For the first time this season, the young Georgia Tech basketball team will walk into a hostile environment for their first true road game.
Unlike playing on the neutral court in China, the Yellow Jackets will hear plenty of boos and jeers when they travel to play Wofford. It’s another step in the development of the young team.
Georgia Tech (4-3) plays its first real road game at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Spartanburg, South Carolina, against Wofford (4-4), a mid-major program that plays at a consistently high level. The contest, which can be seen on ESPN3, will be especially important for the continued development of the three freshmen who play a lot of minutes.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “These freshmen are going to have to grow up quick. It’ll be an interesting road trip to see how they handle it. They’ve got to be extremely professional and their mindset has to be great. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
Senior Ben Lammers has played in plenty of road games. He understands that his young teammates must be ready to face a different set of circumstances.
“It will be interesting experience,” Lammers said. “It’s a good experience for the team to go on the road and experience that. Everybody is rooting against you. The young guys have to focus on the team and not worry about the outside distractions.”
Wofford will likely have an especially loud crowd at the new Richardson Indoor Stadium, which opened last month. It isn’t often than an ACC team comes to visit — Wofford plays North Carolina later this season, but the game is in Chapel Hill — and it’s a big opportunity for the Terriers to pick off a team from a power conference.
“It’s their Super Bowl,” Pastner said. “If you’re fortunate enough to win, it’s one heckuva win. On the bus ride back instead of getting turkey sandwiches, it’s like getting a five-star steak. It’s going to be a hard game.”
Georgia Tech escaped last season with a 76-72 win over Wofford. Three key players return for the Terriers from that team, including guard Fletcher Magee, who averages 22.5 points and was the Southern Conference Player of the Month. The Yellow Jackets did a terrific job defending Magee last year, limiting him to 4-for-15 shooting from the field.
Also returning for Wofford is guard Nathan Hoover (12.3 points) and Cameron Jackson (12.4 points); Hoover scored 17 off the bench against Georgia Tech last year. Matthew Peagram, a 6-11 center, averages 10.3 points.
Georgia Tech will need a better defensive effort than it has had the last two games in losses to Grambling State and Tennessee, particularly in the second half. Last year the Yellow Jackets frustrated Wofford’s 3-point offense with excellent perimeter defense.
“We need to play the game the right way,” Pastner said. “We need to be better offensively and not let the defense fail us like it has in the second half of the last two games. That’s our calling card. Shot selection is a big thing, but I’m more disappointed in the way our defense has failed us. We haven’t guarded like we’ve needed to in the second half.”
Georgia Tech won’t have injured guard Josh Okogie back in the lineup for this game. The plan remains for him to return for the ACC season. Okogie is not allowed to get sweat in the wound as the injury continues to heal. That has limited the amount of conditioning he can do.
“He’s done zero conditioning since Oct. 29,” Pastner said. “We’re going to have to see. It takes months to get in shape and one week to get out.”