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Ball pressure key as UVA, eventually, slows Georgia Tech in transition

jose alvarado
Jose Alvarado scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting for Georgia Tech. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

The final statline gave Georgia Tech credit for nine fast-break points, but it was more than that.

The Jackets ended up getting 18 points in transition. Jordan Usher, lethal in transition coming in, got 11 of his 19 points on transition buckets – an and-one, another layup after which he missed a free throw, a pair of threes.

So, OK, game plan going in, keep an eye on Usher in transition, keep Jose Alvarado, also a factor on secondary breaks, under wraps in the open court – he finished with 20, including a pair of transition layups – didn’t pan out.

Until it did.

Georgia Tech got just one transition bucket in the final 15:57 – a three by Michael Devoe after a missed Kihei Clark layup, Clark compounding the miss on the bunny by sulking his way back up the court, the three getting the Yellow Jackets, then on life support, after a 15-2 UVA run, back to within one.

The difference: ball pressure.

“Georgia Tech is a good team. They’re really good at playing with great confidence. They play fast and they’re quick. What I saw down the stretch is, I thought our on-ball defense really stepped up,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.

Georgia Tech made it a priority to try to get the ball into the frontcourt as quickly as possible. Live-ball turnovers were a factor – Virginia had four that led to Georgia Tech makes.

But Tech coach Josh Pastner had his guys pushing the ball upcourt even after UVA made baskets. One Usher make, a three at the 10:39 mark in the first half, came seven seconds after a Sam Hauser short jumper – basically, Alvarado getting the ball into the frontcourt, and flipping it to Usher for the quick three, before Virginia could get set on defense.

You almost wonder why more teams don’t try to do this.

Why wait for Virginia to set up its Pack Line and make you grind for 25+ seconds?

The ball pressure on Alvarado and his backcourtmate, Bubba Parham, slowed Georgia Tech down – and the lack of live-ball turnovers down the stretch helped.

The result was forcing Tech into having to run its offense against the Pack Line.

After a Maldonado three put Georgia Tech up 54-45 with 10:08 to go, the Yellow Jackets were 3-for-12 from the floor with a turnover the rest of the way – and one of the three makes was the transition three from Devoe.

“It was that kind of buckling down and saying we’re going to be hard to get by and score against, and I thought that took place,” Bennett said.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
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