Nov. 20, 2004
ATLANTA – Third-ranked Georgia Tech, fresh off one of the best defensive performances in its recent history, makes its first road trip of the season to visit Illinois-Chicago for an 8 p.m. game Monday night at UIC Pavilion.
The game, a homecoming for senior guard Will Bynum, is sold out and will be televised throughout the Southeastern United States on FSN South. Radio coverage can be heard on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, including flagship station WQXI-AM (790) and Tech student station WREK-FM (91.1).
The Flames, who are playing their first game of the season, present a significant test for the Yellow Jackets. UIC won 24 games a year ago under the direction of ninth-year head coach Jimmy Collins, finished second in the Horizon League and made the NCAA Tournament field, where it lost to Kansas, 78-53.
“I started watching tape of them [Friday] afternoon, and I thought I was watching them in fast forward, they are so quick and so fast,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “They’re a very quick team. Cedrick Banks is a tremendous scorer, and he reminds me a little bit of (former Connecticut player) Richard Hamilton.”
UIC won both of its exhibition games, downing Robert Morris, 74-61, and St. Edwards, 75-45. Banks, a 6-3 senior guard from Chicago, was the Flames’ top player a year ago with an average of 18.4 points a game.
This will be Tech’s first-ever meeting against Illinois-Chicago, and the Yellow Jackets’ first trip to Chicago for a game since the 1987 NCAA Midwest Regional at the Rosemont Horizon, where they lost to LSU, 85-79 in the first round. Tech actually played at the Horizon twice that season, losing to DePaul, 84-67, on Feb. 22.
A 74-37 winner over Alabama State in its opener Friday night, Tech held the Hornets to 25.5-percent shooting from the floor. The Yellow Jackets forced 21 turnovers, collected 11 steals and blocked 13 shots. Further, they held ASU scoreless through the first 9:17 of the game (a 13-0 run) and the last 8:58, scoring the final 23 points of the game.
“I was glad to get back out on the court,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “We feel like we have another chance to be a very good basketball team this season, but as you saw [Friday], we have a lot of work to do. Now we can really start focusing on this year’s team, and helping this team improve each game.”
Tech scored 26 points off the 21 Hornets’ turnovers, and allowed no points off its 12 miscues. Offensively, however, the Jackets were misfiring much of the night against the Hornets’ zone defense, shooting just 35.3 percent in the first half and 40.6 percent for the game (5-for-21 from three-point range).
“We’re going to see a lot of zone until we start knocking down some shots,” Hewitt said. “B.J. struggled, 1-for-9 in the first half. If he makes a couple of shots maybe they’re not able to stay in the zone. But give them credit. They stuck with the zone and contested a lot of shots. Then when we started getting more movement in the second half, we started to find some openings in the zone.
“I’m proud that despite how we shot the ball, our defensive energy never fell off. The sign of a veteran team is what you saw. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we kept up the defensive energy.
“Certainly we can do a better job knocking down free throws and making open shots, but the defense is what we’ve been preaching since Oct. 16. I often tell them that when you stop people and get out in transition, the open man is always going to get a shot. When you have five seniors and guys not worrying about how many points they score, you can focus on defense and getting out in transition, and then everyone will get their fair share of touches.”
Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), Tech’s 6-3 junior point guard and a third-team All-ACC choice last year, led the way with 20 points, hitting 5-of-8 from the floor, 3-of-5 from three-point range and 7-of-8 from the foul line. B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), the Jackets’ 6-4 senior guard and a second-team All-ACC pick last year, scored 15 points but was just 5-of-17 from the floor.
Those two, plus either 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.) or 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), form Tech’s starting perimeter, joined in the lineup by 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.) and 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia).
Muhammad just missed getting his first career double-double against the Hornets (9 points, 10 rebounds), while Bynum, an All-Final Four choice a year ago, had seven points and three assists off the bench. McHenry had four points a seven boards Friday, while Schenscher, Tech’s other All-Final Four choice last year, scored eight points with four caroms.
In Friday’s game and in both exhibition’s Tech has gotten excellent help off the bench from 6-9 center Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.) and 6-4 guard Mario West (Douglasville, Ga.). Tarver, a junior, had four points, six rebounds and a career-best six blocked shots Friday night, while West scored four points and grabbed nine rebounds.