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Poor 3-point shooting plagues Tech and overly optimistic Pastner

Outside of banal coach-speak like “Give a lot of credit to the other team” and “We didn’t play hard enough,” you’d be hard-pressed to find something said more often in a Josh Pastner news conference this season than “I thought we’d be a better 3-point shooting team.”

On Tuesday night against North Carolina, Georgia Tech displayed quite the opposite, as it has all season. The Yellow Jackets shot 2-for-16 from beyond the arc in the 23-point loss. That’s 12.5 percent, a far cry from the numbers Pastner wanted his team to put up this year.

Preseason, the coach called for Brandon Alston, Jose Alvarado, Michael Devoe, Curtis Haywood and Shembari Phillips to all shoot at least 43 percent from deep. Currently, Alston is the only one close (excluding Khalid Moore, who is 44.4 percent on only nine attempts). He is at 40.9 percent on the season, but he hasn’t started a game since Dec 12 against Gardner-Webb because of undisclosed personal issues.

“From how we shot in the summer and fall, I thought we’d be a great 3-point shooting team,” Pastner said. “I’m a black-and-white guy. I’m cautious before I say things. I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t think we’d shoot the daylights out of it. But we haven’t lived up to that projection.”

Tech ranks 335th of 351 schools in Division I in 3-pointers made per game, with 5.3. The team’s collective 30.8 percent clip ranks 316th.

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It got to a point in the game against UNC where Tech guards Alvarado and Devoe started hesitating and passing up open 3-pointers in favor of tossing the ball down low.

“The ball is in their hands a lot. They need to be better in every aspect, in every way. I told Jose and Mike, there were a couple times they had open shots, but they turned them down. Yes, they missed some. But if they’re that open, they have to keep shooting it,” Pastner said.

After the poor result against the Tar Heels, Pastner did give a new explanation for the deviance from his preseason projections: going big. He said his preseason plan was built before he knew center James Banks would be eligible. Tech has now shifted from what Pastner thought would be a small, drive-and-kick offense to one that deploys two post men.

“When James got eligible, we were trying to figure that out. Then A.D. (Abdoulaye Gueye) starts playing well, so you start to play them together. With that, you take some things away in the floor spacing,” Pastner explained.

Gueye has taken more shots in the past three games (42) than he did in his first 11 combined (40). With him and Banks starting the past three games together and leading shooter Alston out or at least limited for an undisclosed amount of time, it’s clear the Jackets’ offense has taken on a different identity from what Pastner saw in the offseason.

But for opponents, all the projection talk and hypotheticals and changing offenses mean nothing compared with the hard numbers Tech has bricked up this season. The game plan is clear and effective: let them shoot.

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