Georgia Tech has been decent all season when it comes to defending the 3-point shot. Now it’s time to tighten it up even more.
The Yellow Jackets ranked sixth in the ACC and 105th in the nation, allowing 33.4 percent from the opposition. In the first round of the NIT, they held Indiana to 26 percent on its 3-point tries.
That could again be a key statistic for the Yellow Jackets (18-15) in their second-round NIT game against Belmont (23-6) on Sunday. The winner moves on to play at Mississippi on Tuesday night.
Belmont won the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title with an offense that averages 77.4 points and 10.6 3-pointers per game, which ranks fourth in the country. The Bruins torched Georgia for 14 3-pointers in the first-round NIT game and beat the Bulldogs 78-69.
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“We’ve got to do a great job on defense,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “They can shoot the ball, and the kid in the middle (Evan Bradds) can really play. They’ve got good players and a good team, which is credit to (head coach Rick) Byrd. We’re going to have to be great defensively to even give us a chance.”
By many accounts, Belmont’s win over Georgia wasn’t an upset. Belmont is No. 60 in the latest RPI (Georgia Tech is No. 106) and is making its 11th postseason appearance in 12 years. The Bruins won their ninth regular-season Ohio Valley Conference championship.
Belmont is led by Bradds, a 6-foot-7 senior forward and two-time conference player of the year. He is third all-time in Division I field goal percentage and is nine points short of becoming the program’s all-time scoring leader. Bradds has 1,911 career points and averages 20.4 points and 8.6 rebounds.
But the real challenge may be on the outside where Taylor Barnette (11.6 points), Amanze Egekeze (11.3 points), Dylan Windler (9.4 points), Nick Smith (8.8 points) and Luke Austin (8.0 points) are all more than willing to fire up 3-pointers. Smith has 65, and Barnette has 62. Compare that to Georgia Tech with Quinton Stephens leading the team with 52 and Tadric Jackson next with 36.
“We’ve improved on contested shots, and we’ve improved on defensive recovery,” Pastner said. “We’ve improved on both sides of the ball.”
The Georgia Tech offense can’t afford to have an off night. The Yellow Jackets topped 70 points in the Indiana game for the first time since the Feb. 19 win over Syracuse. The Yellow Jackets are 14-0 when they score at least 70 points.
“It makes a real difference in your offense when you make some 3s,” Pastner said. “That may have been the best we’ve been all year in transition offense. We didn’t miss as many layups as we have been.”
With his team in need of energy, Pastner has spent much of the last week pleading for fans to attend the game. He bought tickets for the students to attend the Indiana game, and they responded with a great turnout. He’s upping the offer this time — buying tickets for a student and a guest.
Plus, Pastner is bringing in donuts from Krispy Kreme to give to all fans to attend.
The plan appears to be working. By Friday afternoon, there were already 5,000 seats sold and the facility has started to start selling upper level seats.
Georgia Tech is 16-4 at McCamish Pavilion this season. A win Sunday, which will be the final game there this season, will set a record for most home wins. The mark was set for the 2006-07 team that went 16-1.