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State 86, Ga. Tech 65

February 16, 2009

Twenty one. One for every point in the margin of victory on Saturday. One for every turnover.

When was the last time a team dropped a 20-plus-point beatdown on a team in the ACC, on the road no less, turning the ball over 20 or more times?

(Continues)

Hey, if any team could deliver a win like that and any team could receive the beating, it would be the Pack and the Yellow Jackets.

The Pack have been doling out turnovers like candy from a parade float all year long, and the Jackets just flat-out suck offensively.

As unconventional as it may be, though, the Pack will take it. The Pack shot lights-out for the game, hitting 66.6% of their twos and 52.9% of their 17 attempted threes. Finishing the game with an effective FG% of 71.6% will do in most any team you face. All the more remarkable when you consider that Georgia Tech was holding their opponents below 45% eFG for the year heading into the game.

Tracy Smith was your stat sheet hero, posting a healthy 18 points and 10 boards, but I think if I were handing out gameballs on this one it would have to go to Javier Gonzalez. Coach Sidney Lowe has been insisting that he’s been playing lights-out in practice and I think we saw plenty of glimpses of that against Tech. He was aggressive in pushing the ball up the court and in attacking the basket. His passes were laser crisp, and he did a good job getting the Pack into their halfcourt sets. Smith got more than one easy dunk as a result of some fantastic ball movement.

Yeah, he had two turnovers of the boneheaded variety, but I saw in this game what Lowe has been adamantly preaching last week. Not bad for a guy I was cursing up and down just months ago.

Now we have to see if he can take a strong performance Saturday and parlay it into a strong performance against a much more talented Tar Heels team on Wednesday. The Heels eeked out a win against Miami tonight, which means they’ll be more ill than a kicked hornets nest and looking for someone to take it out on. Guess who drew the short straw.

Nevertheless, the Pack is playing its best basketball of the season thusfar, and faces an interesting psychological challenge ahead: A rivalry game on the road against a dominant team. A win would be extremely unlikely but a HUGE boost to the psyche. A blowout loss could be an equally huge blow to the psyche. If the more likely scenario occurs, can this team get back off the mat and fight its way into a strong finish down the stretch? An NIT bid would be a nice consolation prize for a team that looked dead and lost at one point this year.

We shall see as the final games of the conference season wind down.

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