No. 9 Virginia hopes to avoid upset at pesky Georgia Tech tonight

By Jerry Ratcliffe

sam hauser georgia tech

Sam Hauser had 22 points, including 11 in a 15-2 UVA run, keying the Cavaliers to a 64-62 win over Georgia Tech. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Josh Pastner’s Georgia Tech team is on the verge of a challenge that Tony Bennett wanted no part of for his Virginia basketball team.

When the Cavaliers visit Atlanta tonight (7 p.m. tip, Regional Sports Networks), Georgia Tech will play the first of four games in the next seven days. Bennett was quite vocal last week about not jamming a lot of games into the schedule, noting that he wasn’t against rescheduling postponed games as long as it makes sense.

What Georgia Tech is doing doesn’t seem to make sense. After the Yellow Jackets play UVA tonight, they will play at Clemson on Friday, then at home against Pitt and Boston College on Sunday and Tuesday. That’s a game every other day.

Even Pastner questions his own judgment.

“We played Florida State on a Saturday and Louisville on a Monday and got our butts kicked,” Pastner said about games earlier this season. “We were gassed on that Monday game.

“This is a hard stretch, no question. We even debated should be practice [Monday] just to have another day of rest. We are in good shape but four games in seven days is a lot, but we need to get the games in. We want to get to the tournament.”

The Jackets are 9-6 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, entering the game in sixth place. They have won the last 11 straight ACC games at home, a program record (five straight this season and the last six last season).

What may make the next week even more challenging for Tech is that Pastner essentially plays a seven-man rotation, with four players averaging around 35 minutes or more per game.

“I don’t see me changing minutes, rotation-wise,” Pastner said.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell, who will host the Jackets on Friday, was surprised to learn of Tech’s schedule.

“Gosh, that’s hard,” Brownell said. “I respect the fact that guys want to play. But that’s a lot. We had three games in seven days and our guys were exhausted. Josh knows his team, but wow, that’s hard.”

Virginia, 13-3 overall and 9-1 in the ACC, owns a seven-game winning streak over Tech, but flirted with disaster against the Jackets at JPJ recently.

Sam Hauser scored 22 points and Jay Huff 18 to help the Cavaliers rally from an 11-point deficit for a 64-62 win on Jan. 23. Tech led 49-38 before the Wahoos outscored the Jackets 26-13 for the win.

“I think Virginia hit some really tough shots in that game,” Pastner said. “If they miss just one of those shots late, we probably win the game. We have to play our best game of the year to beat Virginia.”

The Cavaliers had a difficult time containing Tech point guard Jose Alvarado and backcourt mate Michael Devoe in the previous meeting. Alvarado averages 17 points per game and Devoe 15.8 in ACC games, ranking fourth and ninth, respectively in the league. They account for 47 percent of the Jackets scoring.

Alvarado was particularly pesky in the first meeting on both ends of the floor as he made steals and forced turnovers. Tech in the ACC’s No. 1 team and 17th nationally in turnover margin (plus 4.1).

Bennett said that after studying video of the first game that the Cavaliers will tweak some things in order to avoid a sloppy game in terms of ball security.

“Alvarado has really quick hands and he takes great pride in his defense, that’s just who he is,” Bennett said. “He’s experienced and he’s really got a defensive mindset. He had six steals against us, so you’ve got to be aware.”



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