Friday night, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets hosted the Florida A&M University Rattlers at McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets entered the matchup with a 2-3 record sitting as the 6th seed in the Atlantic Coastal Conference. After losing their ACC opener to #15 Florida State on Tuesday, Tech was striving to get to .500 on the season. The Rattlers came to Atlanta 1-4 and ready to compete to stay alive in a wide-open Mid Eastern Athletic Conference.
FAMU knocked off the Austin Peay Governors last Tuesday for their first win and hoped to make the Yellow Jackets their next prey. Junior guard MJ Randolph posted a career-high 27 points while shooting an outstanding 73% from the field. He was dominant on and off the ball as he also contributed six assists, five steals, and two rebounds. Tech came into the matchup looking out for not only his hot hand but also a FAMU team that shot 50% from three-point range on Tuesday.
The Jackets jumped out to an early double-digit lead, but it did not come easy as the Rattlers played aggressive underdog basketball. FAMU brought an active big man in Evins Desir who made it very hard for Moses Wright to find any success in the lane. With a hand in the face on almost every shot, Desir stayed toe to toe with Wright. Wright was able to draw several fouls from the mix match under the rim and completed 75% from the free-throw line.
FAMU’s defense applied a full-court press throughout the majority of the first half. With the lane clogged by the big man, Tech was forced to find success from the outside. The Rattlers’ Jalen Speer switched off defending guards Jordan Usher and Michael Devoe for the majority of the night. He stayed pesky on his assignments around the perimeter and was able to force a few turnovers on the Jacket’s guards.
The Jackets defense held their own as well. The home team played a tight zone defense on their visiting opponent. Rattlers’ guard MJ Randall stayed extremely active off the ball and kept some spark alive for the team. He was guarded heavily by Tech’s Jose Alverado, who gave him little room to work with. Randolph’s fatal flaw was holding the ball for elongated periods which would result in several desperation shots as the shot clock expired. This was credited to Alverado’s lockdown defending and two steals.
The Rattlers trailed throughout the night by an average of 11 points. The visitors picked up a full-court press late in the second half when they were able to cut a 14 point lead to three. With both teams playing aggressive defense, the better shooting is what rose the Jackets to the top. Tech had to attack from the three-point line with Desir making things tough in the lane. The Jackets were able to shoot a higher volume of threes as a result of better decision making, which led them to the 74-64 win. The team put up 22 deep balls and held the Rattlers to 17 attempts as they tried to pull off the late comeback.
“We had multiple opportunities to put them away and part of our team’s next step is when we have somebody down, to put them away.” Georgia Tech Head Coach Josh Pastner stated. “It’s a game of runs. And whether we are home or away, we do not have that crowd to lift us. We shot the ball well our second half, it was a good win. We will go back to practice tomorrow, clean up some things, and plan for Sunday.
“We talked during the pre-game about the size difference.” Georgia Tech’s Moses Wright explained after the end of the game. “We were only up eleven going into the second half and I knew I would be the first option they would look at because of the size difference.”
Tech finished the night with four guys in double digits, Moses Wright led the attack with 24 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Michael Devoe refound his footing and posted fifteen points and eighteen assists. They were able to hold the Rattlers to 40% shooting from behind the arc and humbled the visiting threat of MJ Randolph to seventeen points.
Georgia Tech was tested in this non-conference matchup and will later appreciate the reps when they head into ACC only competition. As the team rises to a 3-3 record, they will prepare to host another MEAC visitor in the Delaware State Hornets this Sunday.
“If we played how we played tonight against UNC we are not going to win,” Moses stated. “I know we will play with a different mindset playing ACC but we can’t just flip it on and off.”