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Monday / February 20.

Josh Pastner Continues to Rack Up Impressive Wins in First Year at Georgia Tech

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By MIKE McCURRY

In a league featuring four Hall of Famers in Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, and Jim Boeheim, plus the likes of Mike Brey, Tony Bennett, and Leonard Hamilton, the leading candidate to win ACC Coach of the Year at the moment might be Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner.

Pastner authored another signature victory in the first year of his new gig on Wednesday, as the Yellow Jackets dispatched No. 6 Florida State, 78-56.

Freshman Josh Okogie dropped 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists to pace Georgia Tech, which collected its second home win over a Top-10 opponent this season (also December 31 versus then-No. 9 UNC).

Senior Ben Lammers recorded his tenth double-double of the year via an 18-point, 11-rebound performance, bolstering his standing as one of the most improved players in America.

Georgia Tech, which jumped up to 22nd in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric following the beatdown, held Florida State to season lows in points (56), field goal percentage (28 percent), and points per possession (0.74).

Jonathan Isaac, who had averaged 18.7 points over his previous three contests, was held to 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Terrance Mann, coming off a 15-point outing in Florida State’s win over Louisville on Saturday, had just 2 points on 0-of-3 shooting. Even Seminoles’ leading scorer Dwayne Bacon was unable to get it going on Wednesday, needing 15 shots to reach 12 points.

It was quite the letdown for Florida State, which came into Atlanta riding high following a six-game stretch, all against ranked conference foes, in which it went 5-1.

FSU fell to 6-2 in the ACC with the loss.

Georgia Tech, meantime, improved its league record to 4-4, which is four more wins than some experts pegged it for back in the preseason—when the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 14th in the 15-team conference.

That’s as good a reason as any for Pastner to be the leader in the clubhouse for ACC Coach of the Year.

“We’re not going to be an easy out for any team that plays us,” said Pastner afterward. “We’re becoming a good team.”

With those aforementioned Top-10 wins against UNC and now Florida State, in addition to triumphs versus Clemson, VCU, and NC State—the latter two coming on the road—it’s worth debating if Georgia Tech can transition from feel-good story to NCAA Tournament participant.

“I think if we can keep plugging along, who knows where it could lead?” said Pastner. “I’m not trying to say we’re going to the [NCAA] tournament, but maybe we’re not playing Tuesday on the first day of the ACC tournament.”

The fact that Pastner even uttered “NCAA tournament” speaks volumes as to how much progress he’s made at Georgia Tech a mere nine or so months after bolting from Memphis.

And don’t look now, but the Yellow Jackets’ resume for the Big Dance draws a few parallels to that of Duke.

Photo: AP

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