Georgia Tech has been looking for some positive signs and may have found some on the eve of its Atlantic Coast Conference basketball opener.
In the non-conference win over Coppin State on Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets did a better job taking care of the ball and making their free throws. Plus, center Ben Lammers looked like his old self, particularly in the final seven minutes.
“We needed that as a team,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We’re a little bit there as a wounded animal. We just needed to get through that hump and I was really happy that in the last six or seven minutes, maybe, we got the old Georgia Tech back.”
One of the best positive signs in the 76-62 win over Coppin State was the lack of turnovers. Georgia Tech had four turnovers in the first half, which led to nine points. They had only two turnovers in the second half, leading to zero points. The nine giveaways were below the team’s average of 13.3.
The Yellow Jackets were 20-for-21 at the free throw line, well above the team’s above-average 72.4 percent from the line.
“I’ve said this at the beginning of the year, for us to have success, we need to have marginal gains in two areas,” Pastner said. “We have to better at taking care of the ball and free throw shooting. Those two things for us, to have a chance to keep moving forward and continuing to get better, those are two huge areas.”
Lammers continues to play through the ankle injury. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds – the sort of double-double Pastner expects – and really came live in the last nine minutes when the Yellow Jackets began to surge ahead and outscored Coppin State 25-8. Lammers had eight points, two rebounds and a block during that stretch.
“It was great to see Ben those last six or seven minutes play like the old Ben Lammers,” Pastner said.
Georgia Tech (6-6) can’t afford to take a step back when it begins league play on Saturday with a trip to Notre Dame (2 p.m., ESPNU), always a difficult venue. Irish coach Mike Brey is one win away from matching Digger Phelps as the school’s winningest coach.
The Fighting Irish (10-3) have plenty of firepower. Preseason ACC Player of the Year pick Bonzie Colston had scored in double figures in 30 straight games and leads the ACC in scoring with 21.3 points per game. Colston needs only four points to become the eighth Notre Dame player to reach the 1,500-point, 800-rebound milestone.
Forward Matt Farrell averages 16.8, giving the Irish two players among the league’s top 10 in scoring, and guard T.J. Gibbs averages 14.4 points.
The Yellow Jackets have improved offensively since the return of Josh Okogie. The sophomore is averaging 18.5 points and the Yellow Jackets have averaged 73.8 points in those four games.
But the injuries continue to mount up. Starting point guard Jose Alvarado left the Coppin State game early in the second half with an injury and did not return. The Yellow Jackets are already missing guard Curtis Haywood II (shin), and forwards Abdoulaye Gueye (ankle) and Sylvester Ogbondo (ankle). Backup point guard Justin Moore missed the Coppin State game to attend a funeral.
Georgia Tech and Notre Dame have split the last two seasons, each winning on their own home court. Notre Dame has won five of the eight meetings between the teams since joining the ACC.