Starting Five: Alabama (10-3) at Georgia Tech (7-6)

Jan. 2, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Georgia Tech looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season when it kicks off 2012 and concludes its non-conference slate against Alabama at Philips Arena. Tip-off is at 9:00 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets closed out 2011, dropping a 72-66 decision last Thursday night at Fordham. It was their second straight six-point loss and came despite 17 from Jason Morris. Guard Brandon Reed matched his season-high with 16 and nailed a season-high four three-pointers. The Jackets nearly came all the way back from a 10-point, second-half deficit, getting within one, but could not equalize.

The Crimson Tide has won two straight after losing three of four to fall out of the ranks of the unbeaten as well as the Top 25. Alabama closed out 2011 with a 72-55 win over Jacksonville on Thursday night at Coleman Coliseum. Guard Trevor Releford had 18 to lead ‘Bama, which had three double-digit scorers. He added four assists and four steals. A 10-0 run to open the second half broke open a close game and started the Tide on its way.

Tuesday night’s game — the 69th meeting in the series (Alabama leads, 40-28, but Tech has won three of four) — can be seen on ESPNU, with Mike Morgan and Jay Williams calling the action. Of course, fans can listen to Wes Durham and Randy Waters on Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network’s flagship stations WQXI-AM (790 the Zone) and WYAY (106.7 FM). The game also can be heard on satellite radio, on channel 91 on Sirius and XM. Tech fans can always follow the game and get live stats on Ramblinwreck.com.

Here now, the starting five for Tuesday night’s game.

The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech’s three-game series winning streak ended in the schools’ last meeting, an 88-77 loss in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 3, 2009. Sophomore forward Gani Lawal led Tech with 23 and senior forward Alade Aminu added 21, but the Jackets shot only 29.2 percent (20.0 from three) in the first half and trailed by 19 at intermission. The deficit would reach 30, as the Tide shot 52.6 percent, 50 percent from three, for the game.

The Best Offense: Georgia Tech has been in just about every game thanks to its defense, which has held opponents to 36.6 percent shooting. That’s second in the ACC. They’re holding opponents to 58.8 points per game, which ranks third in the conference and 26th in the nation. Only three opponents have shot better than 40 percent and only five have reached 60 points against Tech. Alabama also plays superb defense, allowing opponents 56.2 ppg, 12th in the nation, and limits opponents to 36.1 percent shooting, fifth in the country.

Block and Roll: Tonight’s game features two superb young shot-blockers in Georgia Tech’s redshirt sophomore center Daniel Miller and Alabama’s freshman center Nick Jacobs. Miller has swatted away 38 shots and ranks second in the ACC with 2.9 blocks per game. He’s blocked a shot in 19 straight games and has re-directed one shot in 40 of his 44 career games. Jacobs has 17, one behind team leader Tony Mitchell. He has blocked shots in eight of Alabama’s 13 games, with six multi-block games, including a five-block effort on Nov. 18 against Wichita State, as part of a team 14-block game.

On Second Thought: The Yellow Jackets have been extremely active on the offensive boards and have seen that work pay off. Tech has grabbed 149 offensive rebounds (11.5 per game), which is good for sixth in the ACC. Opponents have 140. Tech has cashed in those extra opportunities, turning them into 146 points. Opponents have 114. The Jackets have won the battle on the offensive glass in nine of their 13 games and have won in second-chance points eight times.

Selling the Brandon: Brandon Reed had a big-time game in the Big Apple against Fordham, going off for 16 points. He was 5-for-13 shooting, but 4-for-7 from three. It was the third time this season that Reed scored 16 points and the second time in four games. He’d totaled four points in the previous two games. The four three-point field goals against the Rams set his Georgia Tech high and were the most he had in a game since hitting three on opening night. Reed had four threes combined in the previous seven games.

The Sixth Man: Being the sixth man has worked just fine for Jason Morris. Morris has 11.7 points off the bench and is shooting a healthy 43.5 percent from three. He scored a team-high 17 against Fordham, marking the fourth time this season he’s come off the bench to lead the team in scoring.

TECH LEADING SCORER: Glen Rice, 13.2 ppg
ALABAMA LEADING SCORER: JaMychal Green, 15.9 ppg

TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Daniel Miller, 7.5 rpg
ALABAMA LEADING REBOUNDER: Tony Mitchell, 7.5 rpg

TECH PPG: 65.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 58.8 ppg

ALABAMA PPG: 66.7 ppg
OPP. PPG: 56.2 ppg

ALABAMA Player to Watch: Trevor Releford: With the injury to JaMychal Green, who has missed the last two games, the 6-0 sophomore guard has stepped up. He’s led Alabama in scoring in both games, averaging 18.5 ppg — up 6.5 points from his season average — is shooting 68.4 percent (13-for-19) with eight assists. Releford leads the conference in free throw shooting (89.3 percent) and is sixth in steals (1.6 spg).

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