Georgia Tech takes care of business against Delaware State

Credit: ACC

The Yellow Jackets improved to 4-3, its first time above .500 this season, with a 97-69 win over Delaware State at McCamish Pavilion.

Credit: ACC

Georgia Tech got the sort of win it really needed Sunday night. The Yellow Jackets took an early lead and continued to build on it in a 97-69 win over Delaware State at McCamish Pavilion.

In the second game in a stretch of three games in six days, coach Josh Pastner was able to rest his starters and give his backup big men needed playing time as the ACC season quickly approaches. It was the team’s scoring high for a regulation game this season. Tech improved to 4-3, its first time above .500 this season.

Coach Josh Pastner called it “fun to see” his team play with such dominating form after the team’s season-opening losses against Georgia State and Mercer led him to make more of an emphasis on players moving the ball while also moving without it. The team’s 25 assists were the most in a game since the 2018-19 season.

“It’s good to see that the work we’ve been doing has paid off,” he said.

A more discerning test of the team’s progress will be Wednesday, when the Jackets play UAB in Birmingham, Ala. The Blazers are 7-1, although they’ve achieved that mark against a fairly light schedule.

“Of course we want to win the game, but more so than anything on that, (we want to be) process-oriented in making sure that we continue to get better, do things that we can control and be better in the areas that we need to be better, so we can be prepared as we enter into ACC play,” Pastner said.

Point guard Jose Alvarado tied his career scoring high with 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. He led the rout in the first 10 minutes of the second half with almost unthinkable production. In 10 minutes, he was 6-for-7 from the field, 2-for-3 from 3-point range and 3-for-3 from the line for 17 points.

He scored on three fast-break layups, a layup off a backdoor cut and a pair of 3-pointers in the barrage. Also in that span, he dealt out five assists against one turnover with one steal. It was in that stretch that the Jackets went on a 25-1 run to elevate the lead to 76-44 at the 11:05 mark. On two fast breaks, he fed Moses Wright with a behind-the-back bounce pass for a dunk on one and then lobbed the ball off the backboard for Wright for another dunk.

“(Sunday) was a good one for me,” said Alvarado, who declared himself recovered from losing two teeth on Wednesday when he was unintentionally elbowed in practice. “My shots were falling and my teammates got me open.”

Tech and Delaware State players battle for the ball during the second half Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. The Tech Yellow Jackets won 97- 69. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Tech and Delaware State players battle for the ball during the second half Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. The Tech Yellow Jackets won 97- 69. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Guard Jordan Usher delivered a strong all-around performance with 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals in 26 minutes. In Pastner’s tenure, now in its fifth year, Usher became the fourth Yellow Jacket to record a stat line of 10 points with at least four tallies in the rebounds/assists/steals categories, according to sports-reference.com, following Ben Lammers, Curtis Haywood and Alvarado. Prior to Usher, all needed at least 37 minutes.

“I thought Jordan, back-to-back games, continued to play the right way, stayed within himself,” Pastner said.

Starters Michael Devoe, Bubba Parham, Wright, Usher and Alvarado all played fewer than 30 minutes two days after Florida A&M pushed Tech into the final two minutes of their game. With the Rattlers keeping the game in doubt, Pastner was compelled to keep four of the five on the floor for at least 30 minutes, including Devoe for 37.

After the win over Florida A&M, Pastner lamented that his team couldn’t deliver a knockout punch and that its second-half defense was lax. Neither was the case against Delaware State (0-3). Usher gave Tech at 4-3 lead at the 17:28 mark of the first half on a drive to the basket and the Jackets built the lead to as many as 11 points in the first half, ending it ahead 40-30.

Tech forced Delaware State into 13 first-half turnovers, creating 14 points off the mistakes. Unlike the win over Florida A&M, which closed Tech’s lead to within five points on four occasions after falling behind by as many as 17, the Jackets had no such relapse Sunday.

Tech’s play in the first 10 minutes of the second half completely extinguished any hopes of a win for the visiting Hornets. With the advantage, Pastner gave substantial playing time to backup post men Saba Gigiberia and Rodney Howard. Both played 10 minutes, with Gigiberia scoring two points on 1-for-6 shooting with six rebounds while Howard scored seven on 3-for-3 shooting with one rebound. Freshman guard Tristan Maxwell also earned playing time for the first time this season after he was sidelined with a preseason foot injury that had required surgery.

Pastner said that he had been cleared to practice about a week ago. He’ll need time to knock off rust and regain his conditioning, Pastner said. He played eight minutes Sunday, scoring three points from the free-throw line.

“It was good to be able to give him a little game time (Sunday), but the more we practice, the more he’ll settle in and feel comfortable and get used to this level,” Pastner said.

Pastner played all of the 16 players who were available, including all five walk-ons.

Against Florida A&M, “we just couldn’t pull away and then I couldn’t get everybody in,” Pastner said, “and so it was good that we had that margin, so I was able to get some of those guys, especially for Saba and Rodney and Tristan, and everybody else, time.”

The Jackets shot 55% from the field while creating 20 turnovers and committing nine. It was the their third game this season with single-digit turnovers. Tech had two such games all last season.

In the first six games, Howard had played a total of 24 minutes and Gigiberia 13. Pastner has relied heavily on a small lineup with Wright as the only post player in the rotation but has repeatedly acknowledged that the team will need one or both of the big men over the course of the season.

After the UAB game, the Jackets will have a short respite for Christmas and then will begin the ACC schedule in full on Dec. 30 against No. 22 North Carolina.

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