Jan. 8, 2007
Georgia Tech returns home for a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference games this week, beginning with a 7 p.m. contest Wednesday night against Duke at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets also host Florida State Saturday at 6 p.m.
Wednesday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN, with radio coverage provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network. The radio broadcast can be heard locally on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 191.
The Yellow Jackets, 11-4 overall, saw their ACC record drop to 0-2 following Saturday’s 75-74 loss at Clemson, Tech’s 14th consecutive loss on an opponent’s home court. The Blue Devils, 13-2 overall, lost their conference opener to Virginia Tech at home, 69-67.
Tech has won six of nine games since returning from a runner-up finish in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, including a five-game winning streak over the semester break against Centenary, Georgia, Troy, Saint Francis and Winston-Salem State, all at home by an average of 34.8 points.
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 68-9.
Tech is 1-2 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 this year, defeating No. 11 Memphis out in Maui and losing to No. 5 UCLA and No. 23 Clemson.
SERIES VS. DUKE
> Duke has won the last 20 of the last 21 games in the series, the lone Tech win coming last Mar. 3 in a 76-68 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which snapped a 41-game homecourt winning streak for the Blue Devils. Duke leads the overall series 57-21, and is 44-17 against Tech since the Jackets joined the ACC.
> Last season: Georgia Tech shot 70.8 percent from the floor in the first half and built an 11-point lead early in the second, but scored just two field goals in an 11-minute stretch after that in taking a 73-66 homecourt loss on Feb. 22. Jeremis Smith led Tech with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Shelden Williams paced the Blue Devils with 26 points and 11 boards. > Duke has won the last 10 meetings at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and has a 20-11 lead over Tech in games played on the Yellow Jackets’ present home court. Tech’s last win over Duke at Alexander was a 73-71 overtime decision on Feb. 7, 1996. Duke was the first opponent for Georgia Tech in the facility back on Nov. 30, 1956, when the Blue Devils took a 71-61 victory.
> Tech’s best stretch of the series occurred between 1982 and 1989, with 10 wins in 17 meetings. Tech has never won more than two in a row.
> Tech is 17-43 against Duke teams coached by Mike Krzyzewski, 10-16 in such games played in Atlanta. The Mar. 3, 2004 win was Tech’s only win in 12 tries under Paul Hewitt.
QUICK LOOK AT TECH
Young, a 6-8 forward, has taken over the team lead in scoring at 14.3 points per game (18th in the ACC) with six double-figure games in the last seven. The Memphis, Tenn., native established a career high with 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Georgia, his third double-double of the season. Young, who went 9-for-11 from the foul line to help seal the win over the Bulldogs, is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from three-point range this season.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, has run the offense with a deft mixture of passing, penetrating and shooting, averaging 13.9 points (48.9 pct. FG) as well as 6.0 assists, second-best in the ACC. Crittenton has made 44.4 percent of his three-point tries during Tech’s last six games, and has 33 assists and just four turnovers in the last four games. He has averaged 20.5 points in Tech’s two ACC games, including a career-best 22 with six assists at Clemson Saturday.
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, replaced Lewis Clinch in the lineup. Faye’s biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations, and also can handle, pass and shoot the ball. The Dakar, Senegal, native has averaged 8.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in his last four games, and 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds for the season.
The insertion of Faye made Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, 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 9.5 points and 5.9 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (65.5 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 five straight double-figure efforts and has averaged 11.4 points and 7.6 rebounds over that stretch. The 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C., averages 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, hitting 60.8 percent of his shots from the floor while adding a team-high 22 blocked shots.
Hewitt has built plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, playing 11 players more than 10 minutes a game during Tech’s recent five-game winning streak. 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 (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 53.8 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 (7.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 37.3 pct. on threes), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg).
PEACOCK FRACTURES CHEEKBONE, PLAYS ON
Freshman center Zach Peacock suffered a fractured right cheekbone late in Tech’s game with Saint Francis on Dec. 3 and missed the following game with Winston-Salem State. A closer examination of Peacock’s injury revealed no need for surgery, however, and he was fitted for a protective face mask, which he wore for Saturday’s game at Clemson.
The 6-8 Miami, Fla., native 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.
Peacock played in all 13 Tech games before his injury, starting the first nine, and has averaged 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes against Saint Francis, which the Yellow Jackets won 87-43.
DEFENSIVE FOCUS RETURNS
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 56.7 points in the last six 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.
After allowing four straight opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor (through Vanderbilt on Dec. 9), Tech has allowed the last six foes just 33.4 percent from the floor, and only 25.4 percent from three-point range. That includes a 38.2-percent night by Georgia and a 37.9-percent effort by Clemson.
Tech has forced 116 turnovers in the last five games (19.3 average), and taken 70 steals (11.7 average). For the season, Tech leads the ACC in steals at 10.3 per game and ranks ninth nationally in that category.
The starting guards of Tech’s last six opponents have shot 27-for-107 (25.2 percent) from the floor overall and 10-for-50 (20 percent) from three-point range. They have collected 34 assists to 48 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 13 minutes in Tech’s last six games and Faye 18, and they have combined for 11 steals and five blocked shots and numerous deflections.
OFFENSE CONTINUES TO IMPRESS
The Yellow Jackets remain No. 2 in the ACC in scoring offense (84.4 ppg), and field goal percentage (50.9 pct.) and rank third in scoring margin (plus-28.8), fourth in three-point field goal percentage (38.5 pct.) and second in rebound margin (plus-8.6). Tech also ranks third in the ACC in assists per game (17.1) and second in offensive rebounds (14.7).
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.
Head coach Paul Hewitt has expressed little doubt that this Yellow Jacket team can be explosive offensively, and they supported that belief early on, putting together Tech’s first consecutive games of 100 points since the 1994-95 season. Until then, Tech had only two other 100-point games under Hewitt, and one of those was an overtime game. Tech has scored 90 points or more five times.
> Tech shot 59.2 percent from the floor in Saturday’s game 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.
> Six players in Tech’s regular rotation have hit better than 50 percent of their shots, while Javaris Crittenton (48.9 pct.) is close.
> Young, Crittenton and Morrow have combined to make 39.5 percent of their three-point attempts. Lewis Clinch had made 47.6 percent of his threes before he departed.
> Tech has had more assists than turnovers in nine of 15 games, and is on the plus side for the season. Last year’s Tech team had an assist-turnover ratio of 0.83-1 for the season, and in only six of 30 games did the Yellow Jackets have more assists than turnovers.
> Tech has made 50 percent or more of its field goals in 14 of its last 23 games dating back to last season, including nine of 15 games this year.
> Georgia Tech’s 11 wins matches its total for all of last season.
> 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 six games, West has 15 assists, five turnovers and 15 steals.
> Ra’Sean Dickey is 12-for-12 from the floor in two ACC games this season. He has scored in double digits in five straight games.
> Anthony Morrow has averaged 11.8 points, shot 51.9 percent from the floor, and gone 17-for-37 (45.9 pct.) from three-point range in Tech’s last six games. Morrow became Tech’s first reserve to lead the team in scoring this season when he scored 21 against Winston-Salem State.
> Dickey had a career-high three assists each against Georgia and Troy, and has 19 dimes this season after collecting just 17 all of last year and 20 for his first two years combined.
> Backup point guard Mario West has 12 games this season with one turnover or less (eight with zero).
> Tech has more starts by freshmen than any other ACC school (40) this season except North Carolina (also 40), and the second fewest by seniors (2).
> Tech’s rate of 10.3 steals per game is its highest under Paul Hewitt, leads the ACC and ranks 10th nationally. The Jackets picked Saint Francis for 21 steals, three shy of the school record.
HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt FROM MONDAY’S ACC TELECONFERENCE
On the Clemson loss – “We had a tremendous opportunity last weekend to play an outstanding Clemson team, and could’ve had one of those wins that sets you off on a positive streak. Although we came up short, I’m very encouraged by what I saw in that game, probably the most encouraged I’ve been after a loss in a very long time. We’ve got a tough challenge on Wednesday, but if we continue the effort that we showed on Saturday for 40 minutes and carry that over, then we’ll be fine in the league.”
On status of Zach Peacock and the loss of Lewis Clinch – “What happened with Lewis was very unfortunate. He’s a terrific young man who should regain his eligibility and be back here next year. With Zach, we haven’t heard a final word. I think he’ll be suspended for the Duke game, but that’s just my speculation right now.
On challenge of defending a good passing post player like Duke’s Josh McRoberts – “It puts pressure on your off-the-ball defense, especially for a young team like ours that has a tendency to stand around and ball-watch sometimes. We’re getting better. I’ve seen that in the last three or four ball games. If you stand and ball-watch, and your man starts to move, then he’s going to find him. In watching tape, you’ve really got to keep your eye on the ball and your man. You’ve got to keep that special relationship when he has the ball.”
On adjustments to fill the void left by Lewis Clinch – “None, actually. Offense has never been this team’s problem. In the four-game stretch where we played bad basketball, it was always about defense. There are several guys on this team who can score. I feel very badly for Lewis and his family, obviously, but from a basketball standpoint, there isn’t much of an adjustment going on besides getting better defensively. That’s going to continue to be the focus of this basketball team.”
On the effect of Tech and Duke both losing in a tough manner late in Saturday’s games – “It’s early in the year. All ACC games are tough. I try to impress upon our young guys that all ACC games are going to be one-possession games. You don’t know when that possession will come that spells the difference in the game. Had we both won big or lost big, it’s still going to be an ACC game, and guys are going to go out there and play very hard. And anytime you play Duke, there’s an added motivation. They’ve been the best program in this league since I’ve been here. They always bring out a crowd.”
On Anthony Morrow – “He’s getting better. He’s getting his wind back up, and his back is strengthening. In the game of basketball, your core is so important. If you have a back or abdominal problem, it takes a lot away from you. He’s getting back to form. He made seven threes against Winston-Salem State, and in the second half of Saturday’s game, he made some big shots. It’s encouraging to see him make those shots in the second half.”
On the young players working into your scheme – “They’ve been terrific. This is a very close-knit team, especially considering we’re playing four young guys significant minutes. As with young players, the area that they’ve constantly got to work at and pay attention to detail is on the defensive end, both their individual technique and the value of a scouting report. As that improves, I think you’re going to see this team improve. We played some great basketball early, then we had that stretch where we just didn’t guard anybody. We gave up some ridiculous numbers in terms of field goal percentage and not forcing turnovers. Now we’re starting to get back to playing the way we need to in order to be successful in the ACC.”
On the contrast between Duke and Tech – “Pardon my cliché, but it’s really not so much about them as it is about us. In watching tape of the Clemson game, our guys recognize that there were so many defensive breakdowns from either poor technique or not paying attention to the scouting report, allowing a guy to go right when we should have been forcing him left, or vice versa. If we pay attention to detail, then I think, defensively, we’re going to be pretty good.”