Observations, stats and quotes from Georgia Tech’s 59-49 loss to No. 25 Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. Game story here.
1. Tough afternoon for Alvarado
Tech guard Jose Alvarado did a number of commendable things for the Yellow Jackets. He pushed the pace as the Jackets tried desperately to score in transition to avoid having to play out of the half-court.
He was his typical tough and vocal self. He only had one turnover in 24 minutes of play. For the most part, he showed good shot selection, largely avoiding the shots in traffic in the lane that he often takes and usually misses.
But, he went scoreless, missing all 10 of his field-goal tries, five from 3-point range. He didn’t get to the line for the second game in a row. As the Jackets’ leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, he put his team in a pretty big hole. He also only had two assists and took a technical (which was debatable) that limited his minutes and then, with four fouls, he appeared to try to take a charge out at midcourt with almost seven minutes left. Not his best game.
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Alvarado also took a technical in the neutral-site loss to St. John’s in December that was similarly costly.
“We need him to be better,” coach Josh Pastner said. “He’s been a tough, hard-nosed young man for us in his year and a half, but (Saturday), he wasn’t real productive.”
He has particularly struggled in the past three games from a scoring standpoint with a total of 12 points against Duke, North Carolina and Florida State. His 3-point percentage is down to 27.9 percent (29-for-104), well below the 37 percent he shot last season (40-for-108). Alvarado is typically pretty judicious with his shot selection on 3-pointers. It’s perplexing.
I’ll say this about him also. I requested to speak with him after the game, which I trust was not a task he was relishing and one that a lot of players try to avoid if they can, particularly after losses. Typically, Mike Stamus, the associate director in the communications office, is around to wrangle players for interviews, but he wasn’t around after the game. But Alvarado happened to see me as he walked out of the locker room and, rather than trying to skulk away and put the onus on me to flag him down, he asked if I needed to talk with him. I thought that was pretty stand-up. (I let him go, as I had enough material, and we request him a lot.)
2. Made-up stat
If Tech had scored 67 points in every game this season, the Jackets would actually be slightly below their season rate (which was 67.7 points per game before Saturday, last in the ACC). They would have been 12th in league play at the start of play Saturday. In other words, it’s not a lot of points.
But, if that were the case, rather than being 11-11 overall and 3-6 in the ACC, they would be 13-8 overall and 5-4 in the ACC (the Northwestern game would have gone to overtime) with wins over No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Duke, No. 12 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Virginia Tech. (Moreover, 67 points isn’t even necessarily asking a lot against those four teams. At the start of play Saturday, all four of those teams were giving up more than 67 points in league play.)
The point being, the limited offense is a considerable burden. Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Syracuse all had their worst offensive-efficiency game (KenPom) against Tech. For Duke, it was second worst. The defense is more than fine. The big problem is that finding baskets that has become a surpassing chore.
Pastner said the goal was to try to keep Florida State in the 50’s, which is something only two teams (UVA and Pittsburgh) have done all season. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 71 points in league play. It was an estimable challenge. And yet, Tech accomplished it.
Florida State was at 55 before Tech started fouling in the final minute. But … Tech only got to 49, which would be notable in the ACC on most any other day than Saturday, when N.C. State managed only 24 points in a 47-24 defeat to Virginia Tech. (At home, no less.)
The defense is really good. The offense, particularly the 3-point shooting (and sometimes the turnovers), is just bad.
(I realize this is not a particularly novel takeaway for anyone who has watched this team. But I thought the illustration with the 67 points puts a different light on it.)
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton: “Have to give Georgia Tech a lot of credit, we had them in foul trouble, we got into their bench, and it was very difficult for us. There was a 5, 6, 7-minute period where I didn’t think we executed very well. I thought we had them had them on the ropes, they just kept chipping away and chipping away. Their philosophy, I thought, was working very well.”
Pastner on the offensive shooting problems: “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
4. Gueye effective again
Forward Abdoulaye Gueye played another solid game, scoring a team-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field. He can be really effective in the paint if he gets position. He’s got a nice little mix of post moves, particularly his jump hook.
“I don’t care about my points,” Gueye said. “The only thing I care about is winning and everybody playing good.”
“He’s become our best offensive player,” Pastner said. “We’ve just got to keep trying to find him.”
(Forward Evan Cole was productive, with seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.)
Gueye spent some of the game matched up about 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje of Chad and managed to score at least once on him on an up-and-under.
“He’s a shot blocker, so a shot blocker, you’ve got to give one pump fake,” he said. “They’re going to bite. If they don’t bite, the second one, you shoot it. If they bite, you just (do the up-and-under).”
As it turns out, Gueye, from Senegal, has known Koumadje since he was about 12, he said. Gueye said he thought Koumadje’s mother lived in a village in Senegal and Koumadje lived with her for a certain amount of time. (If you’re wondering, Senegal is on the western coast of north African, and Chad is in central north Africa.)
I asked Gueye if he also lived in the village – I should know by now he’s from Dakar, the capital and the nation’s largest city – and I might as well have asked him if he wished Tech was still wearing Russell Athletic.
“No,” he said, practically insulted. “I’m from the city.”
5. What’s next for Tech
Three games ago, Tech was 3-3 in the ACC and feeling good after beating Notre Dame. The next three games – at No. 2 Duke, No. 9 North Carolina, at No. 25 Florida State – were all games that were likely losses, and that’s how they played out. Tech showed some things in all three games (though Duke and UNC in particular didn’t play well for large parts of the games) and lost. That shouldn’t rate as a surprise, although, again, the 3-point shooting in particular is alarming and would be no matter who the opponent was.
Tech now is at home Wednesday against Clemson (12-8 overall, 2-5 in the ACC going into its Sunday game against Wake Forest) and then on the road against Notre Dame (12-10, 2-7) Saturday. Those are fairer tests for the Jackets than the previous three.
It’s not as though this season is headed anywhere, but in the hunt to get to seven or eight wins in league play (and surpass last year’s 6-12), they’re games that are both obtainable.