Tech Men Visit Maryland for ACC Opener

Dec. 27, 2002

Georgia Tech becomes the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to play in Maryland’s new Comcast Center Sunday at 5:30 p.m. when it meets the Terrapins in the ACC opener for both teams.

The game will be nationally televised on the Fox Sports Net and can be heard on radio over the Georgia Tech-ISP Network. In the Atlanta area, the game can be heard on flagship station WQXI-AM (790), WMGP-FM (98.1), WSNY-FM (100.1), WLKQ-FM (102.3) and WTSH-FM (107.1).

Tech (5-3) has lost three of its last five games since a 3-0 start and two of its last three heading into its ACC opener against the Terps, also 5-3. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 27-point loss at Syracuse on Dec. 21. Maryland is the third ranked team the Yellow Jackets have met this season, following an 83-77 win over No. 17 Georgia and a 64-63 loss at No. 20 Minnesota.

The Jackets are looking to win their conference opener for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Tech has dropped its last three ACC openers and five of its last six.

Tech is just 1-3 away from home this season, including a pair of one-point losses to the Golden Gophers on Dec. 4 and Tennessee on Dec. 15. The Jackets are 6-15 on opponents’ home courts under Hewitt and 13-20 in road and neutral games combined.

“We could easily be sitting here 7-1 right now, but we’re not,” said Hewitt following a pair of upbeat practices Christmas night and Thursday. “The holidays helped put that game against Syracuse out of everybody’s minds. This is a chance for both of us to get off to a good start in the ACC, and an opportunity for us to play better than we did a week ago.”

Georgia Tech has used three different starting lineups this season. In its last two games, Tech has employed the lineup it envisioned at the outset of the season, with Jarrett Jack, B.J. Elder and Marvin Lewis in the backcourt and Ed Nelson and Chris Bosh in the frontcourt. Bosh and Jack, both freshmen, are the only two Tech players to start all seven games. Elder, who had a sore foot during the pre-season and missed the opener, did not start his first game until Dec. 4 at Minnesota.

Elder, a 6-4 sophomore, has been Tech’s leading scorer each of the last three games, averaging 20.0 points while hitting 21-of-39 from the floor (53.8%). Elder has also made 14-of-22 from three-point range, and ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring at 16.7 points a game.

“B.J. is a solid player,” said Hewitt. “He was third in the voting for the ACC Rookie of the Year last year, but he finished the season better than any of the freshman in the league last year. I’m not surprised at well he has played for us.”

Bosh, a 6-10 freshman who posted double figures in scoring and rebounding in Tech’s first five games, averages 14.8 points (eighth in the ACC) and leads the ACC in rebounding at 10.4 per game. Lewis, a 6-4 sharpshooting junior, averages 10.1 points per game but has struggled from three-point range (34.1 percent), while Nelson, a 6-8 sophomore who was the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year, averages 9.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. Both players returned to the starting lineup against Troy State after a three-game absence. Jack, a 6-3 freshman, averages 8.6 points and ranks fourth in the ACC at 6.1 assists per game.

Tech gets help off the bench from 6-6 sophomore forward Isma’il Muhammad, who has started six games and averages 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, and 7-1 sophomore center Luke Schenscher, who averages 6.4 points and 3.9 rebounds and leads the Yellow Jackets in field goal percentage (59.5). Anthony McHenry, a 6-7 sophomore averaging 2.0 points and 1.8 rebounds, provides excellent defense on the wing.

Jim Nystr?m, a 6-4 freshman from Sweden, becomes eligible for Tech’s game with Maryland after sitting out the first eight games in accordance with NCAA rules and can provide the Jackets with additional outside shooting.

“He has shot the ball very well in practice,” said Hewitt. “He’s anxious to get started, and I hope he provides us with some good outside shooting. One of the things we’ve missed in the early going is consistent perimeter shooting.”

Maryland is led by a trio of upperclassmen who average in double figures in scoring, led by 6-3 senior guard Drew Nicholas (17.6 points per game), 6-9 forward Ryan Randle (13.6) and 6-3 senior guard Steve Blake (12.8 points, 6.9 assists per game).

“To lose as many good players as they did, they still are a very good team,” head coach Paul Hewitt said of Maryland. “It is still a veteran team with four seniors. Ryan Randle is playing very well, giving them an excellent scorer around the basket, and so are Drew Nicholas and Steve Blake.”

SERIES VS. MARYLAND (TECH LEADS 30-27)

*Georgia Tech lost both of its games with Maryland last season but still leads the all-time series, 30-27. The Terrapins have won 11 of the last 13 games between the two schools dating back to the 1995-96 season. Prior to that, Tech won 28 of 35 meetings. In its ACC history, Tech is 30-23 against the Terps.

*Maryland escaped with a 92-87 win in Atlanta on Jan. 13, getting 26 points from Juan Dixon and 21 from Lonny Baxter while shooting 51.9 percent and beating the Jackets on the boards, 41-30. Tony Akins led five Tech players in double figures with 24 points. In College Park on Feb. 13, Lonny Baxter led four Terps in double digits with 22 points, outscored Tech, 41-27, in the second half, and outrebounded the Jackets, 53-34.

*Tech is 10-17 against Maryland in College Park, all of those games at Cole Field House. Tech’s last victory on the Terps’ home court was an 83-71 triumph on Feb. 5, 1994. The Jackets have lost eight in a row since then.

TECH AGAINST RANKED TEAMS

Georgia Tech has won nine games against nationally-ranked opponents against 16 losses in two-plus seasons under Paul Hewitt, including a 1-1 mark this season. Tech took an 83-77 homecourt win over No. 17 Georgia on Nov. 27, and dropped a 64-63 decision to 20th-ranked Minnesota on the road Dec. 4.

At home, Tech is 4-5 against nationally-ranked opposition, and 6-6 against ranked teams in the city of Atlanta (including games at Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome).

HOPING FOR A BETTER START

Georgia Tech, who hopes for a better start to this year’s ACC schedule, finished its 2001-02 ACC slate at 7-9 despite losing its first seven conference games. According to ACC research, that was the biggest turnaround in conference history. Tech’s seven ACC wins broke the existing 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.

The Yellow Jackets started 0-7, but lost six of those games by an average of eight points. Tech defeated every team in the ACC during the season except Duke and Maryland, who handed the Jackets their only two losses after January.

The Jackets closed the first trip through the ACC with a 77-46 home-court rout of Florida State, which started Tech’s resurgence through the second half of the conference schedule. After that, Tech won six of its eight ACC tilts in February and March and added a 20-point road win at Saint Louis.

JACKETS LAMENT ONE-POINT LOSSES

Georgia Tech suffered its worst loss of the young season in its last game, a 92-65 decision at Syracuse on Dec. 21. But the Yellow Jackets’ first two losses occurred by a single point, away from home, and could have been significant non-conference wins for the Yellow Jackets.

Minnesota, ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll at the time, scored a basket with nine seconds left to take a 64-63 lead. Tech had the ball last, and almost didn’t get a shot off, but Marvin Lewis recovered a loose ball and tried a long three-pointer that rattled out at the buzzer.

Against Tennessee on Dec. 15, Tech’s B.J. Elder made one of two free throws with 0.5 seconds left for a 69-67 lead. But the Volunteers’ Ron Slay inbounded the ball to halfcourt, where Jon Higgins launched a desperation heave that swished at the buzzer for the victory.

In both games, Tech held the lead for most of the game. The Jackets led by 13 points (62-49) with 7:25 to go against Tennessee, but did not score a field goal the rest of the way. Tech led Minnesota, 49-42, with 10:40 left before the Gophers scored 11 straight points coming out of a timeout.

TECH STRUGGLES ON OFFENSE

Save for solid shooting efforts against Marist (49.1 percent) and Troy State (55.2 percent), Georgia Tech has struggled offensively during the month of December. Tech has averaged 70.4 points in the last five games, 66 points in the four road games during that stretch.

In the last five games, Tech has shot 44.7 percent from the floor, close to its seasonal average, but has taken just 58.6 shots per game, compared to 72.3 shots in its first three games. The Yellow Jackets have shot just 33.2 percent away from home.

NYSTROM BECOMES ELIGIBLE

Jim Nystr?m, a 6-4 freshman from Sweden, becomes eligible for Tech’s game with Maryland after sitting out the first eight games in accordance with NCAA rules. Tech coaches hope he can provide a boost to the Jackets’ perimeter shooting.

Nystr?m enrolled at Tech in August after committing to the Yellow Jackets over the summer. He has played for Sweden’s junior national team and has been selected to play on its national team next year. He also played three seasons for the Solna Vikings in the Swedish League, which is the reason for his eight-game NCAA penalty. He has three more years of eligibility after the 2002-03 season.

The 20-year-old Nystr?m averaged 10.0 points in Tech’s two exhibition games, making 7-of-12 shots from the floor and 5-of-10 three-pointers. He also had four assists and two turnovers in 23 minutes of play. In his most recent season with Solna, he averaged 11.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 33.7 from three-point range.

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