Georgia Tech’s scoring challenges at the rim ‘alarming’ to Josh Pastner

In his weekly appearance on the ACC coaches teleconference, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner returned to a familiar chestnut, one he brought up after his team’s 71-60 home loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

“It’s really hard to win in this league if you don’t get to 70 (points),” he said.

This season would bear it out for the Yellow Jackets. In seven ACC games, Tech has scored 69 points or fewer six times in regulation and lost each time. The seventh, the Jackets passed the barrier and beat then-No. 12 Miami 76-70.

Tech (8-9, 1-6 ACC) will have another attempt Tuesday against N.C. State to conjure up enough offense to hit 70 points. The Wolfpack (14-4, 4-3) average 71.9 points in regulation in ACC games with one of the most efficient offenses in the ACC.

In Pastner’s seven years with the Jackets, Tech is 13-8 in ACC games decided in regulation when scoring between 70 and 75 points and 11-18 when finishing between 64 and 69 points. It might strike as an exceedingly obvious point – teams tend to fare better when scoring more points – but Pastner’s point is that the quality of competition in the ACC is such that it’s difficult to hold opponents to fewer than 70 points.

So where can Tech, averaging 63.7 points per game in regulation in ACC games, find another seven to 10 points?

A primary area is at the basket, where the Jackets have not demonstrated an ability to consistently make baskets or draw fouls. Against Pitt, the Jackets were 3-for-14 on layup tries. In ACC play, Tech is shooting 45% on two-point field-goal tries (KenPom), 14th in the ACC.

“Our lack of ability to score layups at the rim right now is alarming,” Pastner said.

While center Rodney Howard (60.3%) and forwards Ja’von Franklin (57.3%) and Jalon Moore (53.8%) have been effective scorers in two-point range, the two guards with the most two-point attempts – Deivon Smith (44.5%) and Miles Kelly (40.6%) – are lagging.

Last season, guard Michael Devoe shot 53.9% on his two-point shots, a reflection of his development as a scorer around the basket.

Kelly, the Jackets’ leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, had a rough game against Pitt, scoring six points on 2-for-10 shooting, including 0-for-5 inside 3-point range. Kelly has been excellent beyond the arc – making 40.4% of his shots from 3-point range. He has made at least two 3-pointers in each of Tech’s past 11 games and is shooting 45.6% on 3-point tries in that span. Shots inside the arc have been tougher to make.

“We score in transition, and we’re good on the offensive glass,” said Pastner, referencing two areas that the Jackets have shown improvement this season. “We haven’t been great in that half-court area. Could be a little shot selection, maybe we don’t have as many breakdown-type of guys to get in that paint there.”