Tech Cagers Visit NC State

Feb. 11, 2003

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, who has won seven of its last 10 games, goes in search of its first win on the road in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it visits NC State for a 9 p.m. regionally televised game Wednesday at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

The game will be televised on the Raycom/JP Sports ACC network, airing in Atlanta on the PAX Channel (WPKA). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Network, and the game will be broadcast in Atlanta on WMGP-FM (98.1) and WSNY-FM (100.1).

Tech is 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, part of a three-way tie for fourth place with the Wolfpack and Virginia, both of whom the Yellow Jackets have beaten at home this season. Tech is 1 1/2 games behind conference leader Wake Forest. NC State, which lost its last game at Virginia Sunday, is 12-7 overall.

In the teams’ first meeting this year, Tech defeated NC State, 85-61, in Atlanta on Jan. 11. B.J. Elder scored 24 points to lead the Jackets, and helped limit NC State star Julius Hodge to just nine points.

Tech has its best conference record at this point in the season since the 1995-96 season, when the Yellow Jackets won the regular season with a 13-3 mark. The Jackets have won 12 of their last 18 conference games since beginning the 2001-02 season 0-7.

Tech has won all five of its ACC home games this season (NC State, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland) by an average of 15.4 points, but is 0-7 on the road this season and 0-4 on the road in the ACC.

“You’ve got a lot of young teams going into these venues for the first time, and it makes it a little tricky,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “Plus everybody has some little quirk they need to work on, whether it’s offensive execution, taking good shots. As we improve our shot selection and keep our turnovers down, our road record will improve.

“It gets to the point where you say, ‘We’re a little better than this. Let’s knock this out.’

“We need to get to a certain number (of wins to get to post-season), and I don’t know what that is, but certainly 14 or 15 is not going to do it. In order to get past that number, we need to win some games on the road, and there’s no time like the present.”

The Yellow Jackets have built their recent success on defense, holding six of their last 10 opponents to 40 percent or worse shooting from the floor. In the same period of time, however, Tech has shot 46.9 percent from the floor, including 55.6 percent Sunday against a Maryland team that leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense and ranks second in scoring defense.

Georgia Tech starts 6-3 freshman Jarrett Jack at the point, 6-4 junior Marvin Lewis and 6-4 sophomore B.J. Elder on the wings, and 6-8 sophomore Ed Nelson and 6-10 freshman Chris Bosh in the frontcourt. This lineup has started three games together this season, including the last two, and Tech is 2-1 in those games.

Tech has three players scoring in double figures for the season and ranked among the ACC’s top 15 in scoring, led by Elder, who ranks eighth in the conference 16.1 points a game overall. He and Lewis are tied for the ACC lead in three-point shooting percentage at 41.5 percent, and Elder ranks sixth in overall field goal percentage at 47.9 percent. The Madison, Ga., native scored 23 Sunday against Maryland, and prompted Hewitt to call him “college basketball’s biggest secret.”

“He’s probably the best all-around player on this team,” Hewitt said. “He can handle the ball. He can defend. He’s the best three-point shooter in the ACC. He can score off the dribble. He can post up. If he keeps it up and we win some more games, he’ll begin to get some recognition.”

Bosh, who notched his ninth double-double this season Sunday with 10 points and 11 rebounds against Maryland, ranks ninth in the ACC in scoring at 16.0 points per game. The ACC Rookie of the Year candidate leads the ACC in field goal percentage (60.0) and blocked shots and is second in rebounding (9.4). Lewis, who has averaged 19.7 points in Tech’s last three ACC wins, ranks 15th in the ACC overall at 13.4 points per game and is tied for first in three-point percentage (41.5).

Jack, Tech’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.0 points along with 6.0 assists (fifth in the ACC), has averaged 15.0 points and 6.5 assists in his last four games, and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Week Monday. Nelson, the ACC’s seventh-leading rebounder at 7.2 per game along with 7.7 points a game, has provided Tech with solid rebounding all season and more scoring of late.

“Jarrett has shown steady improvement on the offensive end,” said Hewitt. “He’s begun to understand when to go, when not to go, when to shoot, when to drive, while running the team well. I’m happy for him.”

Tech gets reserve help in the post from Schenscher, averaging 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds while hitting 50 percent of his shots. Ismail Muhammad, a 6-6 sophomore forward averaging 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds, and Anthony McHenry, a 6-7 sophomore averaging 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds, provide excellent defense on the wing.

“We have a good group of guys who get along very well together. The way we coach, we believe in the motion offense, moving the ball and finding open players. When you play that style, it give kids an opportunity to feel they are a part of the team. It makes them feel like they need to do some work to improve their games so they can go out and perform. When given the opportunity, good players usually perform, and that’s what I think you’re seeing from us.”

TECH SERIES VS. NC STATE

oNC State leads the overall series, 41-31, having won nine of the last 13 meetings between the two teams. Prior to that, Tech had won seven in a row.

oGeorgia Tech and NC State have split their regular-season meetings each of the past three years, each team winning at home. Tech continued the trend earlier this year by defeating the Wolfpack, 85-61, in Atlanta on Jan. 11.

oTech is just 7-23 in games played in Raleigh, including an 0-3 mark at the RBC Center. The Jackets have lost six straight times to the Wolfpack on their home court, dating back to Jan. 24, 1996, a 76-71 Tech victory.

oThe last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by an average of 14 points. The six meetings before that were decided by an average of 4.2 points.

oTech’s 85 points vs. NC State on Jan. 11 were the most the Jackets have scored against the Wolfpack since the 1995-96 season. Dating back to the 1996-97 season (the last 13 games of the series before Jan. 11), Tech had averaged just 59.9 points a game against the Wolfpack, with a high of 71 in last years loss at Raleigh. State has averaged 64.1 points during that stretch.

oEarlier this season: Tech registered the first of its three 20-point conference wins this season with an 85-61 decision on Jan. 11 in Atlanta. B.J. Elder led five Tech players in double digits with 24 points, and Tech shot 57.7 percent from the floor, a three-year high. Marvin Lewis scored 15 points, followed by Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack and Ed Nelson with 11 each. The Wolfpack shot just 40 percent from the floor, and Elder helped hold NC State sophomore Julius Hodge to just nine points.

POINT TO PROVE ON THE ROAD

The Yellow Jackets have played nine games away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum this season and lost eight of them, including an 0-7 record on opponents home courts. Techs only win away from home this season is a 67-53 decision against Marist at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7.

But Tech has accomplished much away from home since Paul Hewitt became head coach, most notably wins over UCLA and Kentucky on neutral courts in his first season, along with snapping a 16-game ACC road losing streak at Virginia and winning at Clemson for the first time in eight years.

Tech has been a much better road team under Paul Hewitt, posting a 13-19 mark (including neutral games) in his first two seasons following a 7-29 mark away from home in its last two years under Bobby Cremins. The Jackets’ road losses this season have included No. 17 Minnesota, Syracuse (now ranked), No. 22 Maryland, No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 3 Duke.

A BETTER START

Georgia Tech has won 12 of its last 18 conference games and are above .500 after the halfway point of the ACC schedule for the first time since 1996.

The Yellow Jackets finished the 2001-02 ACC slate at 7-9 after dropping their first seven, which was the biggest turnaround in conference history. Tech’s seven ACC wins broke the previous record of four straight wins by a team beginning the season 0-7 or worse, held by NC State in 1996-97 and Florida State in 2001-02. Tech wound up defeating every team in the ACC during the season except Duke and Maryland, who handed the Jackets their only two losses after January.

TRIO FUELS TECH OFFENSE

When Georgia Tech has B.J. Elder, Chris Bosh and Marvin Lewis going at the same time, the Yellow Jackets have been hard to stop. The trio has accounted for 59 percent of the Yellow Jackets scoring this season, a total of 45.5 points a game, and have combined to make 50.8 percent of their field goal tries, 42.8 percent of their three-point tries, and 75.4 percent of their free throws.

They are the highest scoring trio for Tech since 1997-98, when Matt Harpring, Michael Maddox and Dion Glover combined to average 53.2 of Techs 76.3 points a game (69.7 percent).

All three players rank among the top 15 in the ACC in scoring average. Bosh and Elder rank first and fifth, respectively, in field goal percentage. Elder and Lewis are tied for first in three-point percentage (41.5 percent combined) and rank fourth and sixth in three-pointers made per game (4.52 combined).

Tech is 6-2 this season when all three score in double figures, and against only Marist (a 67-53 win) have two of the three failed to reach double figures.

Techs scoring average of 77.1 points a game this season is its best since the 1995-96 season, when the Yellow Jackets 80.2 per game and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

In the 10 games since Tulane (the end of a three-game losing streak), they have combined to scor 48.7 points a game, shoot 52.7 percent from the floor, 43.4 percent from three-point range and 81.7 percent from the line.

PUTTING THE CLAMPS ON

Georgia Tech has tightened its defense of late, holding six of its last 10 opponents to 40 percent or under from the floor. Tech’s field goal percentage defense (41.7) and its three-point percentage defense (34.1) against ACC foes are third-best in the league.

In spite of allowing 91 points and 50.8 percent shooting by Duke in Durham, Tech has limited its last 10 foes to 40.8 percent from the floor and 32.6 percent from three-point range.

Tech has managed to shut down five of the ACC’s top scorers in that stretch: NC State’s Julius Hodge (No. 1, 19.2 ppg before Tech), Florida State’s Tim Pickett (No. 4, 18.0 before Tech), Duke’s J.J. Redick (No. 6, 17.2 before Tech), North Carolina’s Rashad McCants (No. 2, 19.4 before Tech), and Virginia’s Travis Watson (No. 11, 14.9 before Tech). The Jackets held Hodge to just nine points (1-6 FG), Pickett to 13 (5-16 FG, 3-11 on threes), Redick to 11 (2-of-10 FG, 1-6 on threes), McCants to 12 (5-18 FG, 2-7 on threes) and Watson to four (2-8 FG).

Worth noting: Tech’s scoring defense of 69.8 points a game is its third-best figure since the three-point shot was institute permenantly for the 1986-87 season. Its field goal percentage allowed (41.1) has been bettered by only one Tech team since 1960.

TOEING THE LINE

From the beginning of the season, when Georgia Tech shot 49 free throws in its first game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Yellow Jackets have been the aggressor most of the time when it comes to getting to the free throw line.

Tech has attempted more free throws than its opponent in every game but four so far (470-358 for the season) and ranks only behind Duke and Wake Forest in the number of free throws attempted. In ACC games, Tech trails only Duke in number of free throws attempted.

The Jackets have also cashed in on their charity opportunities after a poor start this season. Tech has made 73.6 percent of its charity tosses (176-of-239) in the last 10 games..

Tech has connected on 74.4 percent in ACC games, the second-best figure among the leagues teams. Three Tech players rank among the conferences top 11 in free throw percentage in ACC games only — Marvin Lewis (5th, 83.3 percent), Chris Bosh (9th, 81.0) and B.J. Elder (tied for 10th, 79.4).

“COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S BIGGEST SECRET”

B.J. Elder has developed into one of the best all-around players in the ACC, ranking high among the league leaders in several categories, and has been a very underrated defender.

After Sundays 23-point performance against Maryland (in which he did not make a three-point shot) and a solid defensive performance against Drew Nicholas, head coach Paul Hewitt was moved to call Elder “college basketball’s biggest secret.”

The 6-4 sophomore has reached double figures in 14 of his last 15 games and 17 of 20 in all this season, leading the ACC in three-point percentage (41.5) and ranking eighth in scoring average (16.1). He ranks fifth in the league in overall field goal percentage (47.9), and seldom turns the ball over (2.8 per 40 minutes).

His 23 points against Maryland was the sixth 20-point game of the season for the Madison, Ga., native. He has come up big in big games all season, also scoring 24 against Georgia, 25 against Tennessee, 19 in the Jackets first ACC game at Maryland, 24 against NC State, 18 at Wake Forest and 19 against North Carolina. He has averaged 19.5 points against the six ranked teams the Yellow Jackets have played.

An underrated defender, he logged most of the minutes guarding NC States Julius Hodge, Florida States Tim Pickett, Dukes J.J. Redick and North Carolinas Rashad McCants, helping hold them a combined 28.8 points under their per-game averages.

Bidding to lead the ACC in three-point percentage, Elders closest competition currently is his teammate, Marvin Lewis. The last Tech player to lead the conference was Travis Best (45.7 in 1993).

THAT’S THE FACT, JACK

Freshman point guard Jarrett Jack has gradually become more effective directing the offense for Tech, but has dramatically elevated himself as a scoring threat in the last two weeks.

The 6-3 freshman, named ACC Rookie of the Week Monday, has put together perhaps his best all-around games of the season in the Yellow Jackets last four games against North Carolina, Virginia, Clemson and Maryland, averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 assists while connecting on 20 of 31 field goal attempts (64.5 percent).

He scored a career-high 20 points, with eight assists, Sunday against 8th-ranked Maryland, canning his only three-point attempt with 39 seconds to go with Tech holding a slim 82-80 lead, and then added three free throws to help Tech seal the win.

He now has nine double-figure scoring efforts this season, and Tech has won all but one of those games.

Jack ranks fifth in the ACC in assist average (6.0 per game) and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.58). He has stepped up in conference play, averaging 11.2 points and 6.1 assists.

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