Josh Pastner warns people who are starting to paint his Georgia Tech club as an NCAA Tournament team to take a deep breath. Yes, the Yellow Jackets are playing well.
No, they’re not in a position to coast or take anything for granted. The postseason talk is premature.
“Nothing has changed from who we are,” Pastner said. “We have severe limitations in many areas. We have deficits and a lot of holes, but we’ve improved as a team. We’ve become a good team.”
The Yellow Jackets (13-8, 5-4 ACC) have won two straight against ranked teams — they’ve beaten four ranked teams this season — and hit the road for two games this week, starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against Clemson (12-8, 2-6).
“We’ve got to keep the momentum going,” Pastner said. “We’re in no position to have a letdown. We don’t have the personnel to have a letdown. Our margin for error is still zero. I’m bluntly honest with the guys. It’s just who we are. If we don’t hit point A, point B and point C, it becomes hard for us. If there’s a letdown in anything, we’re going to have a hard time to win the game.”
It will be especially difficult at Clemson, which has been a house of horrors for Georgia Tech dating back to the Bobby Cremins era. Clemson has a 42-16 advantage in games played at Littlejohn Coliseum. Georgia Tech hasn’t won there since 2005, a stretch of 11 games.
“You think you’re enjoying it, and all of a sudden you realize you’re playing at Clemson on Wednesday,” Pastner said. “There’s no time off in this league. The competition is so great, the coaching is so good, and the players are so good. That’s what makes this the best league in the country.”
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell was one of the first coaches to say publicly that Georgia Tech was better than advertised. It came after the Yellow Jackets won the first meeting Jan. 12.
“After they beat us, I said they were a lot better than people realized, and that’s turned out to be true,” Brownell said.
Brownell is a big fan of Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers, who creates matchup problems inside with his long arms and shot-blocking ability. Lammers averages 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds and had 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Tigers the first time.
Clemson will also have to deal with Josh Okogie, who was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this season Monday. Okogie scored 35 points in last week’s win against Florida State and had the winning bucket at the buzzer against Notre Dame.
The Yellow Jackets will need contributions from everyone, if they are to have a chance.
“Nothing has changed about who we are,” Pastner said. “We have to play with execution, energy and effort. To have a chance, we’ve got to that every night. If we’re not near perfect we’re not going to have any shot to win the game.”
Georgia Tech needs to find a way to stop Jaron Blossomgame, the senior forward from Alpharetta who averages 18.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Blossomgame scored 20 against Georgia Tech in the first meeting. He needs 14 points to become the fifth player in program history to rank among the top 10 in points and rebounds.