Tech Hosts Florida State at Thrillerdome

Jan. 12, 2007

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech, fresh off a 74-63 win over 11th-ranked Duke on Wednesday, finishes off a two-game homestand with a 6 p.m. meeting against Florida State Saturday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPNU, with radio coverage provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network. The radio broadcast can be heard locally on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 193.

The Yellow Jackets, 12-4 overall, 1-2 in the ACC, will attempt to even its ACC record after dropping its first two conference games of the year, and also keep its home-court record spotless this year (10-0 currently). Tech has won six of its last seven games, including a five-game winning streak over the semester break.

Florida State, also 12-4 but 0-2 in the ACC, is looking for its first conference win following an 84-58 loss at North Carolina in its last outing on Sunday.

After returning from Maui, Tech played eight teams with an average RPI of 208, according to CollegeRPI.com. Tech is now in the midst of a five-game stretch, beginning with last Saturday’s game against Clemson, against teams with an average RPI of 10.6. They have a combined record of 69-10.

Tech head coach Paul Hewitt, who is tied for 21st in ACC annals with 119 career wins at Tech, is coaching the 300th game of his career against Florida State. Hewitt has an overall record of 185-114 in his 10th season as a head coach.

Series vs. Florida State

> Florida State leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 29-25, but Tech has won six of the last nine meetings and 15 of the last 24, including both games in 2004-05.

> Last season: In the team’s only meeting, Andrew Wilson’s three-point basket from the left wing with 1:32 remaining gave Florida State its first lead of the game and proved to be the winning points in an 80-79 Seminole victory on Feb. 9 in Tallahassee. Ra’Sean Dickey and Zam Fredrick led Tech with 19 points each.

> Since FSU joined the ACC, Tech is 15-15 against the Seminoles. Florida State won the first six in a row, Tech followed by winning five straight, and is 10-9 against the Seminoles since then.

> In those 30 games, 14 have been decided by four points or less, 20 by 10 points or less. One of those games went to double-overtime, which the Yellow Jackets won 111-108 on Feb. 11, 1999 in Tallahassee.

> The teams have split the regular-season series six of the last nine years except the 2001-02 and 2004-05 seasons, when Tech won both games. In that span, FSU also won the schools’ only ACC Tournament meeting in 2000.

> Tech is 7-4 against FSU with Paul Hewitt as its head coach, and is 4-3 against the Seminoles under their head coach Leonard Hamilton. Tech is 5-3 against Hamilton overall, with a victory over his Miami team in December of 1997.

> Tech is 9-16 in games played in Tallahassee, including a 6-8 mark at the Donald L. Tucker Center, formerly known as the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. Tech’s 111-108 win against the Seminoles in Tallahassee (in two OTs) on Feb. 11, 1999 established the highest scoring game Tech has had with any ACC opponent. The Jackets defeated Clemson by the same score (in regulation) on Jan. 24, 2001.

> The Yellow Jackets have won the last six homecourt meetings with FSU, whose last win in Atlanta occurred on Jan. 9, 1999 (75-56). Overall, Tech is 14-11 against the Seminoles in Atlanta, all of those games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

> Tech and Florida State were both members of the old Metro Conference from 1976-78, and the Seminoles won three of those four meetings.

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 continue to be the Yellow Jackets’ offensive leaders.

Young, a 6-8 small forward, has taken over the team lead in scoring at 14.1 points per game (18th in the ACC) with seven double-figure games in the last eight. The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 13.0 points in Tech’s two ACC games this month, and for the season is shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from three-point range.

Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, has run the offense with a deft mixture of passing, penetrating and shooting, averaging 13.7 points (49 pct. FG) as well as 5.9 assists, second-best in the ACC. Crittenton has made 44.4 percent of his three-point tries during Tech’s last seven games, and has 38 assists and just 10 turnovers in the last five games. He has averaged a team-high 17.3 points in Tech’s three ACC games, and has played an average of 36.3 minutes in those games.

Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye became the eighth Georgia Tech player, and 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 who replaced Lewis Clinch in the lineup, contributes most on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations. The Dakar, Senegal, native has averaged 7.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in his last five games, and 4.9 points and 3.7 rebounds for the season.

Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, is the only Tech player to start every game this season. Smith has improved offensively and is just as tough on the boards and on defense as he was a year ago, averaging 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (65.9 percent) and has eight double-digit scoring efforts.

Put back in the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Ra’Sean Dickey has posted six straight double-figure efforts, including a team-high 21 points against Duke, and has made 18-of-20 field goal attempts in three ACC games (62.1 percent overall). The 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C., averages 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, 17.3 points and 6.2 rebounds vs. the ACC.

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 the fall semester ended.

Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 52.7 pct. FG), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard. Also averaging double-digit minutes are Peacock, who started the first nine games (6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 57.1 pct. FG), 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (8.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 38.9 pct. on threes), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (1.0 ppg, 0.7 rpg).

Peacock Returns

Zach Peacock, a 6-8 freshman who has missed two of Tech’s last three games as a result of a fractured cheekbone and then a suspension for a flagrant foul, returns to the court against Florida State.

Peacock served a one-game suspension for the Duke game stemming from a flagrant foul charged to him during the second half of last Saturday’s game at Clemson. Peacock’s action, for which he was ejected from the game at the 13:12 mark of the second half, was deemed “an act of fighting” by the game officials, which earned him an automatic one-game suspension.

The 6-8 Miami, Fla., native had suffered a fractured right cheekbone late in Tech’s game with Saint Francis on Dec. 30 and missed the following game with Winston-Salem State on Jan. 3. He is wearing a protective face mask for practices and games. He suffered the fracture when he and teammate Paco Diaw both dove on the floor for a loose ball with 2:23 remaining, and Diaw’s knee struck Peacock’s cheekbone.

Quoting Head Coach Paul Hewitt

On the Duke win – “We played very hard, and I was pleased with our effort, but 28 turnovers can be discouraging. I actually was more encouraged by our play against Clemson. I thought we played really good basketball and saw some good things. We continue with the effort, which is great, but we’ve got to do better than 28 turnovers.”

On Ra’Sean Dickey – “We’ve got to get the ball to Ra’Sean (Dickey). When we establish him on the inside, the outside shooting becomes better. We take better shots.”

On Tech’s play now – “I’m more concerned with how our basketball team is playing right now. This isn’t the time of year where you get into survive-and-advance. We’ve got to keep molding this basketball team. That’s why I was more upbeat after the Clemson game than I was (after the Duke game). Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled we won. But the fact of the matter is, for us to have 28 turnovers at home is not a good thing.”

On Tech since Maui – “We’ve played some quality teams (Georgia, Clemson, Duke) and have played consistent defense, and we’ve done a good job of executing things offensively, the turnovers against Duke notwithstanding. We’re playing better. We are a much, much different team than what you saw out in Hawaii, and a better team. Consistently, possession after possession, we’re playing hard. We’re competing every possession, and that’s what you have to do.”

Defensive Makeover

Georgia Tech’s defensive intensity and execution picked up after the team’s back-to-back losses to Miami and Vanderbilt in early December. The Yellow Jackets have allowed an average of 57.6 points in the last seven games, holding Georgia nearly 20 points below its average in a 78-69 win and Troy more than 20 points under its norm in an 85-55 win. Tech also held Clemson and Duke under their scoring averages.

After allowing four straight opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor (through Vanderbilt on Dec. 9), Tech has allowed the last seven foes just 34.9 percent from the floor (24.7 pct. on threes), with Duke becoming the first team to shoot 40 percent against the Jackets since Vanderbilt.

Tech has forced 133 turnovers in the last seven games (19.0 average), and taken 81 steals (11.6 average). For the season, Tech leads the ACC in steals at 10.3 per game and ranks 10th nationally in that category.

The starting guards of Tech’s last six opponents have shot 28.3 percent (39-for-138) from the floor overall and just 20 percent (13-for-65) from three-point range. They have collected 42 assists to 54 turnovers combined.

While senior guard Mario West has been Tech’s defensive catalyst all along, Tech’s improvement on defense can, in part, be traced to the emergence of D’Andre Bell and Mouhammad Faye in the Yellow Jackets’ playing rotation. Bell, who started 11 games last year, has averaged more than 12 minutes in Tech’s last seven games and Faye has started the last four.

Offense Continues to Impress

The Yellow Jackets remain No. 2 in the ACC in scoring offense (83.8 ppg), and lead the conference in field goal percentage (51.1 percent) and three-point percentage (39.3 percent), while also ranking third in scoring margin (plus-17.1) and second in rebound margin (plus-8.6). Tech also ranks third in the ACC in assists per game (17.1) and third in offensive rebounds (14.2).

Nationally, Tech is 12th in scoring, 13th in scoring margin, 10th in field goal percentage, 50th in three-point percentage, 14th in rebound margin and 30th in assists.

In ACC games, Tech has made 53.1 percent of its field goal attempts and 40.4 percent of its threes, both tops on the conference charts, while ranking third in scoring average (76.7).

> Tech has shot over 50 percent in each of its last four games, including a 56.3-percent mark against Duke and 59.2 percent at Clemson, a team that had allowed just 39.9 percent to its first 15 opponents. That was a high for the Yellow Jackets in an ACC game under Hewitt.

Recent Trends

> Georgia Tech’s 12 wins is one better than its total for all of last season.

> In its two ACC games this week, Tech has shot 57.9 percent (51-of-88) from the floor, but has taken 38 fewer shots than its two foes (Clemson and Duke). The Jackets had a 21-turnover deficit in the two games combined.

> Tech’s two primary point guards, Javaris Crittenton and Mario West, combined for 51 assists and just 13 turnovers in the Yellow Jackets’ last five games.

> Mario West does not have to score to contribute on many levels for Georgia Tech. After scoring 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting against Georgia, the 6-5 senior went scoreless against Troy but dealt five assists and grabbed five rebounds. During Tech’s last seven games, West has 17 assists, eight turnovers and 18 steals.

> Ra’Sean Dickey has scored in double digits in six straight games, averaging 13.0 points and making 70.3 percent of his shots (26-of-37) over that stretch.

> Anthony Morrow has four straight double-digit games in which he has scored 63 points in 68 minutes of court time. He has averaged 16 points in those games, shot 55.3 percent from the floor and 53.8 percent (15-of-26) from three-point range. Over the entire season, Morrow averages more points per minute than any other Tech player.

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