Better 3-point shooting could go a long way to ending Georgia Tech’s slide

Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe (0) dribbles past Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

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Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe (0) dribbles past Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Some of the shots probably were best left untaken. For instance, guard Michael Devoe took – and missed – a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off an inbounds pass, a fadeaway with six seconds left on the shot clock.

Some 3-point tries were taken from well beyond the arc, others when the shooter wasn’t square to the basket or perhaps a hair rushed.

But, when Georgia Tech played Notre Dame on Sunday and made but six 3-pointers out of 27 tries and lost 72-68 in overtime to the Fighting Irish at McCamish Pavilion, plenty of the 21 misses could be reasonably judged good shots.

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“There’s a couple 3′s I’ve graded where it’s not been a good grade, but I would tell you, for a lot of our 3′s, we’re open,” coach Josh Pastner said. “Just unfortunately, during our four ACC games, (they) just have not fallen for us at the rate that we need them to fall.”

As the Yellow Jackets try to wrestle out of a slump Wednesday at Boston College – they’ve lost seven of their past eight – the defending ACC champions find themselves in a spot familiar to Pastner’s tenure, now in its sixth season.

“We’re struggling right now,” Pastner said. “We’re getting great looks, but got to put the ball in the basket.”

In the past six games, the Jackets have shot 30% from 3-point range or below four times and lost all four. That includes Sunday’s 22.2% effort against Notre Dame, the second-lowest rate of the season.

For the season, the Jackets have made 35.3% of their 3-pointers, which ranked 110th in Division I and seventh in the ACC before Tuesday’s games. It bears mention that the Jackets have never shot that accurately for a season with Pastner. Last year’s finish at 34.8% (119th in Division I) was far and away their best performance in his first five seasons.

In ACC play, however, Tech is shooting 31%, 10th in the league.

Tech’s shooting slump is part of a broader offensive downturn. The Jackets have averaged under .95 points per possession (KenPom) in six of their past seven games. For the sake of context, the 14 other ACC teams have an average of 3.1 such games for the whole season. The Jackets’ season rates – 1.03 points per possession in all games and .915 in ACC games – are both last in the ACC. Tech’s record is 6-8 overall going into the Boston College game and 0-4 in the ACC.

“We’ve had some issues offensively,” Pastner said.

The defense has held up. The Jackets held their past three opponents – Louisville, Duke and Notre Dame – below their standard offensive production. But because they couldn’t do much with the ball in their hands, they lost all three.

“You hold Notre Dame to 62 points in regulation, you’ve got to win the game,” Pastner said. “You hold Duke to 67 (the Blue Devils’ point total at the one-minute mark before Tech intentionally fouled to send Duke to the free-throw line) in regulation at Duke, you’ve got to win the game.”

Guard Michael Devoe is 9-for-32 (28.1%) from 3-point range in the team’s past four games. He had been making 50.9% (27-for-53) to that point, which was perhaps an unsustainable rate.

“Part of that (decline) is the other team is literally draped on him,” Pastner said. “They’re just trying to take him out every possession.”

Devoe’s high minute load may not help, either. At 35.7 minutes per game, Devoe ranked third in the ACC before Tuesday’s games. With Bubba Parham out for the foreseeable future with soreness in his knees, the development of guard Tristan Maxwell, who played 13 minutes against Notre Dame in his second appearance of the season, could help.

“He’s just got to keep staying the course,” Pastner said of Maxwell. “He did some good things for us on Saturday.”

Another obstacle is that Tech isn’t getting much production from its post play. Center Rodney Howard continues to be out with an ankle injury, and forwards Jordan Meka and Saba Gigiberia aren’t meaningful threats to score, making it easier for teams to defend the perimeter. Pastner has increasingly relied on forwards Khalid Moore and Jordan Usher to play in the post, sacrificing size on defense for greater offensive facility.

Improving shot selection, or at least eliminating bad shots, would help. So would some early makes.

“Especially individually, once you see the ball go in once, you get more comfortable shooting the ball,” Moore said. “So I feel like once we start to get it clicking a little bit, it’ll take off from there.”

Boston College might be the right opponent for the Jackets. Each of the Eagles’ past four opponents have shot 40% or better from 3-point range, all losses for Boston College (6-7, 1-2).

“We’re due to get hot,” Pastner said. “I don’t know when it’s going to be, but, goodness gracious, we’re due for that ball to go in the basket.”

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