG, 11-for-29 on 3s, 13-for-16 FT with 26 assists and just eight turnovers in his last seven games.
Haywood II has played 37, 33, 32, 36, 36 and 30 minutes in Tech's last six games (34.0 per game).
Jose Alvarado played 40 minutes for the first time in his career, the second posted by a Tech player this season and the 12th over the last season-plus.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN'S BASKETBALL
Georgia Tech's men's basketball team is in its second year under head coach Josh Pastner. Tech has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1979, won three ACC Championships (1985, 1990, 1993), played in the NCAA Tournament 16 times and played in two Final Fours (1990, 2004). Connect with Georgia Tech Men's Basketball on social media by liking their Facebook Page, or following on Twitter (@GTMBB) and Instagram.