Expect to see a tougher Georgia Tech team take the court on Friday night.
The Yellow Jackets have been criticized by their coach for their lack of physicality, a point driven home on Tuesday when they were manhandled by rival Georgia. Head coach Josh Pastner has had to coddle the team because of injuries to their major players and the lack of depth.
But after losing to Georgia by 21 points on Tuesday, Pastner said things are about to get more physical.
“I still love our guys. I still love our team,” Pastner said. “We’re just missing some toughness right now. I’m not trying to bring up last year, but I thought Quinton (Stephens), Cory (Heyward) and Josh’s (Heath) toughness – we need to have that.”
The softness showed against the Bulldogs. Freshman Moses Wright was knocked around on the inside more than once. Senior Tadric Jackson went up with a weak shot on the first possession of the second and had it blocked by Yante Maten. Even center Ben Lammers got bullied a bit by Georgia’s bigs.
“We’re not getting that toughness factor,” Pastner said. “Guys are going to have to step up the physicality. We’re really struggling in that area.”
Pastner said the double practices on Wednesday were “the best two practices of the year.” He said Lammers played better in those two practices than he has since the opener against UCLA.
“I told guys it can’t just be this way after losses,” Pastner said “It has to be this way all the time. We just need to get better.”
Georgia Tech (5-5) hosts Wright State at 9 p.m. Friday in its final game before Christmas. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.
Wright State (7-5) is coming off a 66-50 loss to Missouri State on Tuesday. The Raiders are expected to be one of the major contenders in the Horizon League. The senior-laden team is led in scoring by guards Grant Benzinger (13.8 points) and Justin Mitchell (11.2 points), with Mitchell (7.2 rebounds) and bulky freshman Loudon Love (8.3 rebounds) doing the damage on the boards.
“They’re a good team, well-coached, and we’re going to have to play well,” Pastner said. “We’ve got to be better than we’ve been at this point.”
Georgia Tech has lost four of its last five games and is not in a position to take Wright State lightly. This troubled season – best by injuries and NCAA-mandated suspensions – includes a loss to Grambling, a three-point win over Bethune-Cookman, and competitive games against Texas-Rio Grande and North Texas.
It will help to have sophomore Josh Okogie back for the third game. He scored 19 in his return and 21 against Georgia and drove the ball to the basket with authority, which got him to the line for 13 free throws.
“He’s not in shape yet,” Pastner said. “(Against Georgia) he l like he’s been out for a month. He forced some stuff, but he’s going to be over-aggressive at times because of his motor.”
Okogie said, “I think I’m 100 percent now. I’ve just got to be able to convert the plays I missed (against Georgia).”
About that Duke game: Tickets are still available for the game with Duke on Feb. 11 for fans who purchase an ACC Pack or a Flex Pack. The ACC Packs ensure fans tickets for all nine ACC home games and begin as low as $27 per game. Fans also receive access to the private Callaway Club, which features a lounge with buffet dining, beer and wine, flat-screen televisions and private restrooms. The Flex Packs allow fans to buy tickets for any four or more remaining games, starting at $20 per game.