Georgia Tech reverted to its old form before the dog-tired days of the final two weeks of the regular season and came away with an important win.
The Yellow Jackets beat Indiana 75-63 in the first round of the NIT at McCamish Pavilion. And while the NIT doesn’t equate to the NCAA Tournament, a team going through a major rebuild will take any significant milestone. Beating Indiana — event a flawed Indiana team — has nothing but positive implications for the Yellow Jackets.
Josh Okogie scored 24 points to lead Georgia Tech and Tadric Jackson came off the bench to add 19 points, three assists and three steals.
Georgia Tech is now 14-0 when it scores 70 or more points.
The Georgia Tech defense was outstanding. It held Indiana 17 points below its season scoring average. The Hoosiers were averaging nine 3-pointers per game, but made only five.
Three who mattered
Okogie: The freshman was 9-for-15 from the field with a couple of dunks. He had seven rebounds and four assists. It was his first 20-point game since Feb. 21 against N.C. State and his seventh of the season.
Jackson: The junior came off the bench and scored 19 points. He was also excellent on defense in the second half, which helped fuel his offense.
Ben Lammers: The junior had 11 points, 11 rebounds for his 14th double-double. He also came up with five blocked shots, the most he has had since Jan. 18 at Virginia Tech.
Georgia Tech’s lead had been cut to one point when the Yellow Jackets scored seven unanswered points to steal back the momentum. A steal by Quinton Stephens led to a three-point play for Okogie and a steal by Jackson turned into an Okogie dunk. That gave Georgia Tech a 56-48 lead with 9:36 remaining. Indiana never got closer than six points again.
A little help from your friends: Georgia Tech had 17 assists on 27 made field goals. That’s 63 percent and exceeds the goal of 60 percent set by head coach Josh Pastner.
Free throw issues: The Yellow Jackets were only 5-for-10 from the free-throw line in the first half, but were 9-for-11 in the second half.
Getting a handle on the ball: Georgia Tech had six turnovers in the first half, leading to eight Indiana points. There were only three in the second half, and the Hoosiers were unable to capitalize.
Absolutely killing it: Georgia Tech had eight kills, which is three consecutive defensive stops. That prevented Indiana from gaining any momentum on offense.
Fresh legs matter: Georgia Tech looked as fresh and rested as it has in two weeks. The last time the Yellow Jackets played with such energy was against Syracuse on Feb. 19. They seemed to be dog-tired toward the end of the season.
About the crowd: There was nothing approaching a sellout at McCamish Pavilion, but the bottom half of the bowl was full. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Georgia Tech, especially in the student section thanks to a promotion in which Pastner bought the tickets for the students. They were definitely loud.
The streak lives: The win means that Pastner’s streak of having never lost three consecutive games will carry over to next year. The victory ended a two-game losing streak, one of six endured by the Yellow Jackets this season.
They said it
Stephens on the crowd: “The crowd was loud. I could barely hear my own guys.”
Pastner on the effort: “We played the best we have since the Syracuse game at home. I felt we hit a wall there.”
Pastner on Jackson: “He played a really good second half. He played great second half defense and that’s what made him good.”
The date hasn’t been set, but Georgia Tech will play the winner of the Georgia-Belmont game. If Georgia wins, the Bulldogs will host the game. If Belmont wins, the Yellow Jackets will host.