Beat writer Q&A: Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks down struggling Georgia Tech

first_imgSyracuse (15-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) tips off against Georgia Tech (10-11, 3-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the McCamish Pavilion. The Orange is riding a three-game win streak while the Yellow Jackets have fallen in their last four, including a 72-70 shootout against Clemson on Sunday.For a full GT breakdown, The Daily Orange spoke with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ken Sugiura, who covers the Yellow Jackets.The Daily Orange: Georgia Tech started the first part of this season with some bad losses, like at home against Grambling State and Wright State, but has recently seemed to pick it up. Now, they’re 3-5 in the ACC and almost beat No. 20 Clemson on Sunday. What changed for this team?Ken Sugiura: Mainly health and available players. In the loss to Grambling State, Tech was without Josh Okogie, who was on the ACC’s all-freshman team last year and is now averaging 18 points per game, because he was serving a six-game NCAA suspension. Further, center Ben Lammers, who was the ACC’s defensive player of the year, was hobbled by an ankle sprain, an injury that continued to bother him through December. Also, the Jackets encountered some bad luck against Grambling State and Wright State, as well as Wofford, getting hot from 3-point range, which can happen against a team that plays a lot of zone (like Syracuse).At this point, Tech has all of its roster available (two other players served shorter NCAA suspensions) and is its healthiest. That said, we’re continuing to find out how meaningful the Yellow Jackets’ three ACC wins actually are. They were against Miami on a night the Hurricanes didn’t play well, a Notre Dame team that was without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell and has now lost six games in a row and Pitt, which may not win a game in the ACC. They’re 2-9 against RPI top-100 teams (against Miami and Notre Dame).AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe D.O.: When the two big shot-blocking centers, GT senior Ben Lammers and SU redshirt junior Paschal Chukwu, meet inside, what happens? What level of impact will the battle down low have on the game’s outcome?K.S.: It should be a good show. Both are superior defenders. Undoubtedly, a game plan point for Tech will be to not settle for trying to hit 3-pointers over the zone, but rather to find gaps in the zone and to have players like Lammers and forward Abdoulaye Gueye flash in the lane for baskets. Lammers is a gifted passer, and Tech may try to use that skill to get him the ball and hope to lure Chukwu away from the basket and open up opportunities for teammates.The D.O.: Who might surprise Syracuse fans and have a big impact in the game?K.S.: The aforementioned Gueye could be an impact player. He was little-used as a sophomore last season but has been making considerable strides in recent weeks. He has scored in double figures in five of Tech’s past seven games. He and Lammers can play a nice high-low game that could be effective against Syracuse, and Gueye, like Lammers, is an excellent defender.The D.O.: Which team do you think wins and why?K.S.: That’s a tough call. While the Orange are 15-6 and are No. 43 in KenPom and No. 32 in RPI, their performance thus far in ACC play isn’t overwhelming. They are 3-1 at home, and none of the wins jump out at you, and 1-3 on the road, and the only road win was against Pitt, although all three losses have been close. My guess is it’s a low-scoring game and Syracuse wins late.The D.O.: What didn’t we ask that Syracuse fans should be thinking about for the game?K.S.: Syracuse fans may be interested to know that it will be a white-out at McCamish Pavilion. Students will be given t-shirts with the phrase “air ball” printed on them, and it has to do with Tech’s win over Syracuse last season. In the game, John Gillon airballed a 3-pointer in the first half, and the Tech students serenaded him with the obligatory “airball” chant every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the game. It wasn’t unusual, but it was probably more intense than normal. Gillon finished the game 1-for-7 from 3-point range and, afterwards, a Syracuse fan called the Tech basketball office to complain and say that it lacked class. Pastner actually called the fan back to tell him that, if the same thing happened at the Carrier Dome, the exact same thing would happen and asked (rhetorically) if Syracuse fans would be quiet when Tech players shot free throws. Comments Published on January 30, 2018 at 7:30 pm Contact Sam: [email protected] | @Sam4TR Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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