Jackets Meet Georgia in Athens

Dec. 8, 2001

ATLANTA – With a week off following a loss at North Carolina in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener last Sunday, Georgia Tech visits Stegeman Coliseum Sunday, Dec. 9, for the annual renewal of its rivalry with Georgia at 2 p.m. in a game regionally televised on Fox Sports Net South.

Georgia Tech/ISP Radio Network coverage can be heard in Atlanta in WQXI-AM (790). Tech dropped to 3-4 overall after its 83-77 loss to the Tar Heels Sunday, a game which the Yellow Jackets led until the final two minutes. The Bulldogs (6-1) won their first five games before falling to Georgia State, 83-78, Tuesday night at the Georgia Dome.

“There will be a great deal of intensity,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “The kids know each other. Ezra Williams and Tony Akins played on the same AAU team together along with Marvin Lewis. Because of the familiarity among these kids, there will be the feeling of a meaningful rivalry. We both have other kids from the state who know each other.

“I’m not sure how much it will affect how we play. How we play will be determined by how we prepare. In the last 52 minutes of basketball we have played, we have finally, in my opinion, played the way we need to play – that is, with a lot of energy, very unselfishly. We had four guys up into double figures in the last game.”

The backcourt tandem of 5-11 Tony Akins (Sr., Lilburn, Ga.) and 6-4 Marvin Lewis (So., Germantown, Md.) leads the Yellow Jackets. Akins, Tech’s point guard who has scored 42 points with 18 assists in the last two games, averages 16.7 points and 4.9 assists and is shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range. Lewis is Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures with 13.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He has hit 54.2 percent of his three-point attempts and is shooting 42.9 percent overall. The rest of Tech’s starting five for Georgia is expected to be 6-5 Clarence Moore (So., Norco, La.) and 6-7 Ed Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at the forwards and 6-8 Robert Brooks (So., Saginaw, Mich.) at center. Moore averages 6.9 points and 5.9 rebounds and leads Tech in field goal percentage (48.7), while Nelson, scoreless at North Carolina, leads Tech in rebounding with 7.9 per game while scoring 4.9 points. Brooks averages 2.0 points and 5.1 rebounds.

B.J. Elder (Fr., Madison, Ga.), a 6-3 guard, is Tech’s top scorer off the bench at 9.6 points per game, third on the team. Other key reserves include 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds, and 6-5 swingman Halston Lane (So., Oak Ridge, Tenn.), averaging 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds.

“I think this is a pretty close matchup,” Hewitt said of Sunday’s game. “I would say right now, they have more of an inside presence than we do because of their two sophomores with some games under their belt. I like our backcourt. Their backcourt is very solid. Both teams are very young.

“We just need to win. I felt very badly about how the last game (North Carolina) ended. I felt we played well enough to win. What you try to avoid as a coach is losing two in a row. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. The fact that it’s Georgia certainly will increase the intensity level of the fans.”

Tech has shot better from the floor in its last two games, hitting 45.6 percent overall and 38.9 from three-point range after struggling in its three tournament games in Las Vegas and continues to outrebound its opponents by more than nine per game.

Tech Series vs. Georgia

Georgia Tech and Georgia are meeting for the 178th time in basketball, and the Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series, 97-80. The Bulldogs, however, have won the last two meetings, 70-68 in Athens on Dec. 8, 1999 and 75-70 last December at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Georgia has won four of six meetings since the series moved back to the campus sites in 1995, and the last five games have been decided by an average of 3.8 points, the largest margin being a 77-71 Georgia win in Athens on Dec. 23, 1997.

Last year’s game was the first loss by the home team in those six meetings. Tech had staged big comebacks to defeat the Bulldogs at home in 1996 and 1998 before last year’s five-point loss.

Georgia has won all three meetings in Athens since the series moved to campus – 94-70 in 1995, 77-71 in 1997 and the two-point win in 1999. Tech, which has a 3-20 record at Stegeman Coliseum, hasn’t won there since Nov. 26, 1976 (a 64-43 triumph) and has lost its last eight games in the building.

Between 1981 and 1994, the teams met 14 times in the Omni in downtown Atlanta, which was torn down to make way for Philips Arena. Tech won eight of the last 10 meetings at the Omni before the series moved to campus.

Last Time Out

Tony Akins had 22 points and a career-high 10 assists, and three other Yellow Jackets scored in double figures as Georgia Tech led most of the game before falling at North Carolina, 83-77.

B.J. Elder and Halston Lane scored 17 off the bench, and Isma’il Muhammad added 12 in a reserve role as the Jackets shot 45.6 percent from the floor.

North Carolina shot 50.9 percent from the floor, but Tech led most of the game and by as many as nine points in the second half before the Tar Heels rallied to tie the game at 75 with 3:20 left. Tech scored only one more basket while UNC salted the game away with free throws.

Lineup Shuffle

After using the same starting five in each of Tech’s first five games, head coach Paul Hewitt shuffled the lineup for Wisconsin, starting Robert Brooks at center in place of freshman Luke Schenscher and Anthony McHenry at forward in place of Clarence Moore.

They also started at North Carolina, but Moore (6.9 points, 5.9 rebounds) is expected to replace McHenry in the lineup for Georgia, while Brooks, Tech’s third-leading rebounder at 5.1 per game, will remain at center.

Guards Tony Akins and Marvin Lewis and freshman forward Ed Nelson have started all seven games.

Schenscher Out With Broken Foot

Luke Schenscher, who averaged 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in six games, is out of the lineup after X-rays revealed a broken third metatarsal bone in his left foot last Thursday. His foot will be in a cast for two more weeks, and he is not expected to return before late December or early January.

The loss leaves Tech with just nine healthy scholarship players. Senior Michael Isenhour will miss the entire season while being treated for leukemia.

Bench Providing a Spark for Tech

Playing with a 10-man rotation (nine now with the absence of Schenscher) since the arrival of head coach Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech has come to rely more heavily on its bench. They have provided the Jackets some real spark offensively through the early going this season.

Tech’s bench scored 46 of 77 points in Sunday’s game at North Carolina, led by 17 points each from B.J. Elder and Halston Lane and 12 from Isma’il Muhammad. Previously, the high for the bench in 37 games under Hewitt was 40 against Florida A&M on Nov. 16.

This season, Tech has gotten 27.7 points per game from its bench, roughly 39 percent of its total scoring output of 71.4 points per game. Tech has had a double-figure scorer off the bench in four of seven games.

Last year, Tech received 20.4 points per game from its reserves, 25 percent of its total scoring output.

Akins At The Point

Tony Akins has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player through seven games, scoring in double digits each time out and leading the Jackets in scoring at 16.7 points per game (8th in the ACC) while averaging 4.9 assists (4th in the ACC).

The 5-11 senior scored 20 points with eight assists in Tech’s comeback win over Wisconsin, and added 22 with a career-high 10 assists at North Carolina Sunday. (The last Tech player to record 10 assists in a game-Kevin Morris with 10 vs. Temple on Dec. 7, 1996).

Akins has scored in double figures and hit a three-pointer in 19 straight games since going scoreless against Clemson on Jan. 24 last season. He has hit 39.7 percent of his three-point attempts this season, including 8 of 17 in the last two games.

Akins went over the 1,000-point plateau for his career at Wake Forest last Feb. 14, the 32nd Tech player to do so all-time. He now has 1,235 career points, jumping from 27th to 23rd place in Tech history last week at Las Vegas. He needs 19 points to move past Drew Barry (1,253 points, 1993-96) for 22nd place.

Akins also ranks eighth in career assists (418) and 11th in steals (126).

Tech Holding Its Own On The Boards

Rebounding and size were pre-season concerns for head coach Paul Hewitt, but the Yellow Jackets have gotten off to a good start on the boards despite having no player taller than 6-8. Tech has outrebounded its seven opponents by an average of almost more than nine (43.1 to 34.4).

Even with 6-11 Alvin Jones leading the ACC in rebounding a year ago, Tech struggled as a team, being outrebounded 40-to-37.5 for the season.

More impressive is the fact that Tech has averaged 17.1 offensive rebounds, which ranks second in the ACC. Three Tech players – Clarence Moore (3.29), Ed Nelson (3.00) and Marvin Lewis (2.57) rank among the ACC’s top 15 in offensive rebounds.

A Case for the Defense

In all three of its wins this season, Georgia Tech has held its opponent under 70 points and under 40 percent shooting from the floor. Only once has Tech lost when its opponent failed to reach 70 points (67-54 to Saint Louis).

In the three wins, Florida A&M scored 62 points while shooting 33.3 percent, Eastern Illinois scored 65 while shooting 31 percent, and Wisconsin scored 61 while hitting 39.2 percent of its field goal attempts.

Conversely, in three of Tech’s four losses, the opponent has shot 50 percent, and the fourth shot 49.2.

Last season, Tech was 14-2 when its opponents shot below 40 percent and failed to score 70 points.

Georgia Tech (3-4) vs. Georgia (5-1)December 9, 2001 o 2 p.m. o Stegeman Coliseum o Athens, Ga.

TV: Fox Sports Net South, Dave Neal, pbp, Dan Bonner, color Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WGSE-AM (720), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color Tech Record: 3-4, 0-1 ACC H: 2-1, A: 0-1, N: 1-2 Series vs. Georgia: Tech leads, 97-80 (Georgia leads 20-3 at Stegeman Coliseum) 2000-01 meeting: Dec. 6, Georgia d. Tech, 75-70, in Atlanta Last meeting in Athens: Dec. 8, 1999, Georgia d. Tech, 70-68 Hewitt Record: 86-44 (.662), 5th season Hewitt at Tech: 20-17 (.541), 2nd season Last game: Dec. 1, North Carolina d. Tech, 83-77, in Chapel Hill Next game: Dec. 16, vs. Syracuse, 6 p.m., Philips Arena More info: Ramblinwreck.com

Probable Starters F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 6.9 ppg 5.9 rpg F 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 4.9 ppg 7.9 rpg C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 2.0 ppg 5.1 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 16.7 ppg 4.9 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 13.0 ppg 5.7 rpg

Top Reserves G 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 9.6 ppg 2.1 rpg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 7.7 ppg 3.3 rpg F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 1.4 ppg 1.0 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 7.0 ppg 3.0 rpg

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