Georgia Tech center James Banks took a shot to the back early in his team’s game against Boston College Saturday night.
He said the injury caused muscle spasms and “immediately just started pulling on me,” he said. “But we had to get this win. ACC, every win counts, every possession counts, and the fact that we were able to come in here and pull away, that was big-time.”
Banks, whose energy and engagement level have sometimes been a source of frustration for coach Josh Pastner, was an anchor for the Yellow Jackets in their 71-52 win over the Eagles at the Conte Forum. Against an opponent thinned by injury, Banks and forward Moses Wright made for a formidable pair as Tech held the Eagles to 29.8% shooting from the field. It was Boston College’s second-lowest field-goal percentage of the season.
“Both of them have played really well the last three games and have done a really nice job in the paint,” Pastner said of Wright and Banks.
Banks and Wright challenged, blocked and discouraged shots in the paint and collected defensive rebounds to limit second chances. They were part of a collective effort that took control of the game late in the first half and never gave Boston College (9-7 overall, 3-2 ACC) a chance to come back in the second as the Jackets (8-8, 3-3) built on last Saturday’s road win over North Carolina and then a strong effort in a home loss to No. 2 Duke on Wednesday.
“We just kept playing our game, and coach (Pastner) has really been stressing putting together 40 minutes, and that’s what we tried to do, put together 40 minutes, put together two halves, and I think we did a good job of doing that (Saturday),” said Banks, who contributed 13 points, five rebounds and four blocks.
Tech outscored Boston College 42-18 in the paint. The Eagles were without leading scorer Derryck Thornton (ankle) and No. 3 scorer Nik Popovic (back). No. 4 scorer Jairus Hamilton played but was limited by an eye injury. Boston College coach Jim Christian’s starting five included three freshmen. With a healthy Hamilton, Boston College had upset Virginia last Tuesday.
“We got the ball in the spots we needed to get it,” Christian said. “We got the ball right on top of the basket, we got the ball right in the lane at will. Probably 80% of the possessions, the ball was in a spot where you can create plays, and we just couldn’t knock the ball in. We couldn’t make a shot.”
The 19-point win was Tech’s largest margin of victory in an ACC road game in Pastner’s tenure. It was hardly the headline result Saturday in the ACC, not on a day when Clemson finally beat North Carolina on the road for the first time in 60 tries, but it was nonetheless important for the Jackets to stack another win and continue their improving form of late.
Tech won its third ACC road game in four attempts this season, following wins at N.C. State and North Carolina. The Jackets last won three ACC road games in the 2015-16 season, former coach Brian Gregory’s last team. The last time Tech won more than three league games on the road was the 2007-08 season, when the Jackets were 4-4 in ACC road games.
“You want to see your team get better, and that’s what we’re doing,” Pastner told the AJC. “And I can’t bring back any of those losses earlier in November, December, but we’re not the same team.”
The Jackets took control of the game late in the first half, pushing a 19-16 lead with 4:25 to go to 31-23 at the half. Banks scored the final eight points with an assortment of moves and an alley-oop dunk from a pass by guard Jose Alvarado, who tied his career high (set in last Saturday’s win over UNC) with eight assists against a single turnover.
“We were going to pull away and then we were going to have to make them have to fight to get back in this game,” Banks said of his determination late in the half.
Banks did his scoring in a new pair of neon-green sneakers after his turquoise Adidas shoes bit the dust in the first half.
“I’ve got the green, I’ve got the pink,” he said. “I might have to go in my closet and get some old stuff. I’m going to have to retro it a little bit.”
In the second half, Tech took further control of the game as the Jackets received scoring and rebounding contributions up and down the lineup. Guard Jordan Usher played one of his better games of the season with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, six rebounds and two assists. Usher made plays winning loose balls, creating plays off the dribble and attacking the glass.
Usher was acting on a conversation between him and Pastner in which the coach told him that he needed to rebound better and play with high energy.
“It’s something I haven’t been doing, but it’s something I plan on continuing to do and helping my team win,” Usher said.