Before the Tar Heels can ring in the New Year, they must first take care of the pesky Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. The UNC basketball team heads to Atlanta on Saturday for a 12:00 game at McCamish Pavilion. This will be the first ACC conference game of the season for both the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets.
In Josh Pastner’s first season at Georgia Tech, his team comes into Saturday’s game with an 8-4 record. The Yellow Jackets narrowly escaped with a 59-52 victory over the 1-12 NC A&T Aggies on Wednesday. With the win, Georgia Tech matched their longest winning streak of the year at two games.
The Yellow Jackets head into the start of ACC play averaging only 68.1 points a game, which is 287th in the country. They are led by Junior Center, Ben Lammers, who averages 14.9 points per game. The team has four players who average in double-figures (Lammers, Josh Okogie, Tadric Jackson, and Quinton Stephens).
The six-foot-four Okogie is one of the better Freshman guards in the ACC. He is averaging 13.3 points per game, which is ranked second amongst Freshman in the ACC. He has also shown the ability to put up big numbers in a game, as he finished with 38 points against Tulane.
Georgia Tech will need to do a better job on the boards if they want to have any chance at keeping this game close. They come into the matchup ranked 195th in total rebounds (they had the same number of rebounds as NC A&T on Wednesday). Lammers and Stephens are their leading rebounders with 10.0 and 8.1 rebounds per game, respectively.
The Yellow Jackets do rank 8th in the country in blocks, so the Tar Heels will have some obstacles in the way trying to protect the rim (Lammers and Stephens average 5 blocks per game between the both of them).
UNC may not have to worry too much about Georgia Tech taking a lot of three point shots, as they have only attempted 143 so far in the season (ranked 350th in the country in number of attempts). As a reference, UNC has attempted 258 so far this year.
This will be Josh Pastner’s first game against an ACC opponent as an ACC coach, and the Tar Heels will look to make it his first loss as an ACC coach against an ACC opponent.
UNC finished non-conference play with a record of 12-2 after defeating Monmouth 102-74 on Wednesday night. The Heels now head to Atlanta looking to start the ACC season 1-0. Winning on the road in the ACC is never easy, so don’t look for the Tar Heels to take this game lightly, despite what looks like an inferior Yellow Jacket team.
The Tar Heels came away with a 28-point victory on Wednesday, but it never really felt that lop-sided, as it was not the cleanest of games for the team. They had 17 turnovers in the game, which now puts them at 224th in the country in number of turnovers on the season. This is certainly still an area that needs to be improved on, especially heading into ACC play.
Joel Berry appeared to not really be his usual self on Wednesday (his only points came from the free throw line), and we found out after the game that he was sick and just recently had received an IV treatment. Hopefully, Berry will be back to his usual self in time for Saturday’s game.
If not, the team will continue to rely on the hot-shooting Justin Jackson. Jackson had another spectacular performance on Wednesday, finishing with 28 points and 6-9 from behind the 3-point line. He is currently averaging 17.5 points per game, which leads the team.
Look for the Tar Heels to use their typical winning formula of getting the ball up the court fast and throwing the ball inside to Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. Meeks (17 pts./12 rebs.) and Hicks (15 pts./9 rebs.) both had big games on Wednesday and look for them to put pressure on and attack the Yellow Jacket big men. They could also have big games on the boards, since Georgia Tech is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country.
Also, if the Heels play with defensive intensity, they can force Georgia Tech into a number of turnovers and some easy transition baskets on the offensive end. The Yellow Jackets, like the Heels, are one of the worst teams in the country in total number of turnovers (217th in the country).
The Tar Heels will look to extend their current seven-game winning streak in the series against Georgia Tech.