Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal may be two of the top big men in the ACC, but they didn’t play like it against Florida State last month.
The 19th-ranked Yellow Jackets will likely need a much better effort from their frontline pair Sunday if they’re to avoid a fifth consecutive loss to the Seminoles in this conference matchup at Tallahassee.
The 6-foot-9 Lawal (15.3 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game) and 6-10 freshman Favors (11.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) rank among the conference leaders in rebounding and have combined to block 60 shots. However, the pair totaled 12 points and 16 boards while consistently being hounded when they touched the ball in Georgia Tech’s 66-59 overtime conference-opening home loss to Florida State on Dec. 20.
“They have big strong guys,” said Seminoles forward Ryan Reid, who had a career-high 17 points in that contest. “We couldn’t let them dunk on us. When they get into the post, they’re dangerous. They’re a pretty good team.”
Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-2) has since regrouped by winning 71-67 over then-No. 5 Duke on Jan. 9, 73-71 at then-No. 12 North Carolina on Jan. 16 and 66-64 over 17th-ranked Clemson on Tuesday.
Lawal had 21 points and nine boards against Duke, then combined for 28 with 22 rebounds against North Carolina and Clemson. Favors had 17 points and career-high 14 boards versus the Tigers as Georgia Tech won its second straight game after falling 82-75 at Virginia on Jan. 13.
Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt knows to beat the Seminoles (14-4, 2-2) for the first time since Feb. 13, 2007, his guards need to be able to get the ball inside more effectively to Lawal and Favors. Last month, Georgia Tech committed 15 turnovers and shot a season-low 32.9 percent from the field. Starting guards Mfon Udofia and D’Andre Bell combined for 17 points on 6-of-21 shooting.
“(Florida State) did a great job in the last game of really bothering our guards,” Hewitt told the school’s official Web site. “They didn’t get the ball where it needed to be and they shot too quick, but a lot of that had to do with how much pressure they got them.
“Obviously for us our post players have to continue the way they’ve been playing and our guard play has to improve from the last time we played. It’s still a big challenge for us.”
The Seminoles have the nation’s best defensive field-goal percentage (35.1), and allow 59.8 points per contest. Their frontline of Reid, 7-1 sophomore Solomon Alabi (12.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and 6-9 senior Chris Singleton (10.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) shut down the Yellow Jackets in the paint and combined for 36 points on the offensive end.
In their last contest Jan. 16, Alabi had 13 points as the Seminoles beat Virginia Tech 63-58 to bounce back from consecutive losses to Maryland and North Carolina State - their only home defeat this season - that knocked them out of this week’s Top 25.
Though Singleton—the team’s emotional leader—finished with a season-low two points, he had eight rebounds and blocked five shots against Virginia Tech.
“Singleton affects the game in so many different ways,” Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said.
Florida State is 9-1 at home and 1-1 against ranked opponents after beating the then-No. 22 Yellow Jackets and losing to then-No. 15 Ohio State 77-64 on Dec. 2.