Georgia Tech resumes ACC play with trip to Florida State

Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire reacts to a play during their game against Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum, Tuesday, December. 5, 2023, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 76-62. (Jason Getz /



Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire reacts to a play during their game against Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum, Tuesday, December. 5, 2023, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 76-62. (Jason Getz /

After a few days off to recalibrate, Georgia Tech resumes its 2023-24 journey – and ACC play – at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State.

The Yellow Jackets (8-4. 1-0 ACC) returned from Hawaii last week after going 2-1 at the Diamond Head Classic. An eight-point loss to Nevada in the event’s championship game made for a less-celebratory flight home than what could have been. Still, victories over Massachusetts and Hawaii, respectively, to get to the tournament’s championship game showed signs that Tech is continuing to head in the right direction.

“We grew. I just think we grew,” Tech coach Damon Stoudamire said about the team’s trip to Honolulu. “I don’t think that from an individual standpoint that each guy is playing to the level that they wanna play, but I think that collectively, we’re figuring ways out to be a team. And each one of those game we played, even counting Penn State (Dec. 16 in New York City), we won differently. Even the (Nevada) game we gave ourselves the chance to win. We had some opportunities, we had some chances. We didn’t get it done, but I see us fighting. I see us starting to believe. I see us going in the right direction.”

Tech still is less than 40% through its regular season. And while it has work to do to be in the discussion as an NCAA tournament team, the plethora of opportunities that lie ahead to strengthen its resume means Tech has a real shot at being considered an at-large selection in the field of 68 come March.

The Jackets, who have 19 games remaining, have an NCAA NET ranking of 110 as they begin the new year. They have what might be considered a bad loss (to Massachusetts-Lowell at home), but quality wins over Duke, Mississippi State and UMass.

Of its remaining contests, Tech is scheduled to play 13 opponents currently in the top 75 of the NET rankings. So as the schedule grows tougher over the next two months, Stoudamire will need his team to be tougher, too.

“I think the biggest thing for me in talking with our guys has been the mental approach. I want us to be able to, and we did a great job of this in Hawaii, when you can’t practice you gotta lock in to the scouting report. To me, you don’t always gotta be on the floor,” Stoudamire said. “The one thing that’s a carryover each and every game is you gotta know who you’re playing against. You gotta know the scouting report on each individual that we’re playing against. You gotta know if they’re a 3-point shooting team or not a 3-point shooting team. The way we were able to carry those things over in Hawaii, that was important.

“That was just as big of a growth as anything we’ve done because earlier in the season I don’t know if we were as locked in to the attention to detail. We are becoming more locked in.”

Now 6-2 in its past eight games, Tech’s strong play over the past month largely has been because of the play of freshmen Baye Ndongo and Nait George. Ndongo, who has played in nine of the team’s 12 games, has averaged 11.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. George, who has played in nine games and started eight, leads the team with 37 assists.

Veterans Miles Kelly, Kowacie Reeves and Kyle Sturdivant have been strong as well. Kelly is scoring nearly 15 points per game (although the junior is shooting only 32.4% from the floor), Reeves is leading the Jackets in 3-point shooting at 37.8% and Sturdivant is dealing out almost three assists per contest.

Tech leads the ACC in offensive rebounds per game, is second in total rebounds per game and third in defending the 3-point shot. But the Jackets are at the bottom of the league in shooting, 3-point shooting, steals and turnover margin.

“Whenever we have low turnovers and we rebound, we give ourselves a really good chance to win,” Reeves said. “We’re just starting to realize that more, starting to just think the game a little bit more.”

Florida State ended the calendar year with a 78-75 loss to Lipscomb at home Saturday. That made the Seminoles 6-6, a record that includes a win over a ranked Colorado team in an in-state game played in Daytona Beach.

Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team is led by forward Jamir Watkins and guards Darin Green and Primo Spears, all of whom are scoring at least 12 points per game. Watkins also is the team’s leading rebounder (6.3 rpg). Among ACC teams, FSU (0-1 ACC) is one of the worst in turnovers per game, turnover margin, 3-point defense, 3-point shooting, rebounding and field-goal percentage defense.

“To me, they’re like playing against a killer in a scary movie, so to speak. They never die,” Stoudamire said. “They keep pressing, they keep throwing multiple bodies in there, and you gotta consistently and constantly stay in attack mode. You cannot not be aggressive against them offensively. When you have opportunities, you gotta attack. The opponents that they’ve struggled with, that’s what they’ve done, and we gotta do the same thing.

“To me, there’s gonna be some lulls. How do we handle those lulls? How do we handle that rough patch if we turn it over two times in a row? What are we gonna do?”

Tech is looking for its first 2-0 start in league play since the 2005-06 season. After Wednesday’s contest the Jackets return home to host Boston College (9-3, 0-1 ACC) at 4 p.m. Saturday.