Jan. 18, 2007
Georgia Tech, which has won its last two games and seven of its last eight, will attempt to gain its first road victory since February of 2005 when it visits 4th-ranked North Carolina Saturday night at 9 p.m. in the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
The first of two consecutive road games the Yellow Jackets will play, including a date at Maryland next week, Saturday’s game is being televised nationally in prime time on ESPN, and the network’s College Game Day crew will be in Chapel Hill at well.
Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on flagship station WQXI-AM (790), as well as campus station WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). The game also can be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 192.
The Yellow Jackets, 13-4 overall, 2-2 in the ACC, evened their ACC mark with a pair of homecourt wins last week, a 74-63 triumph over No. 11 Duke and an 88-80 win over Florida State. Tech has not played since last Saturday.
The Tar Heels, 16-2 overall and 3-1 in the ACC, lost their first conference game last Saturday in a 94-88 defeat at Virginia Tech, then rebounded for a 77-55 win at No. 17 Clemson Wednesday night.
Tech has dropped 14 straight games on opponents’ home courts, including 11 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.
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 its Jan. 6 game against Clemson, against teams with an average current RPI of 14.6. They have a combined record of 73-15.
Tech is 2-2 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 before the Duke victory on Jan. 10.
Series vs. North Carolina
> North Carolina has an overwhelming 57-19 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, and a 43-17 advantage since Tech joined the ACC. The Tar Heels have won 16 of the last 22 meetings.
> Tech won two of the three meetings between the two teams in 2003-04, the only time the Yellow Jackets won the season series with the Tar Heels since 1996, including an 83-82 victory in the ACC Tournament.
> Tech’s last win in the Tar Heels’ home arena was a 92-83 overtime triumph on Feb. 10, 1996, and the Jackets have lost 10 straight in the Smith Center since then. The closest calls for Tech in the last eight meetings in Chapel Hill were a two-point loss in 2000 and a one-point defeat in 2003. Counting regular-season games in Greensboro, Tech is 4-25 on the road against UNC. Tech is 4-17 in the Smith Center.
> Tech is 5-8 against UNC under Paul Hewitt, is 3-3 against the Tar Heels under Roy Williams, and 3-4 against Williams all-time.
> Tech’s greatest success in its series with North Carolina occurred during the middle 1990s when the Jackets won five of seven meetings, including three straight wins over No. 1-ranked Tar Heel teams during the 1993 and 1994 campaigns.
Close Calls on the Road
Only three times during Georgia Tech’s current 14-game losing streak on opponents’ home courts have games been decided by more than 10 points, and the string has included some very close calls. Tech’s average margin of defeat in those 14 games is 7.1 points. Following are some of the near misses.
1-6-07 at Clemson L, 75-74Crittenton hits go-ahead basket with 6.5 seconds left,Mays scores at other end with 2.2 left12-9-06 at Vanderbilt L, 73-64Tech leads by 5 at 12:45 mark, gives up 12 straight points12-3-06 at Miami L, 90-82Tech within two with ball at 3:20, commits turnover2-18-06 at Maryland (ot) L, 87-84Tech scores first OT bucket, MD scores next 8 points2-15-06 at North Carolina L, 82-75Tech leads by 20 in first half, scores just 20 in second half2-9-06 at Florida State L, 80-79Tech leads by 14 in second half, Wilson hits go-ahead bucket at 1:321-31-06 at Virginia Tech L, 63-62Tech has last shot, but rebound foul gives VT winning FT with 0:00 on clock1-29-06 at Boston College L, 66-64Tech rallies from 11 down but can't get closer than final margin
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.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, has run the offense with a deft mixture of passing, penetrating and shooting, averaging a team-high 14.2 points (50.6 pct. FG) as well as 5.9 assists per game, second-best in the ACC. Crittenton has made 44.7 percent of his three-point tries this season, and has 43 assists and just 11 turnovers in the last six games. He has averaged a team-high 18.8 points in Tech’s ACC games (7th-best in the conference), and has played an average of 34.8 minutes in those games.
Young, a 6-8 small forward, has been around the team lead in scoring, now at 14.1 points per game (19th in the ACC) with eight double-figure games in the last nine. The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 13.3 points in Tech’s three ACC games this month, and for the season is shooting 50.3 percent from the floor (9th in the ACC) and 41.2 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 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (65.1 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 in eight games, including a team-high 21 points against Duke, and has made 20-of-23 field goal attempts in ACC games (62.2 percent overall). Dickey averages 9.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for the season, 14.5 points and 5.5 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 4.9 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.
Head coach Paul 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 (5.2 ppg, 2.6 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 last time out 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 (6.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 56.1 pct. FG), 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (9.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 41.3 pct. on threes), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (1.0 ppg, 0.7 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 last week.
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 Coach Hewitt
[On the contribution from your freshman class] – “I hear guys who have been around the game longer than me say that this is the best freshman class to come into college basketball since back in the late 1970s or early 80s. Certainly, I think college basketball has benefited from the NBA rule. More importantly, if you talk to these kids, I think they believe they benefit more. Thaddeus Young tells us all the time that he’s glad the rule came in because there’s so much he has to learn about this game, and there are so many things he didn’t understand and didn’t know about this game.
“If you have talented players who can play this game, you have to put them out on the floor whether they’re freshmen, sophomore, juniors or what have you. We happen to have three, four if you count (red-shirt) Mouhammad Faye, who are quality ACC players. They certainly lack for experience, which you can see with out turnovers and some of the breakdowns defensively.”
[On players getting caught up in the college experience] – “Thaddeus heard some comments made by TV announcers about him when we were playing at Miami, about him having to step it up (to make an impression on pro scouts). These guys aren’t out there thinking about going to the NBA. I think that gets lost on people. He said, `I’m just out there playing and trying to get better.”
[On Jeremis Smith] – “The minutes tell you that I have a lot of faith in him, and I feel a lot more comfortable with our team when he’s on the floor. I’m trying to get him to be more aggressive and look at more shots offensively, not just going to the basket. I think Jeremis is a much better outside shooter than he thinks he is. He happened to make a big three in the first half of the Duke game Wednesday night. He had a couple of other opportunities, but he decided to put his head down and take it to the basket. He was so much of a power player in high school. We do need to get more offensive production out of him by getting him to take shots when he’s open.
“He and Mario West are the two leaders of this team. He gives you everything he has. The one thing you’ll never doubt is Jeremis’ sincerity about the team’s success. He wants this team to be successful, even if he scores one point as he did the other day or 21 as he did against Memphis. He’s just as happy.”
[On the recruitment of Thaddeus Young] – “To be perfectly frank, I didn’t think we had a chance. He was a great student, we knew that. We try and find the best students possible to go after, because of some of the classes they have to go through here. We just hung around. Cliff Warren (now head coach at Jacksonville) was the one who started recruiting him. When Cliff left, Thaddeus thought about cutting us off the list, but he decided to keep us on. Once we got into the home visit and the campus visit, I thought we had a good chance. His Dad and his uncle were looking for a place where he could be molded and become well-rounded. They all were bothered by the perception that he was only a basketball player. I don’t know how many people know this, but after his sophomore year, he didn’t go to any all-american camps, but he did go to an academic camp at Taft College in Connecticut for six weeks.”
[On losing a player in the middle of the season] – “It’s tough. But B.J.’s situation [B.J. Elder’s ankle injury two years ago] was much more disruptive. It was the first time I had dealt with a situation like that. Because of going through the B.J. Elder situation, I think we’ve handled the Lewis Clinch situation a lot better. We’ve been able to make a smooth recovery, and our team is back on track to making progress.”