Help is on the way for the struggling Georgia Tech offense.
Josh Okogie, last season’s leading scorer, is eligible to return from his NCAA-sanctioned six-game suspension when the Yellow Jackets host Tennessee on Sunday.
Okogie isn’t expected to play because of the injury to his left index finger, which was dislocated in the first exhibition game. The bone in the finger healed two weeks ago, but a skin infection had developed around the wound and caused additional trouble.
However, Okogie wasn’t wearing the splint Friday, leaving it conceivable that he could dress for the Tennessee game.
The lack of scoring caused the Yellow Jackets to suffer an embarrassing 64-63 loss to Grambling State on Friday and will be challenged again when they play Tennessee on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Already short-handed with the absence of Okogie, Georgia Tech has been hampered lately by limitations placed on center Ben Lammers by a sprained ankle. Lammers has been withheld from practice and limited to games only since the injury.
“It’s just hard – and I’m not making any excuse – but it’s just limited,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “It’s hard when Ben’s not performing at a high level for us because we do everything through Ben. That’s what we do and it’s hard when he’s not playing at the level that we need him to play.”
In the three games since his injury, Lammers is averaging only 9.3 points and scored just four against Grambling. It was the first time this season he has failed to score in double figures.
Guard Tadric Jackson has provided an offensive boost – he’s averaging 14.3 points – but can suffer frustrating streaks of inconsistency. Freshman point guard Jose Alvarado is averaging 14.7 points and is coming off a season-high 22 points against Grambling.
The offensive limitations make it especially tough when the Yellow Jackets get behind. They trailed by 16 points against Grambling, but the Alvarado-led comeback fell just short.
“We’re not good enough to try to turn it on late,” Pastner said.
The Grambling game was more disappointing for Pastner, given it came after its best win. The Yellow Jackets had beaten Northwestern on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but may have gotten caught looking ahead to Tennessee.
“I was warning guys that this was a trap game,” Pastner said. “I was warning our guys if we don’t play with that fire and intensity, it can really come back and bite us in the butt and it did.”
Tennessee (5-1) will be the best team that Georgia Tech has played. The Vols have already beaten two ACC teams (Clemson and N.C. State) and a nationally ranked team (No. 18 Purdue). Their only loss came to No. 5 Villanova in the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas. The Vols are fresh from an 84-60 win over Mercer.
Tennessee is led by Grant Williams (16.5 points), Admiral Schofield (12.0) and Jordan Bowden (10.7).
Williams scored 16 against the Yellow Jackets last year in Tennessee’s 81-58 win in Knoxville. The Vols were without Jordan Bone in the last meeting, but the point guard is healthy this season and back in the lineup.
It will be Georgia Tech’s final home game until Dec. 17. The Yellow Jackets travel to play at Wofford on Wednesday.