Tech Has Key ACC Battle at Maryland

Jan. 22, 2007

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech goes in search of its first road victory of the season when it visits Maryland Wednesday night at 9 p.m. in the Comcast Center in College Park. Tech also will attempt to break a four-game losing streak in the series with the Terrapins, who swept the season series from the Yellow Jackets last season.

Wednesday’s game is being televised throughout the Atlantic Coast region on the Raycom/Lincoln Financial Sports ACC Network. Stations in Georgia carrying the game include WATL in Atlanta, WGSA in Savannah, WLTZ on Columbus, WSWG in Albany and WDNN in Dalton.

Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network and heard locally on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). A broadcast of the game can also be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 193.

Tech, 13-5 overall, 2-3 in the ACC, is coming off a 77-61 loss to No. 4 North Carolina Saturday night, which snapped a two-game winning streak for the Jackets. Maryland, 15-5 overall and 1-4 in the ACC, dropped both its games last week on the road at Virginia (103-91) and Virginia Tech (67-64 in overtime).

The Jackets have dropped 15 straight games on opponents’ home courts, including 12 ACC losses, and has not won a true road game since Feb. 26, 2005, a 76-72 victory at Miami. But the Yellow Jackets have had several close calls, including three one-point defeats. One of those close calls was an 87-84 overtime loss to the Terps last year at the Comcast Center.

Tech is concluding a five-game stretch, beginning with its Jan. 6 game against Clemson, against teams with an average current RPI of 14.6. They have a combined record of 77-16.

Series vs. Maryland

> Georgia Tech holds a 33-32 lead in the all-time series with Maryland, one of four ACC teams against whom it has an all-time winning record (Clemson, Miami and Virginia are the others). Maryland has won nine of the last 14, including both regular-season meetings in 2005-06.

> 2005-06: Maryland won all three meetings, including an 82-64 victory in the first-round of the ACC Tournament in which the Terrapins led by as many as 29 points in the second hald. In the regular season, Nik Caner-Medley scored 33 points, including 15-of-16 from the foul line, and Maryland led by as many as 21 points before finishing off the Yellow Jackets, 86-74, on Jan. 25 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Terps tied a school record by hitting 41 free throws (in 45 attempts), which was also a Tech record for most free throws made by an opposing team. The Terps also won the rematch in College Park, 87-84, in overtime. Both teams placed five players in double digits in scoring, Maryland led by Mike Jones’ 21, and Tech by Ra’Sean Dickey’s 23.

> Tech’s 33-28 record against Maryland since 1979-80 is its best mark against any ACC team since the Jackets joined the league.

> Tech is 4-8 against Maryland under head coach Paul Hewitt, 1-5 at College Park. Tech is 16-20 vs. Gary Williams-coached Maryland teams.

> Seven of the 12 games between Tech and Maryland since Paul Hewitt became the head coach have been decided by 10 points or fewer.

> Percentage wise and in terms of the number of wins, Tech’s 11-20 road record vs. Maryland is the second-best it has against any team in the ACC. The Jackets are 1-3 in the Comcast Center, and were 10-17 at Cole Field House.

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 13.8 points (48.8 pct. FG) as well as 5.7 assists per game, tied for second in the ACC. Crittenton has made 43.1 percent of his three-point tries this season, and has 46 assists and just 18 turnovers in the last seven games. He has averaged a team-high 16.4 points in Tech’s ACC games (9th-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 14.5 points per game (16th in the ACC) after scoring 22 points at North Carolina Saturday. The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 15.5 points in Tech’s four ACC games this month, and for the season is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor (7th in the ACC) and 41.1 percent from three-point range.

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, has improved offensively and is just as tough on the boards and on defense as he was a year ago, averaging 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (63 percent) and has eight double-digit scoring efforts.

Since returning to the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Dickey has posted six double-figure efforts, including a team-high 21 points against Duke, and has made 79.3 percent of his field goal attempts in ACC games (61.5 percent overall). Dickey averages 8.9 points and 6.0 rebounds for the season, 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds vs. the ACC.

Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye, the newest member of the starting lineup, became the fourth freshman to start a game when he took the floor for the opening tip against Saint Francis on Dec. 30. Faye, a 6-10 forward from Dakar, Senegal, who has averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds this season, contributes most on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations.

Hewitt has plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, building a nine-player rotation. He has shifted the focus of Tech’s playing rotation to defense, giving Faye and reserve wingman D’Andre Bell more court time since mid-December.

Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard (5.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.1 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 (6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 54.9 pct. FG), 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (9.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 41.8 pct. on threes), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (0.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg).

Experience Rules Against FSU, Duke

Head coach Paul Hewitt has said repeatedly this season that Georgia Tech’s veteran players will need to perform well if the Yellow Jackets are to succeed this season. That was never more evident than in Tech’s wins over Duke and Florida State.

While freshman Javaris Crittenton made many of the big plays at key moments in those victories, it was Ra’Sean Dickey, with a season-high 21 points against Duke, Mario West, with a career-high 18 against Florida State, and Anthony Morrow, with 19 and 17 points, respectively, in the two games, who came to the fore.

Dickey hit 6-of-8 shots from the floor and 9-of-11 from the foul line, giving the Jackets a dominating inside presence against the Blue Devils. West, whose only prior double-figure effort against an ACC team came against FSU two years ago, went 4-of-6 from the field and 9-of-13 from the line against the Seminoles. Morrow combined to make 9-of-15 shots overall, 6-of-8 from three-point range, and 12-of-13 from the line, in the two wins.

Quoting head coach Paul Hewitt

[Opening statement] – “I thought our team was making pretty good progress, but we obviously didn’t play very well Saturday night. But at the same time, overall, I’m encouraged by how our guys have been improving.”

[On adjusting to loss of Clinch] – “That happened so long ago, it’s not a factor now. Anthony Morrow, who was not healthy at the start of the year, has taken full advantage of those minutes. He’s scoring at probably the same clip that Lewis was scoring when he went out. It hasn’t changed our team an awful lot.”

[On Thaddeus Young] – “He’s a very gifted scorer. He’s a much-improved three-point shooter from high school. He’s a much-improved ballhandler from high school. And he just gets better every day. Does he have some things to work on defensively? Absolutely. Every coach would like to have a kid like this. Not only is he a talented player, but he wants to improve every time he steps out on the floor.”

[On the team’s struggle to win on the road] – “Our guys are playing well, and our guys are improving. At some point, people have to look at the league and say it’s tough to win on the road in this league. I think it speaks more to the competition than to our failings. To be an NCAA team, we’re going to have to win one or two games on the road.”

[On Anthony Morrow’s injury] – “He hasn’t complained about it, so I think he’s healthy. It’s a matter of what [the injury] did to de-condition him. For about six weeks (prior to the season), he couldn’t do anything. It was a stress fracture in his lower back, and he couldn’t do much at all. He was getting himself back in shape. He was probably in shape three or four weeks into the season, but Lewis was playing so well, it was tough for him to get minutes. But he stepped out on the court, he’s gotten his timing back, and he’s a much-improved defender. He’s playing well. He’s back to the form he had at the end of last season. At the end of games, you’ll see him in there. He’s genuinely more concerned about winning than anything else.”

[On Javaris Crittenton’s reaction to Saturday’s performance] – “This kid is unique. His competitiveness got the best of him the other night. I thought he tried to hard, actually. We were watching tape together coming back on the plane (Sunday), and he sees the mistakes he made. I told him that was the first time in 10 games he played like a freshman. Instead of passing and moving, he stood and watched the ball. He was anxious to get the ball back in his hands and tried to do too much. He’ll be fine. He’s always learning. He’s constantly watching tape of himself.

“Since the Vanderbilt game, when we had that break and had a lot more time to watch tape, he’s been as steady as anyone I’ve had in our program. Every day he comes to practice, he works on his form shooting and his ballhandling. He’s running the team like he’s in the middle of a game. That’s one thing I’ve tried to stress to him, don’t try to be explosive, try to be steady. Make all the right plays, prepare to take the right shots, move properly without the ball to you can set yourself and the team up for scoring opportunities.”

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