Georgia Tech remains in last place in ACC with loss to Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe attempts a layup against Virginia Tech February 2, 2022 in Blacksburg, Va. (Keith Lucas/Sideline Media Productions)

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Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe attempts a layup against Virginia Tech February 2, 2022 in Blacksburg, Va. (Keith Lucas/Sideline Media Productions)

Georgia Tech got in trouble early, and never really got out of it.

Misfiring on offense and giving up easy scores on defense, the Yellow Jackets were run off the floor by Virginia Tech in an 81-66 defeat Wednesday night in Blacksburg, Va. Even with full awareness of the Hokies’ 3-point facility, Georgia Tech permitted Hokies guard Storm Murphy to hit three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the game.

The long-distance volleys set the tone for the Hokies’ efficient scoring night, in which they shot 52.8% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. The Hokies went into the game first in the ACC and fourth in Division I in 3-point field-goal percentage at 41.1%.

“Their offense was better than our defense in the first half, and that was the difference in the game,” coach Josh Pastner said.

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The Jackets did force 14 turnovers, three more than the Hokies’ average, Virginia Tech averaged an efficient 1.25 points per possession. The Hokies did it with excellent ball movement that scrambled Georgia Tech’s zone defense and the interior advantage of Virginia Tech’s post players, Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts, who were a combined 12-for-15.

“They’re really good players,” Pastner said. “They got us in the paint. They got us stretched a little bit.”

As Pastner again used the small lineup for nearly half the game, Virginia Tech followed in the path of other ACC teams who were able to go after Jackets forwards Jordan Usher and Khalid Moore at the basket. Georgia Tech, whose teams with Pastner have prided themselves on having a shot-blocking presence in the middle, are last in the ACC in two-point field-goal percentage in league games at 55.1%.

Tech did have at least one consolation, as guard Michael Devoe broke free for a game-high 30 points, his third 30-point game of the season. Devoe was 5-for-9 from 3-point range, tying his season high for made 3-pointers. Devoe had been 7-for-32 from 3-point range in Tech’s previous six games.

“I was glad he got going,” Pastner said. “We need Michael to score like that pretty much every game for us.”

The game was not complete without more prolonged scoring droughts by the Jackets. After Devoe tied the score at 23-23 with a layup at the 8:26 mark of the first half, the Jackets scored but once over the next five-plus minutes as the Hokies went on a 15-2 binge.

“Once again, we went into our famous scoring drought, where we just could not score,” Pastner said.

Georgia Tech (9-12, 2-8 ACC) opened the second half by scoring six points in the first seven-plus minutes, enabling Virginia Tech (12-10, 4-7) to take its largest lead of the game at 63-41 and put the game out of reach.

One sequence seemed to particularly illustrate the game’s course. Down 14 points with about 17:10 left in the game, forward Jordan Usher had a dunk try ricochet off the back of the rim. Guard Kyle Sturdivant got the rebound, and the ball got back to Usher, who then missed on a fallaway jumper from near the elbow. Forward Khalid Moore got the rebound and his putback was also off. Virginia Tech’s David N’guessan grabbed the rebound, handed to Murphy, who dribbled upcourt, got one screen and was wide open for a 3-poiner, which he hit.

Virginia Tech 81, Georgia Tech 66

The Jackets managed to close the lead to 11 points twice, the last time with 2:30 to play, but by then they had run out of time for the rally to carry much meaning.

For the game, the Jackets shot 40% from the field. Aside from Devoe’s 11-for-19 shooting, the rest of the team was 13-for-41 (31.7%).

Georgia Tech missed a chance to move out of last place in the ACC. Virginia Tech sent the Jackets to their second loss in a row after they appeared to have possibly righted themselves with an upset of Florida State on Jan. 26.

Tech’s next game is Saturday at home against Clemson.