Tuesday night’s 66-64 win over Clemson was big in a lot of ways …
1) Tech showed consistency from game-to-game it hadn’t during a well-documented four-game stretch against Georgia, Duke, Virginia and North Carolina.
2) Tech won a game on a last-second possession, providing itself another mental reminder of how much different this team is than last year’s.
3) Tech held serve on its home court, and is now 2-1 at Alexander in conference play, (1-1 on the road), something that’s so important going forward as the ACC teams start beating each other up. (Last night was a prime example of the physical toll!)
But something else occurred to me too, as the frenzy settled. Yes even for a writer covering the wackiness, the heart rate had to return to normal. It’s cliché, that thing we always hear about good teams having “different players step up every night” (I know, I know, stop me if you’ve heard it before.) But I think it’s cliché because it’s true. And it dawned on me last night that in the last three big wins for Tech, it’s been somebody else for the Yellow Jackets.
Against Duke: Gani Lawal scored 21 points in 23 minutes, on 8-of-9 shooting and collected nine rebounds.
Against North Carolina: Iman Shumpert scored 30 points in 36 minutes, on 10-of-17 shooting from the floor and 7-of-9 free throws.
Against Clemson: Derrick Favors scored 17 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked three shots and had one steal in 31 minutes.
And that effort for Favors, was with, as Coach Paul Hewitt said afterward, leaving some points on the floor. He went 1-for-5 at the free throw line and missed a layup he should have dunked.
Yes, those are your three McDonald’s All-Americans, the most talented guys on the floor. You’ve also got Zachery Peacock demanding the ball in the final seconds and playing like a senior.
So the next step for this team would be to see one of its complementary guys lead the way. Yes, but who?
Brian Oliver is not afraid to pull the trigger, we’ve seen that, and he’s getting more comfortable and secure with the ball in ACC play. Glen Rice Jr. showed last night that he’s taking the next step and man, does he play with aggressiveness and enthusiasm, to go along with the basketball smarts, Hewitt complimented last night. Can Mfon Udofia get hot in an ACC game, like he did with 26 points against Siena?
Could it be one of those three guys? I’m sure you guys would settle for another game against Florida State Sunday where the two big post men had double-doubles, Shumpert played a good floor game (6 assists, 3 turnovers, two steals, eight rebounds), and the whole team played solid defense.
Hey, I stink at predicting. I’ll leave that to y’all!
Josh Smith on Favors
After seeing that Hawks’ Josh Smith was at the Clemson game last night, I was curious what he thought about Favors. And instead of scrambling over there at halftime (hey, I was talking to some other folks I needed to) I leaned on my new AJC colleague and Hawks writer Michael Cunningham for a little help. He just came through bigtime.
Here’s what Smith had to say: “ I know him. That’s my little partner. He’s young. He’s still got a lot of growth left. That will come with playing time. I think he will get better as the season progresses. He’s a walking double-double, I will say that. He needs the opportunity to showcase his skills a little more on the blocks.”
Kudos to Derrick Favors who is getting his No. 34 jersey retired by South Atlanta High School on Tuesday night. Coach Michael Reddick said he’ll be honored at halftime of South Atlanta’s 7 p.m. boys game. I’m sure it’s a proud moment for the seemingly sort of bashful kid.
Even without Favors, South Atlanta is off to a great season. The Hornets are 14-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAA.
Shumpert had an ice pack on his left hand last night after the game and said he hurt his middle finger reaching in trying to strip Trevor Booker, and by the end of the game “it was throbbing.” Considering he finished the game, and that Tech will have had four days off between the Clemson game and Sunday’s game at FSU, I doubt it will be an issue, but I’ll keep you posted.
Hewitt said after the game that Shumpert was suffering from cramps at the end of the game last night. I’m guessing that’s why he wasn’t on the floor that play when Udofia traveled around the 30-second mark. There wasn’t a guy who didn’t have to dig deep late in that game. For that reason it was fun to watch, even if it got a little ugly.