Georgia Tech leaving walk-ons at home for first road trip

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner instructs the team during the second half of the Pit Boss Grills Holiday Hoopsgiving Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won 79-62. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner instructs the team during the second half of the Pit Boss Grills Holiday Hoopsgiving Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won 79-62. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech traveled Tuesday night for its first road game of the season, a Wednesday night matchup with Nebraska as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. As has become the rule throughout professional and college sports, it was a trip unlike any coach Josh Pastner had previously led or taken.

To begin with, the travel party was reduced to help with social distancing on the team’s flight and bus rides. Among those left at home were the team’s five walk-ons, to make sure that players have enough distance between one another while traveling so that one positive test doesn’t lead to teammates also being sidelined through contact tracing.

Pastner also has had to figure out how the team would handle hotel rooms, meetings and meals. Specific instructions were given to the hotel for the server at team meals — one server behind acrylic glass, wearing gloves, using tongs. A larger-than-normal room was reserved for team meetings.

“All those little things to think about that previously you never even thought about for one second,” Pastner said.

Pastner made clear that he wasn’t complaining, but illustrating how different and involved the process has become. And, obviously, it isn’t only travel. With players and staff being distanced on the bench during games, Pastner said that he has rearranged the configuration after the season-opening loss to Georgia State and then put together a new arrangement for the third game, Sunday’s game against Kentucky, which was held at State Farm Arena.

And, likely, when the Yellow Jackets travel again — next Tuesday at Florida State for the ACC opener — the procedure may be different again.

“It’s just, this first trip is going to be trial and error,” he said.

As for the actual game, Tech will try to return to .500 after starting the season with home losses to Georgia State and Mercer before rebounding with a win at State Farm over then-No. 20 Kentucky. The Cornhuskers are 3-1 with wins over McNeese State, North Dakota State and South Dakota and a loss to Nevada. The teams played last year at McCamish Pavilion, a 73-56 Tech win.

Nebraska has six players who have attempted at least 14 3-pointers in the four games. The Cornhuskers have averaged 30.3 3-point attempts in those games, making 8.8 for a shooting percentage of 28.9%. Last year’s Division I leader in 3-point attempts, North Florida, put up 31.2 per game.

“They’ve got five guys that can shoot the ball,” Pastner said.

The Jackets have defended the 3-pointer well throughout Pastner’s tenure, but through three games, Tech opponents are shooting 40.5% from 3-point range.

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