March 16, 2005
Georgia Tech is the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, facing Atlantic 10 Champion and No. 12 seed George Washington in the first round of the tournament Friday at approximately 9:45 p.m. Eastern time at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn. The winner of that game will go on to play Sunday against either No. 4 seed Louisville or No. 13 seed Louisiana-Lafayette, who face off against each other at 7:10 p.m. ET Friday.
The survivor of that group moves on to play in the Albuquerque, N.M., Regional on March 24 and 26, and face either No. 1 seed Washington, No. 16 Montana, No. 8 Pacific or No. 9 Pittsburgh in the Sweet 16 (consult bracket for the eight teams on the other side of the Albuquerque Regional).
Other first-round games Friday in Nashville include No. 4 seed Florida vs. No. 13 seed Ohio at 12:25 p.m. ET, followed by No. 5 seed Villanova vs. No. 12 New Mexico. The winners of those games meet each other Sunday, with the winner moving onto the Syracuse, N.Y., Regional.
CBS will televise all games in the NCAA Tournament, and WGCL-TV (Ch. 46) will carry all of Georgia Tech’s games in the Atlanta area. The Georgia Tech/ISP Radio Network broadcasts of the Tech games can be heard on WQXI-AM (790). Tech student station WREK-FM (91.1) will also carry Friday night’s game against George Washington. Westwood One/CBS Radio holds national radio rights to the NCAA Tournament games.
Tech enters the tournament 19-11 overall, its second-best record under Paul Hewitt, and tied for fourth place at 8-8 in the final ACC standings with first-year member Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, who reached the championship game of the ACC Tournament, are 8-6 over their last 14 games, and have won three of their last four heading into the NCAA Tournament.
George Washington, whose gym the Yellow Jackets practiced in prior to last week’s ACC Tournament, enter the tournament 22-7 overall after winning the A-10 Conference Tournament. The Colonials, who were 11-5 in the regular season, knocked off Fordham, Temple and St. Joseph’s to win the title.
Louisville, a frequent Tech opponent in past years, is 29-4 overall and won the Conference USA crown, sweeping past Texas Christian, Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis in the conference tournament.
Louisiana-Lafayette, whom Tech defeated in the first round of last year’s Preseason NIT, are 20-10 overall and won the Sun Belt Conference championship, defeating Middle Tennessee, Florida International and Denver by a combined 44 points in the conference tournament.
YELLOW JACKET STORYLINES
> After a five-week absence, Georgia Tech has reappared in this week’s national rankings at No. 25 in both the Associated Press writers’ poll and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. Tech has been ranked for the first 13 weeks of this season, and 30 straight weeks dating back to December of 2003.
> Tech has played several close games since Jan. 1, beginning with a two-point overtime loss at Kansas. Except for the Jackets’ 19-point win over Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, Tech has not won a game by more than eight points since Jan. 8, and five of those eight wins have been decided on the game’s final possession. Fourteen of Tech’s last 16 games have been decided by eight points or less, and 10 of them by five points or less.
> Tech ranks second in the ACC in scoring defense (66.3 ppg), first in field goal percentage defense (38.5 pct.) and second in three-point defense (30.8 pct.), and also rates fifth, third and third in the league in those categories for ACC games only.
> Tech has been inconsistent offensively, however, scoring more than 76 points only three times in its last 17 games (two games with Wake Forest and the ACC tournament meeting with North Carolina are the exceptions). The Yellow Jackets have, however, averaged 75.4 points in their last seven games away from home, and have exceeded 40 points in a half seven times in 10 games. Tech also ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring for both conference games and all games.
> The Yellow Jackets, who have had all 14 of their players dressed and available for only seven games all season, welcomed back senior guard B.J. Elder (missed the first nine ACC games with a left hamstring strain) and freshman forward Jeremis Smith (missed 17 games with a dislocated kneecap) on Feb. 8 at Clemson. Elder has averaged 13.9 points in his seven games back on the court, while Smith has averaged 3.3 points and 4.9 rebounds off the bench.
> Two Tech players dealt with injuries in the ACC Tournament, but are both expected to play this weekend. Isma’il Muhammad missed the entire tournament because of patellar tendonitis in his right knee, a condition he played through in last year’s NCAA Tournament and has recently flared up and caused him to play fewer and fewer minutes in the last three games of the regular season. Jarrett Jack suffered a bruised left shoulder against North Carolina and a mildly sprained left ankle in the final against Duke, but was able to finish both games.
> Tech’s basketball team has not played a game in Nashville for 40 years, when the Yellow Jackets were members of the Southeastern Conference. Tech’s last game in Nashville was a 103-89 loss to Vanderbilt.
QUOTING HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt
“George Washington is an outstanding team. Karl Hobbs has done a great job resurrecting that program. I’ve known Karl since my days in the Big East as an assistant at Villanova when he was an assistant at Connecticut. I know they’re going to play fast. I know early in the year when I saw them play Wake Forest, they pressed a little bit. It’s probably going to be a fast-paced, high-scoring game.
“I’m just glad that we don’t have to play until Friday, so we get a little extra rest for Jarrett (Jack) and Isma’il (Muhammad), and I’m glad that we have a short trip to Nashville.”
QUICK LOOK AT TECH
B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), since missing the first nine ACC games with a strained left hamstring, has played 10 games and started the last eight, averaging 12.7 points and posting some big games for the Yellow Jackets. In his first start since the injury on Feb. 20 at Florida State, the 6-4 senior guard responded by scoring 16 of Tech’s first 30 points (including four threes), and finished with a game-high 22 at FSU, including the game-winning free throws with 0.4 seconds showing on the clock. Elder has averaged 13.0 points for the season, shooting 40,6 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from three-point range.
He is joined in the starting lineup by Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), Tech’s 6-3 junior point guard who has started all but one game in his Tech career. A second-team All-ACC selection, Jack ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring (15.5 ppg), sixth in assists (4.43 per game), sixth in field goal percentage (50.7), third in three-point percentage (43.4) and third in free throw percentage (86.7). He earned ACC all-tournament honors after averaging 12.7 points in three games.
The rest of the starting lineup includes three seniors in 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 12.5 points and 2.5 assists per game.
Schenscher, who ranks seventh in the ACC in rebounding and fourth in blocked shots (1.87 per game), has nine double figure games in scoring and four in rebounds over his last 13 contests, and has shot 56.3 percent from the floor since Elder returned. Bynum, a 6-0 junior from Chicago, Ill., who started 13 of 16 ACC regular-season games, made the ACC all-tournament first-team after scoring a career-best 35 points in the semifinal win over North Carolina and averaging 20.7 points for the three games..
Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), a 6-6 forward (9.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) who has started 22 games this season, has been bothered by a chronic patellar tendonitis condition of late and has averaged 3.4 points over his last four games. He is expected to play this weekend.
Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, who had missed 17 games with a dislocated kneecap, has averaged 3.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 10 games since his return on Feb. 8. He has averaged 5.9 rebounds in Tech’s last seven games, leading the Jackets in three of them.
Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., has averaged 11 minutes in ACC games, mostly on his defensive prowess, and was a key contributor in Tech’s ACC Tournament wins over Virginia Tech (six rebounds) and North Carolina (four points, eight rebounds).
Tech’s other freshmen, 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) have taken on more importance since mid-December. Morrow has made 35.7 percent of his three-pointers this season overall and has seven double-figure games off the bench, including 11 against Duke in the ACC Tournament final. Dickey, Tech’s No. 2 center who has shot 62.7 percent from the floor to lead the team (66.7 pct. in ACC games), was a key figure in Tech’s ACC Tournament win over Virginia Tech (six points, seven rebounds).
Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has given Tech some quality minutes off the bench in the backcourt, and Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior, gives Tech depth in the post positions.
TECH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
> Georgia Tech is in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, third time in five years under head coach Paul Hewitt and 14th time in the history of the program.
> Last season and this marks the Yellow Jackets’ first back-to-back appearances since Bobby Cremins led the Institute to the Big Dance nine straight years from 1985-93.
> Tech has a record of 21-13 in NCAA Tournament play, highlighted by last year’s trip to the NCAA title game as well as a Final Four berth in 1990. The Yellow Jackets have reached the NCAA Sweet 16 seven times (1960, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2004).
> Georgia Tech is a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time. The Yellow Jackets were a No. 5 seed in 1988, when they defeated Iowa State, 90-78, in Hartford, Conn., before losing to 13th-seed Richmond, 59-55, in the second round. The Spiders had knocked off fourth-seeded Indiana one game earlier.
> Tech has been placed in a West Regional bracket twice before (if Albuquerque can be considered the equivalent of the West Region this year), and have lost in the first round both times. In 1993, the Yellow Jackets were coming off an ACC Tournament championship and had earned a No. 4 seed when they were stunned, 93-78, by Southern University in Tucson, Ariz. Tech went West again with a No. 8 seed in 2001, Paul Hewitt’s first season as head coach, and lost to St. Joseph’s, 66-62, in San Diego.
> Georgia Tech has won at least won game in nine of its 13 previous NCAA Tournament appearances.
SERIES NOTES VS. GEORGE WASHINGTON
Georgia Tech will be facing George Washington for the third time in its history. The two previous meetings both occurred in 1988. The Jackets defeated the Colonials, 86-57, in Atlanta on Jan. 2, 1988, led by 25 points from Duane Ferrell and 21 from Tom Hammonds. Tech also won the following December, 94-64, in Washington when Dennis Scott poured in 31 points and Hammonds added 21.
Tech is facing an Atlantic 10 opponent for the second time in three NCAA appearances under Paul Hewitt. The Yellow Jackets fell to St. Joseph’s, 66-62, in the 2001 first round in Hewitt’s first season.
Tech head coach Paul Hewitt and GW coach Karl Hobbs were both groomed as assistant coaches in the Big East. Hewitt served as an assistant coach at Villanova from 1992-93 through 1996-97, while Hobbs was at Connecticut from 1993-94 through 2000-01.
Tech’s junior point guard Jarrett Jack and GW’s sophomore guard Carl Elliott both attended Worcester (Mass.) Academy but were never teammates. Jack attended Worcester as a senior in 2001-02. Elliott arrived a year later as a postgraduate.
Georgia Tech and GW played two common opponents this season in ACC foes Wake Forest and Maryland. Wake Forest: Tech split a pair of high-scoring games with the Demon Deacons, winning 102-101 in overtime on Jan. 27 in Atlanta, then falling 98-91 on Mar. 2 in Winston-Salem. GW fell at Wake, 97-76, on Nov. 15. Maryland: Tech fell at Maryland, 79-71, on Jan. 31. GW defeated the Terps, then ranked 12th, 100-91, at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5.
SERIES NOTES VS. LOUISVILLE/LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE
Louisville — Georgia Tech and Louisville have met 27 times previously, with the Cardinals holding a 14-13 edge in a series that goes back to 1950. The teams last met on Feb. 14, 1999, a 78-58 UL victory at Freedom Hall. The teams met four times while both were members of the Metro Conference (2-2 split) and 13 times between 1988 and 1999. On neutral floors, Tech holds a 5-3 advantage over the Cardinals, but the teams have never met in an NCAA Tournament game.
Louisiana-Lafayette — Georgia Tech has won the only prior meeting, a 79-45 victory in the first round of the 2003 Preseason NIT at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
TECH BUILDS MOMENTUM WITH STRONG ACC TOURNAMENT
Georgia Tech, which had the fifth seed, reached the championship game of the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1996, defeating Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals (73-54) and second-ranked North Carolina (78-75) in the semifinals before losing a hard-fought game to sixth-ranked Duke (69-64) in the finals.
Coupled with the Yellow Jackets’ victory over Clemson in the regular season finale, Tech put together its first winning streak since Jan. 6-8, with three straight wins.
Will Bynum, who scored 35 points in the semifinal win over North Carolina and averaged 20.7 points for the tournament, earned first-team all-tounrmanet honors. He scored 13 points against Virginia Tech and 14 against Duke, and went 19-for-23 from the foul line in the tournament. Jarrett Jack was named to the all-tournament second team after averaging 12.7 points, including a team-high 19 vs. Duke in the finals. Luke Schenscher averaged 10.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, including 15 and 10 with three blocked shots against the Tar Heels.
Tech was strong defensively throughout the event, holding all three teams under 40 percent from the floor (37.5 percent collectively) and held the three teams to an aggregate 28.8 percent from three-point range. The Jackets also held each team under 10 assists, forced 49 turnovers in three games and outrebounded the three teams by 43.0-37.7.
A CASE FOR THE JACKETS IN THE POST-SEASON
With 10 games under its belt since the return of senior guard B.J. Elder and freshman forward Jeremis Smith, Georgia Tech has begun to demonstrate what it might have achieved over this season with a full roster, and what it could achieve in future games. Tech is 6-4 in those 10 games, including a three-game winning streak and a run to the finals of the ACC Tournament.
Elder missed 10 games with a hamstring injury (counting the overtime loss at No. 2 Kansas, in which he played just seven minutes), during which the Yellow Jackets went 4-6. Smith, arguably the Yellow Jackets’ best freshman early in the season before he dislocated his kneecap in the third game, missed 17 games altogether. Both returned on Feb. 8 at Clemson.
Three of Tech’s losses since their return came to teams ranked No. 4 (Wake Forest), No. 6 (Duke) and No. 7 (Duke), by a combined 16 points.
Offensively, Tech has averaged 75.4 points in the seven games played away from home during the period. Tech won five of those games, and led by double-digits in the second half of one other at No. 4 Wake Forest. Tech shot 44.2 percent on those road games, 37.2 percent from three-point range, and 75.3 percent from the foul line.
Tech has also seen its key players produce at a higher level statistically than they did while Elder and Smith were both out. To wit:
> Point guard Jarrett Jack has averaged 16.3 points since Elder returned, shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 48.0 percent from three-point range and 83.0 percent from the foul line, as well as 4.3 assists per game, numbers which are comparable or exceed his total season norms.
> Center Luke Schenscher has had more room to operate. He has averaged 11.0 points, shot 56.3 percent from the floor and is 20-of-34 from the foul line (second-most attempts on the team), all well above his full-season averages. An excellent passer out of the post, Schenscher also has 12 assists in the 10 games.
> For his own part, Elder has averaged 12.7 points since returning (13.2 before getting hurt), and has come up with big games at Florida State 22 points, 4-8 3FG), 22 at Wake Forest (6-of-11 3FG), 17 against Clemsin and 19 against Virginia Tech.
> Tech has outrebounded the last 10 teams on average (37.1-34.3), largely because Smith has averaged 4.9 rebounds since returning, 5.9 over his last six games. Smith, also an excellent passer, has 11 assists and just eight turnovers.
Tech has also continued to play superior defense during the period. Tech has allowed just 67.4 points a game in the 10 games since Elder and Smith returned (64.0 ppg with Wake Forest removed), compared to 76.8 points over the 10 games while both players were sidelined. Tech has defended the three-point shot better since Elder and Smith returned, 31.1 percent compared to 35.3 percent while they both were out.
Tech ranks second in the ACC in scoring defense (66.3 ppg), first in field goal defense (38.5 pct.) and second in three-point defense (30.8 pct.).
FROM 0-7 IN THE ACC TO NATIONAL TITLE GAME IN TWO YEARS
Georgia Tech’s five senior players who played their final home game March 5 against Clemson have been to the bottom and the pinnacle of college basketball during their careers.
As freshmen, B.J. Elder, Isma’il Muhammad, Anthony McHenry and Luke Schenscher lost home games to Penn, Tulane and IUPUI in the pre-conference schedule and started the ACC schedule 0-7. But they fought back by winning seven of their last nine conference games that year and came within one victory of an NIT bid. They helped lead the Yellow Jackets to a 16-15 mark as sophomores and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT, setting the stage for last year’s storybook season.
Last season, with Will Bynum joining the group, Tech won the Preseason NIT, defeating top-ranked Connecticut in the process, scored ACC road wins at Duke and Wake Forest, and eventually played for the national championship against the same Huskies team, a level never before achieved in basketball at Tech. This year, they carried Tech to the championship game of the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1996 and back-to-back NCAA championship berths for the first time since the Yellow Jackets ended their nine-season run in 1993.
By the numbers, Tech’s seniors have forged a 78-52 overall record with three post-season appearances (two NCAA, one NIT), and were part of a team that was nationally ranked for 30 consecutive weeks, the second longest run in Tech basketball history.
WALKING A TIGHTROPE
Fourteen of Tech’s last 16 games have been decided by eight points or less (Tech is 8-8), nine of those by five points or less (5-4). Five of those games came down to the final possession. The Yellow Jackets won a game by more than eight points only once since Virginia on Jan. 8.
Tech lost three conference games at home this season (Virginia Tech, NC State, Duke) by a total of seven points. By the same token, Tech achieved its last six ACC regular-season wins by a total of 25 points.
Tech has won many of its games this season by coming out aggressively and taking the lead early. Tech followed that pattern for the most part in all of its ACC victories (including its two ACC Tournament wins), taking large leads early, then either winning big (home wins over Miami and Virginia, Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament), or watching those leads disappear and then pulling it out at the end (Wake Forest, Florida State twice, North Carolina in the ACC Tournament). Tech also lost at Wake Forest after holding an 11-point lead in the second half.
NUMBERS COMPARABLE TO FINAL FOUR TEAM
For all of the talk concerning Georgia Tech’s difficulties on offense this season, the Yellow Jackets rank in the upper half of the ACC in scoring average for all games (74.6 ppg) and conference games only (72.8). Tech’s scoring average was 76.5 ppg last year, and both teams ranked fifth in the ACC.
Tech’s field goal percentage of 45.3 is just close to last year’s Final Four team (46.6); the Jackets are fourth in the ACC this year and were third last year. Tech’s assist average comparable last year (15.0 per game to 15.2 last year), and its turnover average is the same (15.3 to 15.4 per game).
The most significant difference between last year and this year is three-point shooting. The Yellow Jackets are off more than one three-pointer made per game, and their .329 percentage is well off the .366 mark of 2004, a difference that is attributable, at least in part, to the extended absence of B.J. Elder.
Defensively, Tech is also comparable to last year’s team, allowing 66.3 points per game this year to 67.2 last season. It has allowed teams to shoot 38.5 percent, 38.8 last year. Tech is taking about one-and-a-half rebounds more than last year, but is forcing about one-and-a-half fewer turnovers (a difference that can be traced to a hobbled Isma’il Muhammad).
OFFENSE BETTER ON THE ROAD
Georgia Tech has had its difficulties on offense since its 2-0 start in conference play. Take out Tech’s two games with Wake Forest, and the Yellow Jackets averaged 69.4 points against the league this season.
One of the oddities of the recent games, however, is that Tech has produced its poorest offensive games at home in losses to NC State (53-51), Duke (60-56) and the regular season finale against Clemson (64-56 win), while posting some of its better games on the road against Clemson (70-62), Florida State (76-75), Miami (76-72), Wake Forest, a 98-91 loss, and North Carolina, a 78-75 win in the ACC Tournament.
Tech averaged 78.5 points, shot 48.4 percent overall and 39.8 percent from three-point range in the last four regular-season road games, while also making 76.5 percent of its free throws. In the three home games, the Yellow Jackets shot just 42.0 percent overall, and were 3-for-34 from behind the arc.
Stat of the week: Tech ranks fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring offense, second in scoring defense. Nationally, however, Tech ranks 47th in scoring offense, 114th in scoring defense.
DEFENSE REMAINS TECH’S FOUNDATION
Defensive pressure, both half-court and full-court, was the catalyst for Georgia Tech all last season and has remained so throughout the 2004-05 campaign. Tech has allowed its opponents to shoot just 38.5 percent (only 12 teams have managed 40 percent, two shot 50 percent), which is the best in the ACC currently and No. 10 in the nation.
> None of Tech’s three opponents in the ACC Tournament managed 40 percent from the floor, and the Yellow Jackets allowed just 37.5 percent from the floor in three games.
> Tech ranks second in the ACC in scoring defense at 66.3 points per game, having led the league through the pre-conference schedule. Tech held nine teams to less than 70 points in conference play during the regular season and tournament, winning six of those.
> For the season, Tech has allowed teams to shoot just 30.8 percent from three-point range, which ranks second in the ACC. The Jackets have held seven teams to 25 percent or less.
> In the NCAA, Tech ranks 10th the nation in field goal defense and 16th in blocked shots. The NCAA does not rank teams according to three-point percentage defense.
> Tech has allowed only 27 teams in its last 63 games to shoot 40 percent or better from the floor. Only six have reached 50 percent. Kansas, NC State and Duke (three times) are the only teams to beat Tech while shooting less than 40 percent from the floor this season, and only eight teams have done that during Paul Hewitt’s tenure.
> Tech’s stout defense is not a new phenomenon. The Yellow Jackets ranked first in the ACC in field goal percentage defense in all games (38.8 pct.) last season, were first in league games only (40.8 pct.), and were the sixth-best in NCAA Division I basketball. Tech also led the ACC in both three-point percentage defense in all games (29.7 pct.) and was first league games only (32.2 pct.).
JACK, SCHENSCHER CONSTANTS IN DOWN THE STRETCH
Jack has averaged 16.5 points over his last 11 games, all but one were double-figure efforts, beginning with the first Duke game on Feb. 5. He scored 20 or more in the three games against Duke, Miami and Wake Forest. He scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the last regular-season meeting with Duke, and 21 on 7-of-12 shooting Feb. 26 at Miami, and 23 on 8-of-15 shooting Mar. 2 at Wake Forest.
During the 11-game period, Jack is shooting 50 percent (62-of-124) from the floor during the period, 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from three-point range, and 84.3 percent (43-of-51) from the foul line.
Schenscher has drawn plenty of attention from opposing defenses, but he has overcome the extra burden. The 7-1 senior has averaged 11.0 points and 7.8 rebounds over his last 13 games, recording four double-doubles and nine games with double digits in scoring. Since B.J. Elder returned, Schenscher is shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and has averaged two assists.
Against the ACC’s two other highly-regarded centers, Shelden Williams of Duke and Eric Williams of Wake Forest, Schenscher has held his own, scoring 16 points (7-14 FG) with five rebounds against Duke on Feb. 23, and a season-high 18 points with nine boards against Wake Forest. He went for 11 and 15 (11 offensive rebounds) on Senior Day against Clemson, and 15 and 10 against Sean May and North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
ROOKIES COMING UP BIG
Were it not for the performance of Georgia Tech’s freshmen at Miami on Feb. 26, the Yellow Jackets probably would not have secured its most important victory of the season. The trio of Ra’Sean Dickey, Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith combined to score 26 points and grab 18 rebounds in the game, each producing big plays in their most important minutes of the season.
Dickey posted his first double-figure game since Jan. 8, scoring 12 points with a season-high six rebounds. He was 3-for-3 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the foul line in 17 minutes, and three of his rebounds came on the offensive end.
Morrow scored 12 points, his first double-figure game since Jan. 27 against Wake Forest, all on three-point field goals in the first half as Tech erased a 10-point deficit. He also took four rebounds and had an assist in 18 minutes.
Jeremis Smith, steadily becoming the force on the boards and on the defensive end that the coaches expected of him, grabbed a season-high eight rebounds, five on the offensive end. His lone basket came on an offensive board and capped a 12-0 run that took Tech from a 59-51 deficit to a 63-59 lead, and his team never trailed after that.
They played key roles in Tech advancing to the ACC Tournament championship game, averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds combined in three games while shooting 17-fot-36 from the floor and 11-for-15 from the foul line.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL …
He made his reputation as a clutch performer in last year’s NCAA Tournament, with big baskets that put Georgia Tech ahead for good in the final minute of tournament wins over Nevada, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
But Will Bynum might be remembered as much for his performance in last week’s ACC Tournament semifinals, when he carried Tech on his back with 35 points, a career high for him and the highest point total ever for a Tech player in the ACC Tournament. Bynum went 10-for-21 from the floor, 5-for-10 from three-point range and 10-for-12 from the foul line. He scored 23 of those points in the second half, including 13 of Tech’s last 22 points and its last four from the foul line in the final minute.
Bynum came up with last-second magic in Tech’s 64-61 victory over Florida State on Feb. 2, taking a pass from Jarrett Jack off a double screen and knocking down a three-point field goal with 2.7 seconds left to lift the Yellow Jackets past the Seminoles, 64-61. The 6-0 senior scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, helping Tech open a 12-point lead and then grabbing the victory after the lead was lost. Bynum made 6 of 10 shots (2-of-3 on threes) in the second half of the game.
> He was clutch on all three of Tech’s recent road wins in the regular season, beginning with his 13-point effort at Clemson in which he made 5-of-7 from the floor. He didn’t score a basket at Miami (2/26), but he went 7-for-7 from the foul line in the final 2 1/2 minutes to help put the Hurricanes away. With the score tied at 63, he drained three free throws after he was fouled on a three-point attempt, then made four more in the final minute.
> It was his second-half exploits as well that enabled Tech to defeat No. 5 Wake Forest on Jan. 27. While Jarrett Jack scored 23 points and provided the final 102-101 winning margin with a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left in overtime, Bynum scored 18 of his 30 points after intermission, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.