ATLANTA (Jan. 24) – Georgia Tech (9-8, 2-3 ACC) hosts two crucial Atlantic Coast Conference games in less than 48 hours at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center with Wake Forest Thursday at 8 p.m. followed by North Carolina Saturday at 12 noon.
The Wake Forest game will be regionally televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot ACC network (WHOT in Atlanta), with Bob Rathbun and Billy Packer handling the announcing, while the North Carolina contest will be nationally televised on ESPN, with Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale with the call. Both games can be heard on the Georgia Tech-ISP network (WGST 640AM/105.7 FM in Atlanta), featuring Wes Durham and Randy Waters.
Tickets for the Wake Forest game can be purchased by calling the Tech ticket office at 1-888-TECH-TIX. A limited number of tickets for the North Carolina game will go on sale at the gate Saturday.
After falling at NC State, 66-58, last Saturday, Georgia Tech returns home to Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the Yellow Jackets have won eight in a row. Tech is 7-0 this season in its on-campus home, including ACC victories over 16th-ranked Maryland (69-68) and Florida State (65-62).
“It’s so important in the ACC to hold serve on your home court, but two games in three days against Wake Forest and North Carolina is going to be very tough,” said Tech head coach Bobby Cremins, who earned his 450th career coaching victory and his 350th win at Tech last week against Florida State.
Senior forward Jason Collier leads Georgia Tech both scoring (18.1) and rebounding (9.7), ranking second in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding. The 7-footer from Springfield, Ohio, is also third in the ACC in field goal percentage (52.6) and has hit 17 of 42 three-pointers (40.5 percent).
Collier is joined in the frontcourt by 6-11 junior center Alvin Jones (Lakeland, Fla.), who averages 11.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, and 6-6 senior swingman Jason Floyd (Hampton, Ga.), 11.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
The Tech backcourt features 5-11 sophomore point guard Tony Akins (Lilburn, Ga.), 10.8 points and 4.2 assists per game, and 6-3 junior Shaun Fein (Centerville, Mass.), 10.7 ppg and 3.6 apg.
Tech’s top subs are 6-5 freshman forward Clarence Moore (Norco, La.), 3.9 ppg and 3.2 rpg; 5-10 junior guard T.J. Vines (Woodstock, Ga.), 4.2 ppg and 2.2 apg. Junior forward Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.), 4.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg, is doubtful with a strained right quadriceps, limiting Tech’s versatility.
Wake Forest has dropped three straight ACC games for a record of 11-7 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
“We all know how this league can beat you up,” said Cremins. “Wake has lost three in a row, but they played at NC State, at Maryland and Duke at home. Robert O’Kelley is sensational, and Wake Forest is a very good team.”
O’Kelley, the 6-1 junior point guard, leads the Deacons with 14.6 points per game. Craig Dawson, a 6-5 sophomore, 8.3 ppg and 2.3 rpg, or 6-6 freshman Josh Howard, 6.8 ppg and 3.3 rpg, starts at the other guard, while the frontcourt includes 6-9 sophomore Darius Songaila, 12.2 ppg and 5.0 rpg, 6-9 junior Rafael Vidaurreta, 3.9 ppg and 6.6 rpg, and 6-5 sophomore Niki Arinze, 6.1 ppg and 3.4 rpg.
North Carolina (11-8, 2-3 ACC) has lost four in a row, pending a Wednesday game against Maryland.
The Tar Heels feature 6-1 senior point guard Ed Cota, who averages 10.2 points and an ACC leading 8.3 assists per game, and 6-4 freshman guard Joseph Forte, the team’s leading scorer with 16.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Three other Tar Heels also average in double figures, including 7-0 junior center Brendan Haywood, 12.8 ppg and 6.4 rpg, 6-8 sophomore swingman Jason Capel, 12.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg, and 6-5 junior guard Max Owens, 1.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg.
The Series with Wake Forest
Georgia Tech has won three of the last four meetings with Wake Forest to take a 23-22 lead in the series, which began in 1949. Tech is 22-16 against the Demon Deacons under Bobby Cremins.
The two teams split last year’s games as Tech won 75-61 in Atlanta, and then Wake Forest returned the favor with a 67-58 victory on its homecourt.
Tech holds a 15-6 advantage at Alexander Memorial Coliseum and has won two in a row and four of the last five on its homecourt. Wake’s last win in Atlanta was a 73-63 victory in 1996-97. The home team has won 10 of the last 12 games between Tech and Wake Forest.
The Series with NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina leads the series with Georgia Tech, 47-14, including a 33-12 mark since Tech joined the ACC. The Yellow Jackets, however, are 6-8 in the their last 14 games against UNC.
Last season, Tech knocked off then sixth-ranked North Carolina, 66-64, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum as Jason Floyd scored 18 points and Jason Collier added 17. The Tar Heels won 75-66 in Chapel Hill and then defeated Tech, 78-49, in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
Tech is 5-9 against the Tar Heels at Alexander Memorial Coliseum and 7-15 in all home games, including those played at The Omni.
Jackets Cashing In At The Line
The Yellow Jackets have made a significant improvement as a team in free throw shooting this season, ranking second in the ACC at 70.9 percent. That’s almost 10 percentage points above last year’s average (62.1). Tech has not shot 70 percent from the line for a full season since 1995-96.
Tech has been able to handle the pressure of close games with even better free throw shooting. Against Maryland, the Jackets hit 11-of-12 free throws in the second half, including two charity tosses by Shaun Fein with 53 seconds left that helped seal the win. Jason Collier nailed two with 16 seconds left to preserve the victory over Florida State.
The Jackets were 17-of-21 against Lafayette, including 10 straight in the final five minutes. Tech canned 10-of-10 in the final five minutes of its Dec. 22 win over Wofford, and 8-of-8 in the last five minutes against Morehead State.
In its nine victories, Tech has hit 49-of-55 free throws (89 percent) in the final five minutes.
Tech from Beyond the Arc
Georgia Tech leads the the ACC in three-point field goals per game. The Jackets, who hit 12 treys against Florida State (12-26) and nine versus Maryland (9-17), average 8.3 treys per game and rank fourth in the league in percentage (35.3).
Three Tech players rank in the ACC Top 10 in three-point field goals per game and three-point percentage. Shaun Fein is second in treys per game (2.5) and fourth in percentage, while Tony Akins ranks fourth (2.1) and seventh (.367), respectively, and Jason Floyd is ninth in each with 1.6 per game and a .354 accuracy rate. In addition, 7-0 forward Jason Collier shoots 40.5 percent (17-41) from beyond the arc.
Home Sweet Home
Alexander Memorial Coliseum has been a friendly place for Georgia Tech this season, especially when it comes to shooting the basketball.
The Yellow Jackets, who are 7-0 in their on-campus home this season, have shot 44 percent (72-163) from three-point range at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Contrast that with games away from home, in which the Jackets have hit just 29 percent (69-236) of their threes.
The home court advantage is most pronounced for Shaun Fein, who has hit 58 percent (29-50) of his threes at the Thrillerdome, versus 23 percent (14-61) away from home. The 6-3 guard is averaging 15.1 points in Tech’s seven home games but just 7.6 points in other arenas.
Senior forward Jason Floyd has shot nearly 50 percent from the floor (32-69), 43.3 from three-point range (14-34) and averaged 12.9 points in home games, compared to marks of 44.3 on field goals, 31.1 on threes and 10.4 points per game in other arenas.