Tech’s effective field-goal percentage was its highest in its five ACC games. The previous high was 50 percent against Clemson. The somewhat remarkable thing is that 53.1 percent is good but not great, and yet the Jackets won by 10 points. N.C. State’s eFG rate was below its rate (51.3 percent in ACC games after Sunday).
*Four factors follows the idea that the four statistics that most lead to success are effective field-goal percentage (which weights 3-point baskets proportionately), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throws per field-goal attempts.
It’s easy (for me, at least) to rationalize the Yellow Jackets’ three wins. North Carolina was terrible offensively. A team that averages 37.7 percent from 3-point range was 5-for-26, or 27.3 percent, and guard Joel Berry, who has NBA potential, was 3-for-13 and had a 1/6 assist/turnover ratio.
Likewise, Clemson did not play a very good game on the offensive end. The Tigers had open looks from 3-point range but shot 7-for-24 (29.2 percent, and their season rate is 34.7 percent). N.C. State was largely uninterested in defending, and the Jackets reaped the benefits, making 10 of 16 3-point tries (62.5 percent)
As N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried put it, of Tech’s 16 3-point attempts, “I’d bet 12 or 13 of them, they could have tested the wind (before shooting). I mean, they had that much time to get ’em off.”
Tech had not had that strong of a 3-point shooting game (above 60 percent with 10 or more attempts) in almost two years, according to sports-reference.com.
So, you could attribute the three wins to anomalous performances. For what it’s worth, the basketball metrics website kenpom.com rates Tech the No. 3 luckiest team in Division I (deviation between team’s actual record and expected record using, according to the website, the “correlated gaussian method.”)
“We’re the type of situation, with the schedule in front of you, in this league, you can lose 10, 12, 13 in a row,” coach Josh Pastner said.
That said, the results can’t be disputed. The Jackets don’t have to apologize for playing harder than N.C. State. Pastner has coached effort well. And, generally speaking, when teams aren’t at their best, they lose. The Jackets might have defeated Louisville if they hadn’t shot 5-for-20 in the first half from the field or 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the second. They wouldn’t have been demolished by Duke if they had defended better.
Pastner isn’t wrong that Tech could lose 10 in a row; it’s a tough league. But it’s a lot harder to envision that happening than it was three weeks ago. This is a team with clear flaws. But its strengths have also become clear. They defend inside the arc well, they’re pretty good at getting to the free-throw line and their effort is fairly constant. That would appear enough to keep them in most games and to win some of them. They have 13 remaining in ACC play. If they go 3-10 the rest of the way, that’s 6-10 and an overall record of 14-16.
Given expectations for this team at the start of the season, that is a truly remarkable possibility.
Stat of the game
Tech had 24 assists on 31 field goals, a stunning ratio (77 percent). Pastner’s goal is 60 percent, and the Jackets are at 62 percent. This season, according to sports-reference.com, there have been only three other games this season in which a team accrued that many assists on that few field goals against a power-conference team, one game if you don’t include the Big East as a power conference.
Guard Josh Okogie was difficult to stop, finishing with 27 points, his second-highest total of his freshman season. He was quick off the dribble, scored a number of contested layups and was 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
“Dang,” he said, informed of his point total. “I didn’t even know I had that many. Coach (Pastner) told me to stay aggressive after the (Louisville) game last week. He just told me I’ve got to keep being aggressive. I can’t take my foot off the pedal. That’s what I tried to do today. Every time I saw a hole, I tried to attack it.”
Point guard Josh Heath had a career-high 10 assists against four turnovers and had 10 points and a career-high seven rebounds, within shouting distance of becoming just the fifth Tech player to record a triple-double.
Forward Quinton Stephens followed up his 16-point game against Clemson, then a season high, with 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point range). The 22 points matched his career high. (I wrote a story prior to the game about the necessity for Stephens to be more aggressive.)
Center Ben Lammers picked up his ninth double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds with five blocks. Noteworthy is that Tech won with a fairly average game from Lammers, who scored two points in the first half and was 3-for-11 from the field.
Quote of the game
“I think that guys, even ourselves, we’re realizing, ‘Hey, man, we belong here in the ACC. We can play with these guys and they’re going to have to guard us.’ I think, both those games (Clemson and N.C. State), every game, really, we realized, ‘Hey, we’ve got to come ready to play and we’ve just got to be the aggressor.” – Stephens
From my iPhone
A sight I didn’t expect to see Sunday night – PNC Arena emptying out with time left on the clock. The exodus actually began a while before this point.
On a personal note
My rental car was a VW Beetle, it’s the first time I’ve ever driven one. As a rental-car achievement, it’s not quite saying I was upgraded to a Tesla, I recognize. I’m not sure it’s like saying I was upgraded to a Camry. But my rentals are typically generic little cars, so the Beetle was kind of fun. I’m not sure I’d go back to it. The rear-view window is kind of small, you have to reach way back to get your seat belt and there wasn’t a USB port. It drove fine, though.
The Jackets play at Virginia Tech Wednesday night, a 9 p.m. game on regional sports networks, including Fox Sports South in Atlanta. The Hokies are 13-4 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. They’re 10-1 at home and No. 51 in RPI (as of Monday morning).