Georgia Tech’s Wednesday home game against Virginia Tech will be a difficult matchup on its face. Toss in the team’s travels in recent days and the level of challenge goes up a notch.
Tech won at Pitt on Saturday night and lost at Syracuse on Monday night. Wednesday’s game against the Hokies will be the third in five days in three different cities. To this point, the team’s tightest three-game window in ACC play was seven days.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has not played since Saturday (at home, no less) and, with a record of 16-11 overall and 8-8 in the ACC, also happens to be the better team.
“I am concerned about (Wednesday’s game),” coach Josh Pastner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “It’s a quick turnaround.”
Layered in also is the fact that Tech’s charter flight home from Syracuse was delayed, returning to Atlanta around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Pastner said, and the expectation that players were to be in class on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Jackets were to practice Tuesday and have a walk-through Wednesday to prepare for Virginia Tech, which throttled the Jackets 81-66 Feb. 2 in Blacksburg, Va.
Tech’s game at Syracuse, a 74-73 overtime loss for the Jackets, was a makeup after the teams’ original game on Dec. 29 was postponed because Tech was in a COVID-19 pause.
Pastner also acknowledged that the Jackets’ season – they are 11-16 overall and 4-12 in the ACC – has been wearying, although he extolled his team for its effort.
“It does take a toll on me, the players, the coaches, the fans,” he said. “Because we are getting better, (but) we just don’t have the wins to show for it. But we’re better. We’ve just got to stay the course.”
Pastner touted the recent progress of center Rodney Howard, who has scored in double figures in the Jackets’ past four games, averaging 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 69.4% from the field. Prior to the past four games, he had been averaging 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds with making 49.3% of his field-goal attempts.
“If you take from the Virginia game, N.C. State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which big is playing better than him in the league?” Pastner said.
He’ll play Wednesday against one player who quite arguably is. In Virginia Tech’s past four games, Hokies forward Keve Aluma is averaging 19.5 points and seven rebounds and making 60% of his shots, many from longer range than Howard’s attempts.
The Jackets have four regular-season games remaining. After Virginia Tech, there are road trips to Notre Dame and Clemson followed by a home game with Boston College to end the regular season. It appears that Tech will finish in the bottom six of the ACC, meaning the Jackets will play in the opening round of the conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pastner asserted again his belief that the team is playing better. The Jackets have performed better at both ends of the floor since the team’s non-conference win over Clayton State on Jan. 23. The record, though, maintains its droopy appearance.
“Our next four games, we’ve got to get ready to continue to improve and play our best basketball and make sure we’re going into the ACC Tournament the right way and try to go win five in a row (to win the tournament),” Pastner said. “Who’s to say we can’t? I’m sure not saying we can’t.”
About the Author
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution