Important Road Games on Tap for Yellow Jackets

Dec. 31, 2009

Complete game notes

ATLANTA – Off to its best start in five years, Georgia Tech’s 20th-ranked (ESPN/USA Today) basketball team goes on the road for a pair of important non-conference games in a four-day span, beginning Saturday with a 7 p.m. regionally-televised game against Charlotte at Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C. Following that, Tech visits state-rival Georgia Tuesday before resuming Atlantic Coast Conference play Jan. 9 against Duke.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-2, 0-1 ACC) vs.
Charlotte 49ers (10-2, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
Date:
Saturday, January 2, 2009
Tipoff: 7 p.m. Eastern time
Site: Halton Arena, Charlotte, N.C.
Television: FS South; Mike Hogewood play-by-play, Mike Gminski color
Radio: Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, live on flagship station WQXI-AM (790 the Zone) and WYAY-FM (106.7). Randy Waters play-by-play, Jon Babul color.
Satellite Radio: XM 190
On the web: Audio and live stats available at Ramblinwreck.com.

Tech is 10-2 overall, having won its last two games against Kennesaw State and Winston-Salem State since dropping an overtime game to Florida State in its ACC opener on Dec. 20. The Yellow Jackets won their only previous road game this season by 31 points at Chattanooga, and are 3-1 away from home, counting three neutral site games in Puerto Rico.

Charlotte also is 10-2, with losses to Duke and Old Dominion by big margins on the road. But the 49ers also defeated No. 20 Louisville on the road by 22 points on Dec. 5. Charlotte is 5-0 at home, having beaten a pair of common opponents with Tech (Winston-Salem State and Mercer) by a combined 53 points.

Tech’s last 10-2 start came in the 2004-05 season, when the Yellow Jackets began 11-2 before dropping three straight games. The Jackets’ 2004 Final Four unit began the season with 12 straight wins before losing at Georgia and North Carolina in succession.

The Jackets have been inconsistent on offense of late, averaging just over 70 points in their last four games, but have limited their last seven foes to an average of 56.4 points per game. Tech’s last seven foes have shot just 33.8 percent from the floor (26.8 percent from three-point range) and turned the ball over more than 17 times a game.

Iman Shumpert, the sophomore guard who has missed Tech’s last six games while recovering from surgery to repair a damaged meniscus in his right knee, is expected to play against the 49ers. The 6-5 native of Oak Park, Ill., returned to practice on Dec. 26.

The Yellow Jackets have been in and out of the Associated Press poll of writers after beginning the season ranked 22nd, but have been in the ESPN/USA Today coaches top 25 each week of the season, currently holding the 20th position at which they began the year.

Series with Charlotte

Georgia Tech has won all five previous meetings with Charlotte, including an tight 82-77 decision in the 2007 Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Gani Lawal, D’Andre Bell, Lance Storrs and Brad Sheehan are the only Yellow Jacket players who played in that game. Bell scored 12 points, six of them in the last five minutes, and grabbed eight rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Three of the meetings have occurred at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta. Tech has faced the 49ers in Charlotte once before, getting an 86-68 victory on Jan. 14, 1985 at the Charlotte Coliseum.

Defense Strong of Late

Georgia Tech has had difficulty finding the range since its 31-point win at Chattanooga, but the Yellow Jackets have played good defense of late, holding their last seven foes to an average of 56.4 points per game. Even Florida State managed just 57 points in regulation against Tech (66 total).

Tech’s last seven opponents have shot just 33.8 percent from the floor, almost two percent below the Jackets’ season yield. Those teams also have made just 26.8 percent of their three-point field goal attempts, and have converted just 58.4 percent from the foul line.

Another positive for Tech has been an assist-turnover ratio on the plus side (116-to-107 for the last seven games, 74-to-87 in the first five games), and the Jackets have forced an average of 17.3 turnovers and taken 6.3 steals per game.

Head Coach Paul Hewitt comments

On Iman Shumpert’s conditioning

“He’s been doing some extra work with Scott McDonald, our strength coach. So far, so good. We’re not going to rush him back. We’re going to take it gradually. If he’s able to give us eight to 10 minutes at Charlotte, we’ll be happy with that.”

On the importance of the next two games (Charlotte and Georgia)

“Both games are important, period. They’re two very good teams in my opinion. Watching Charlotte, they’re very athletic. They can be streaky, but when they’re making threes, they’re a very dangerous basketball team. Anyone who doubts that just needs to pop in a tape of the Louisville game at Freedom Hall.”

On Tech’s defense being consistent

“We haven’t moved the ball well at times and haven’t gotten the consistency we’re looking for. But the defense has been pretty consistent for us all year. Most coaches, if they had their druthers, would rather have a consistent, reliable defense.”

On how Shumpert’s return will help

“He’s just a guy who can create plays. He does give us another guy who can increase the tempo and improve our ability to get transition baskets. In the halfcourt, he’s a good playmaker and a good three-point shooter. I thought, at the beginning of the year, he was our best three-point shooter, but we’ll see where he is when he gets out on the court. Brian Oliver is shooting the ball well, and Mfon Udofia is shooting it surprisingly well. Lance Storrs has started to pick it up, and now that we add Iman, hopefully this will be something that can improve our offense.”

On Shumpert’s time on the bench

“When kids red-shirt or they miss time, it’s incredible how much they see and how much better they understand what you’re trying to tell them. Something about when they are in uniform and in the game, they don’t quite grasp it. I talked to a kid who is now in the NBA, and he said the thing that got him into the NBA was red-shirting a year, because it made him a much smarter player.”

On Moe Miller

“He’s practiced well, he’s played well, and we put him in the starting lineup (for Winston-Salem State). He’ll probably be back in there against Charlotte. The best guys are going to play. If he’s playing well, he’ll stay in there. Iman will vie for a starting spot at some point after he gets back to 100 percent. Brian Oliver has started. So it’s a good problem to have.”

On playing with more intensity and effort

“They’re seeing it on the court and in the film sessions. The difference between getting a lead or maintaining a lead is getting a loose ball here and a box out there and consistently forcing tough shots. They want what we want. You want to win every game, but you don’t want to give away games.”

On Gani Lawal’s recent performance

[Against Winston-Salem State], he wasn’t in a rhythm offensively. He had some touches and turned them over. On the first play, he had a foul line-area jump shot, but instead of shooting the ball, he [passed] it into triple coverage. Foul trouble also hurt him in that game.”

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