5 observations from Georgia Tech’s win over Yale

Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie (5) celebrates with fans after defeating Miami 64-54 in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie (5) celebrates with fans after defeating Miami 64-54 in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

For the cost of a $100,000 check to Yale and the relinquishment of the team’s only open date during the ACC schedule, Georgia Tech picked up a useful victory Saturday.

After upsetting No. 15 Miami on Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets followed it with an assertive 74-60 win over Yale at McCamish Pavilion. Tech built on its solid play against the Hurricanes in its non-conference win over the Bulldogs, gaining in confidence in advance of its Wednesday home game against Notre Dame, which beat Tech last Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Tech (8-7) broke away from Yale (7-9) in the second half, benefiting from 23 points from guard Jose Alvarado and 20 from guard Josh Okogie.

When the game was won

After Yale cut the lead to 40-38 early in the second half, Alvarado took a pass from Okogie and hit his second 3-pointer of the half for a five-point lead, starting a 17-4 run that changed the dynamic of the game. Alvarado was at the heart of the binge, continuing his impactful play in his freshman season.

Of the 17 points, he scored nine of the points himself and assisted on two baskets by Okogie (who himself provided assists both of Alvarado’s 3-pointers). One of the assists was highlight-worthy. After Okogie dug out a steal, Alvarado led the break and, with Okogie trailing, bounced a pass between his legs to Okogie, who received it and threw down a dunk.

Alvarado said he had wanted to try it in the Miami game, but the chance did not arise.

“(Saturday), I just felt it and it went as planned,” he said. “Hopefully, it looked good.”

Alvarado said he learned it from watching NBA star Chris Paul, his favorite player. Pastner's reaction?<br/> "I don't know," Alvarado said. "It went in. He likes anything that goes in the basket."

Alvarado tied his career high with 23 points on 6-for-12 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

“It was just playing as a team, getting open looks and knocking down the shots,” Alvarado said.

3-point defense

Yale cashed in on the 3-pointer in the first half but went dry in the second. The Bulldogs were 6-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half (6-for-12 before missing their final three tries) but 3-for-12 in the second half. They finished the game 9-for-27, their 33.3 percent rate a hair below their season average.

Yale trailed 37-33 at the half before giving way in the second half, when the Bulldogs were outscored 37-27.

Yale seemed to be more effective in the first half driving into the paint to draw the defense to open up shooters on the wings and corners for kickout passes. Tech guards did better pressuring the ball on the perimeter.

“I do think Georgia Tech turned up their defense in the second half,” Yale coach James Jones said. “They made it a little more difficult to get those shots, but I think the ones we got, I thought they were pretty good looks.”

Taking care of the ball

Tech turned the ball over 10 times in 59 possessions, a 16.9 percent turnover rate. The Jackets were actually at seven turnovers before committing three in the final 88 seconds, when the game was well in hand.

After averaging 13.9 turnovers in their first 11 games, the Jackets have had 8.5 in their past four games. It is a rather satisfying change for Pastner, who has been hammering home the importance of keeping possession to his team.

It bears mention that none of the past four opponents are particularly skillful at creating turnovers. That said, all four are better than Georgia, against whom Tech turned the ball over 16 times in the Jackets’ disastrous December 19 loss in Athens.

Pastner has targeted the minimization of turnovers as a pillar for his team’s success this season, the other being success at the free-throw line. (Tech was 21-for-28 from the line against Yale.)

“You can see that we are getting better,” Pastner said. “Unfortunately, we have to count the games pre-Christmas. I wish we didn’t. But since post-Christmas, you can see us getting better, improving.”

Career game for Gueye

Forward Abdoulaye Gueye played probably the best game of his career. The junior from Dakar, Senegal, set a career high for points (14), minutes (36) and steals (three) and tied it for rebounds (nine) as he continues to improve on a seeming game-by-game basis. It was only six games ago that Pastner changed his role from playing both power forward and center to strictly being center Ben Lammers’ backup, giving the power-forward job to Moses Wright and Evan Cole.

But Gueye’s defensive ability – he uses his long reach well both to challenge shots and deflect passes – changed Pastner’s mind, and he showed considerable substance at the other end Saturday. He scored on a left-handed drive, a short jumper in the lane, a putback dunk and, perhaps most elegantly, on a reverse layup out of the post. It’s the fruit of offseason work with assistant coach Eric Reveno and hours of solo sessions.

“I keep trusting the work I’m putting in,” Gueye said.

Pastner called him a “first to arrive, last to leave” grinder. His game still needs work, but he’s come a long way.

“He’s passed other guys in his position based on his defensive play and everything else,” Pastner said. “He’s just gotten better and better and better. And I’m really proud of him. He’s become an ACC-level player.”

Haywood returns

Freshman guard Curtis Haywood made his return to the floor after missing the past six games with a shin injury. Haywood looked predictably rusty, not securing the ball well and not making a significant impact on the game in nine minutes. But, it’s a start for a player who seemed to be finding his place at the time of his injury.

“It was good to see Curtis be able to play a little bit,” Pastner said.

Before the injury, Haywood had played in all eight games, started the final seven and playing 30 minutes or more in the final six. In all eight games, he was 13-for-26 from 3-point range and had a 28-10 assist/turnover ratio. He was rebounding the ball (3.8 per game) and had a little more than a steal per game.

It will take some time for Haywood to regain that form, and he’ll have to earn minutes back from Okogie and Brandon Alston (more likely the latter), but Saturday was a start. He has a long way to go to regain his conditioning level. When Haywood took part in full-court drills in Friday’s practice, Pasnter said that it was the first time in 15 or 16 days that he had been cleared to do so.

“So he’s going to be a little bit out of rhythm and sync,” Pastner said. “So hopefully Monday, Tuesday give him more opportunities to get back in the flow and, once he gets going, he’ll help us as well, too.”

In Other News