Jackets Return Home to Face No. 24 Virginia Tech

Jan. 27, 2007

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech attempts to shake off a disappointing road swing, returning to Atlanta for four of its next five games beginning with a 3:30 p.m. nationally-televised Atlantic Coast Conference battle Sunday against 24th-ranked Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m.).

Sunday’s game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, which can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1). The radio broadcast also can be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 193.

Included in the upcoming stretch are games against Clemson and NC State at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and a Feb. 11 game against Connecticut at the Georgia Dome. The Yellow Jackets’ lone road game is Tuesday at Wake Forest.

Tech, 13-6 overall, 2-4 in the ACC, has lost its last two games, 77-61 at No. 4 North Carolina last Saturday and 80-65 at Maryland on Wednesday. The Jackets are 2-0 at home with wins over Duke and Florida State in ACC play, 0-4 on the road (two of those to top-25 teams).

Virginia Tech enters Sunday’s game with an overall mark of 15-5, and tied for second place in the ACC at 5-1. The Hokies have knocked off Duke, North Carolina and Maryland among their first six ACC games, and defeated Miami, 92-85, on the road Tuesday.

The Yellow Jackets are undefeated at home this season (11-0), and are 77-23 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum under head coach Paul Hewitt, including a 32-18 mark in ACC games.

Series vs. Virginia Tech

> Virginia Tech has won six of eight prior meetings with Georgia Tech, including its first meeting with the Yellow Jackets as a member of the ACC. The Hokies survived a 70-69 battle on Jan. 22, 2005 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The only other meeting in Atlanta also was won by the Hokies by a 70-59 score in 1957, the second season the Yellow Jackets played their home games at the Thrillerdome.

> Georgia Tech returned the favor, however, with a 73-54 victory in the first round of the 2005 ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. Tech, which outscored the Hokies 43-29 in the second half and shot 54.9 percent from the floor in the game, went on to reach the tournament finals.

> Last meeting: In Tech’s first visit to Blacksburg in 22 years, Deron Washington made a free throw with 0.5 seconds left to give Virginia Tech a 63-62 win in the teams’ only regular season game last year. Jeremis Smith, who scored a go-ahead basket on a stickback for the Yellow Jackets, had the bucket waived off and Smith was charged with an over-the-back rebound foul, sending Washington to the line.

> The Hokies, led by future NBA star Dell Curry, held off the Jackets and their future All-Americans Mark Price and John Salley, 77-74, in the teams’ first meeting at Cassell Coliseum in 1984. It was Tech’s first post-season game in 13 years and a precursor to the ACC Championship season a year later.

> Georgia Tech’s only other victory over Virginia Tech occurred on Dec. 27, 1962, a 73-72 overtime triumph at the Gator Bowl Tournament that was part of an 11-0 start for the Yellow Jackets. Tech went on to finish the season 21-5. Both teams were ranked in the UPI poll at the time, Georgia Tech at No. 18, Virginia Tech at No. 14.

> Both teams were members of the old Metro Conference, but not at the same time. Georgia Tech was a member for three seasons from 1975-76 through 1977-78 before leaving to join the ACC. Virginia Tech joined the league for the 1978-79 season.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech has a solid returning nucleus of veteran players, but it is a pair of freshmen, forward Thaddeus Young and point guard Javaris Crittenton, who have been the Yellow Jackets’ offensive leaders.

Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, has run the offense with a deft mixture of passing, penetrating and shooting, averaging 13.4 points (47.2 pct. FG) as well as 5.6 assists per game (third in the ACC). Crittenton has made 40 percent of his three-point tries overall this season, has averaged a team-high 14.5 points in Tech’s ACC games (13th-best in the conference), and has played an average of 35 minutes in those games.

Young, a 6-8 small forward, has been around the team lead in scoring, now at a team-high 14.9 points per game (16th in the ACC) after posting a pair of 20-point efforts the last two times out (22 vs. North Carolina, 21 vs. Maryland). The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 16.6 points in Tech’s five ACC games this month, and has made 55.4 percent of his shots from the floor in conference play (2nd-best in the ACC).

Tech’s inside game is carried by two veterans in Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C., and Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas. Smith, the only Tech player to start every game this season, gives Tech some muscle inside on defense and on the boards, averaging 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (64.6 percent) and has nine double-digit scoring efforts.

Since returning to the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Dickey has posted seven double-figure efforts and has made 73.7 percent of his field goal attempts in ACC games (61.0 percent overall). Dickey averages 8.9 points and 5.9 rebounds overall this season, 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds vs. the ACC.

Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye has started six of the last seven games. A 6-10 forward from Dakar, Senegal, who has averaged 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds this season, Faye’s biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations.

Off the bench, Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard (5.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.9 steals), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard, but came through on the offensive end against Florida State with a career-high 18 points.

Also averaging double-digit minutes are Peacock, who started the first nine games of the season (6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 55.8 pct. FG), 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (8.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 40.2 pct. on threes), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (0.8 ppg, 0.6 rpg).

Jackets Sputter on Offensive End

Georgia Tech has suddenly found life difficult on the offensive end, averaging just 63 points in its last two games, a 77-61 loss at North Carolina and an 80-65 defeat at Maryland.

In both games, the Yellow Jackets dug deep holes for themselves in the first half, falling behind by 11 at UNC and 17 at Maryland, their largest halftime deficit this season. Tech shot just 34.5 percent in the opening frame at North Carolina, 41.4 percent at Maryland. The Jackets recovered to connect on 48.4 percent after halftime against the Tar Heels, 53.1 percent at Maryland, but the Jackets could get no closer than 10 points in either game.

Tech has turned the ball over 40 times in the two games combined, and assisted on just 15 of 44 field goals. The Jackets have not gotten to the free throw line, and have not shot well there when they have (12-of-26).

Young Rises Above

The biggest bright spot for the Yellow Jackets of late has been freshman Thaddeus Young, who scored 22 points at North Carolina and 21 at Maryland in Georgia Tech’s last two games. He hit 19-of-31 shots combined (61.3 percent) in the two games, and made 3-of-7 three-point attempts.

Young, a 6-8 forward from Memphis, Tenn., has scored in double figures in all five ACC games this month, averaging 16.6 points and shooting 59.3 percent from the floor. That he is not Tech’s leading scorer in conference games owes to the fact he played only 20 minutes at Miami on Dec. 3 recovering from a case of patellar tendinitis, scoring just two points.

Young’s 55.4 percent shooting clip against ACC teams ranks second in the league, while his 14.2 points-per-game average ranks 17th.

Quoting head coach Paul Hewitt

[On looking at tape from the Maryland game] – “When I went back and looked at the tape, defensively, I think things defensively are pretty good. Offensively, we’re not executing very well at all. At Maryland, that execution led to some bad shots, which led to some easy run-outs for Maryland. Credit Maryland’s defense, they played pretty well. Their pressure made us hurry and get a little disjointed. For our team, coming into the game first or second in the league in three-point percentage, that (1-for-17) was a real shocker.”

[On Tech’s offense] – “We’re a good offensive team, we can score. We shot 47 percent in the (Maryland) game, which is pretty respectable. I thought that pressure rattled us a little, and we took some tough shots. That led to long rebounds and run-outs. We need to execute better, screen a little better and be more patient.”

“Up until the Carolina game, we had done a much better job of moving without the ball and setting screens. We’ve taken a step back in the last two games. Against Carolina, we did a lot of standing around. It’s a matter of getting in the gym and working on things. I’m pleased with the way we have been shooting the ball.”

[Looking ahead] – “The bright side is we still have 10 league games left and the game with UConn. The majority of our games left, if we play to our potential, we’ll be right there.”

[On Thaddeus Young] – “He’s starting to get really comfortable. His ballhandling has improved so much. People have talked about how his outside shooting has improved from high school, but his ballhandling is where he’s made a tremendous leap in improvement. Now, he’s able to score in a variety of ways. He’s becoming a more complete scorer, back to the basket, off the drive, threes. He is scoring any way the defense gives him. Any gap the defense gives him, he’s taking advantage. He’s not forcing shots.”

“He has worked extremely hard off the court, away from games in individual instruction, to work on his ballhandling. He’s making a conversion from playing inside in high school to the perimeter, which certainly is where his future will be in this game. He’s improved dramatically in taking care of the basketball.

[On being patient on offense] – “When we get down, or someone takes a quick score against us, we can’t take the mentality that we have to get the ball down as quickly as we can and score. We need to run and score, and if it’s not there, pull it back and run our offense. As you get into league play and play higher quality opponents, it gets harder to get transition baskets. When the tempo slows down, you’ve got to grind it out in the halfcourt.”

[On Tech’s defense] – “We had a lot of deflections in the Maryland game (43), which is good, but we just didn’t make any plays. When the balls were tipped free, we didn’t get collect them and turn them into transition baskets. After watching the tape, I was more pleased with the effort we got that I thought while I was watching the game. We were active, but those deflections and tips we got because of our length, we didn’t capitalize on.

“In watching the last two games on tape, I like where we are defensively. We’re doing a good job. Our offense is killing our defense right now. Bad offense puts a lot of stress on your defense.

[On Javaris Crittenton] – “Javaris has played very well save for these last two ballgames, and he is starting to show some more consistency. Not to diminish these two games, because they were important games, but if you knock those out, his assist-turnover ratio has gone way up, and his shooting percentage has gone way up. A couple of steps back, no question, but he has benefited from the game experience he has gotten.

[On Virginia Tech’s Dowdell and Gordon] – They run the show, no question. Dowdell and Gordon, not only do they take care of the basketball and shoot it well, but they always get some steals to get them extra possessions that way. When they take it from you, they’re usually going to finish. They’re very good offensive players in the open court. In the halfcourt, they have a guy in Collins who knows what to do with the ball when they throw it in to him.

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