Devoe, Usher lead Tech men’s basketball

Rodney Howard (center) battles for the opening tip in Tech’s matchup with Miami (OH). The Redhawks beat the Jackets in a tough opening loss, but Tech rattled off five straight wins following the defeat to start the season 5-1. // Photo by Josh Kim Student Publications

Coming into this season there were many questions about what to expect from the Jackets. They are the defending conference champions bringing back multiple key contributors while also bringing in plenty of new talent through the transfer portal and the recruiting cycle. However, they lost two of the biggest stars in recent years, Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright, and following a more “normal” offseason will see the return of the ACC’s blue bloods. So far, the season has played out to be one filled with highs and lows.  

A major highlight of the early portion of the season was the exceptional offensive play of senior Michael Devoe. He began the season as one of the nation’s top scorers, averaging over 20 points per game. His biggest scoring game was in this season’s rivalry win against Georgia on the road. He shot over 77% from the field including 80% from three-point range en route to scoring a career high 37 points. During the early stretch of the season, it seemed that no matter what defenses were showing they still could not stop him. However, as the season progressed more teams began to figure out ways to stop him and limit his scoring. As a result, his scoring averages have dropped. Alongside Devoe, fifth-year senior Jordan Usher is the main returning scorer for the Jackets. He has been a key contributor on offense throughout the season. However with more teams finding ways to limit the production of Devoe, the younger players have been called on to step up and make the big-time plays. While there have been glimpses of this, it is an aspect that will still be a focus as the Jackets look to turn their season around and make a push in the second half of the season. This especially becomes critical late in games. Last season, in the final minutes of a tight game, the team could always look to Alvarado, Wright, Devoe or Usher and often found themselves on the winning side of the close games. In contrast this season the team has been relying on Devoe and Usher to make those plays. With defensive pressure on Devoe and Usher averaging 47% from the field this season, the team has lost four games by single digits. Last season, the Jackets’ identity was their defense. They had a stifling defense led by Alvarado that could be a nightmare for every opponent. This led to them finding many quick transition opportunities and the team was often able to compensate for lower offensive outputs. This season, the team is still looking to match the same defensive intensity from a year ago. Currently, the Jackets rank 11th in the ACC in points per game allowed and are one of only two teams in the conference to have a negative
point differential.  

The Jackets have played against some of the nation’s top teams, including four of the top fifteen teams in the nation. In the ACC/Big 10 challenge, the Jackets played a close contest against Wisconsin but fell short 70-66. 

At State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving, Tech lost by 16 to LSU. When the Jackets traveled Cross Country to take on USC in the Jerry Colangelo Classic, they lost by 14 points, 67-53. In Tech’s first road game of 2022, they lost to conference for Duke, 69-57.

Despite the losing record for the Jackets, there is room for optimism as the season enters the second half. The team, especially the new additions, have been showing steady progress throughout the season. This showed  in their recent road matchup with Boston College on Jan. 12 with four players scoring in double figures. Sophomore guard Tristan Maxwell scored a career-high 22 points helped by seven three-pointers and freshman guard Deebo Coleman added 11 points.  

A talented set of new additions has gotten more opportunities to adjust to Coach Pastner’s scheme and jell with the rest of the players’ styles. This will allow the team to see improvements on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The team has already been seeing more scoring leaders outside of the star guard, Devoe. 

Another reason for optimism is the experience the team will be carrying with them from the early season ranked tests. While the schedule will not be getting easier, the team has gotten plenty of experience playing against the nation’s top teams in some of the most hostile environments around the country.  

The team has continued to grow and will look to use what they have learned from their first half of the season and use that to turn their season around.