Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner knows one solution to help his team out of its three-game losing streak – more shots for big men Abdoulaye Gueye and Ben Lammers. Executing the solution is a bit trickier.
The Yellow Jackets, who face No. 18 Clemson on Sunday at McCamish Pavilion (6 p.m., ESPNU), are dealing with issues more comprehensive than just drawing up additional plays for one or two players. But they’ll need to solve them or similar results may ensue.
To begin with, Tech is giving the ball away too frequently. Entering Saturday’s games, the Jackets ranked third from the bottom in the ACC in turnover percentage in league games, giving the ball away on 19.7 percent of their possessions (KenPom). That’s in part because the Jackets are relying on freshman point guard Jose Alvarado, who is enduring some turbulence as he learns on the job.
“As we’re coming down, and we see a matchup we want to attack or exploit, and we call a play to get there, it’s important for Jose to help get guys in the right spots, as well,” Pastner said. “That’s just going to take time.”
Tech’s inefficient distribution of shots was on display in its 88-77 loss to Florida State on Wednesday in Tallahassee, Fla. Lammers and Gueye were a combined 9-for-12 from the field (75 percent), kicking in a 9-for-11 performance from the line, for a total of 27 points. The rest of the team, often taking difficult shots on drives to the basket, was 15-for-46 from the field (32.6 percent). Gueye and Lammers accounted for 35 percent of the Jackets’ points while taking 21 percent of the shots.
Florida State limited touches for Lammers and Gueye by pressuring the ball on the perimeter, Pastner said, “where we weren’t able to really get to things that we tried to get to because of them being underneath us.”
Regardless, Pastner recognized the importance to deliver shots for both players. In ACC play, Gueye is making 65 percent of his shots as he racks up points (9.1 per game in ACC games) off his jump hook and putbacks. Further, Gueye has gotten to the line 17 times in ACC games on 40 field-goal attempts, the second-highest rate on the team after guard Josh Okogie.
In Tech’s seven ACC games, the rest of the team is shooting 39.9 percent.
In fairness, it isn’t as though Gueye would continue shooting 65 percent no matter the volume of attempts. Part of his efficiency can be attributed to his selectiveness. Further, foul trouble has limited his minutes and touches. He also has wasted some of his opportunities by getting called for traveling as he shuffles his feet. Also, he scores a number of his points off putbacks, shots that don’t require the offense to go to him.
Regardless, Tech can still be more patient and persistent in its attempts to find Gueye in the low post or Lammers either in the post or for jumpers from his sweet spots at the baseline or near the free-throw line.
Lammers seems to be working himself out of a shooting slump that ensnared him through most of the non-conference season. In Tech’s past four games, he struggled against Virginia (1-for-5), but in the other three games, his jump shot has returned to him and his post play has been efficient as well.
Pastner said Lammers was shooting around 60 percent on shots by the basket in the past five or six games. He looks increasingly like the player who made 51.6 percent of his shots and averaged 14.2 points per game last season in making second-team All-ACC.
“We need to get him around 15, 16 (shots per game),” Pastner said.
It would be a substantial increase. In 20 games this season, Lammers is averaging 10.3 shots, and he has taken 15 shots three times. Last year, he recorded only five 15-shot games in the 37-game season. Putting up five more shots per game would require a considerable change in approach for Lammers and his teammates.
Part of the responsibility lies with Lammers and Gueye, too. Both are unselfish players who pass up shots to keep the ball moving. After the loss to Florida State, even as Lammers acknowledged that he probably should call for the ball more, he still noted the need for other players to get their shots.
“They found me sometimes, but there were other other times I might have been open for a shot or two,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s basketball. Some games, you get the ball more than others.”
An ancillary benefit of continually feeding Lammers in particular is that defenses tend to collapse on him, which enables him to use his superior passing ability to find teammates for jumpers and layups on cuts to the basket.
“We’ve just got to get them the ball into the post, ‘A.D.’ and Ben,” guard Tadric Jackson said. “We can feed off them. We can be really good if we play off them. they can get us better. Ben, he’s unselfish; he passes the ball out, and we just have to get Ben going getting him scoring and back to the old Ben.”