Georgia Tech stumbles home to meet North Alabama

11/21/2022;  Fort Myers, FL, USA;  Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Deivon Smith (5) drives to the basket defended by Utah Utes guard Lazar Stefanovic (20) in the second half during the Fort Myers tip-off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping back-to-back games in the Fort Myers (Fla.) tip-off, Georgia Tech returns home Saturday to take on North Alabama in a bid to get back on winning ways.

The Yellow Jackets won three straight wins to open the season before heading to the Sunshine State for their Thanksgiving event. Strong starts are a rarity for Georgia Tech under Josh Pastner, and the team failed to record its first unbeaten start in four games since 2008-09.

In the losses to Utah (68-64) and Marquette (84-60), the Yellow Jackets failed to execute their defense efficiently. Georgia Tech faced double-digit deficits in the first half of every game.

The most glaring lack of defensive production came against Marquette. The Golden Eagles shot 47.5 percent from the field and made nine 3-pointers.

“We didn’t get any stops,” Pastner said. “Our defense wasn’t at a high level, so we couldn’t stop and take turns. We try to play faster, get more possession and play faster. We couldn’t get stops and we’re not.”

Georgia Tech found a silver lining in Ja’von Franklin’s efforts. He had 17 points and 14 rebounds against Marquette, his second double-double in three games.

Before Georgia Tech left Atlanta, she put on some strong defensive performances, keeping Georgia State at 57 points and Northern Illinois at 50. Now the Yellow Jackets are hoping a return home will mean a boost in production.

“We’re a really good defensive team in every position,” said Georgia Tech guard Deivon Smith. “We’re all hanging by a thread and everyone helps the other. Guys change and we talk a lot. Everyone agrees and everyone is working hard on defence.”

North Alabama and Georgia Tech will meet for the first time in program history.

The Lions (4-2) will play their third game of the week after splitting a pair in Santa Barbara, Calif. North Alabama pulled off a stunning 75-74 win over Hampton on Tuesday when Jacari Lane notched two three-pointer plays in the last 11 seconds.

A blocked shot by Daniel Braster in front of the buzzer sealed the win.

“We knew Hampton was a team that wasn’t going away,” said Lions coach Tony Pujol. “We played a bit nervous at first, but then settled in and started defending really well. We could stop if we had to go down the track.”

Daniel Ortiz scored 23 points in the win and Lane added 15.

The next day, North Alabama fell 89-71 to UC Santa Barbara. Damian Forrest led the Lions with 15 points while Ortiz had 13 and KJ Johnson and Lane contributed 10 each.

Ortiz is the team’s top scorer at 18 points per game, while Forrest adds 10.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

–Field level media