Dec. 28, 2003
Georgia Tech hosts Virginia Commonwealth at 7 p.m. Monday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and can establish the best start in its history with a victory in the regionally-televised contest.
Tech, 11-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation following a 90-40 win over Marist last Tuesday, hosts a solid Rams team that is 6-2 following a 55-54 win at LaSalle last Monday. The game is being televised regionally on Fox Sports Net South, with local radio coverage on WTSH-FM (107.1). It is the first-ever meeting between the teams on the hardwood.
The Jackets took two days off for Christmas break following the Marist game and returned to practice Friday evening.
“Our coaches commented that it was probably the most cheery post-Christmas practice ever,” said head coach Paul Hewitt Sunday. “If our practices are any indication, I think we’ll be pretty sharp [Monday] night.”
“(VCU head coach) Jeff (Capel) does a very good job with his team. They are excellent offensive rebounders. They execute their plays well.”
Tech has matched the best start in the history of Tech basketball at 11-0 after defeating Marist. The 1962-63 squad coached by Whack Hyder started 11-0 and finished the season 21-5, but did not receive a post-season invitation. The 1989-90 Tech Final Four team under head coach Bobby Cremins won its first 10 games, and finished 28-7. Tech last won 12 straight games during the 1985-86 season, when the Yellow Jackets put together 15 straight victories during a 16-1 start.
“I am mindful of it,” said Hewitt. “But I’m more focused on this team getting better and better because we’re getting closer to league play, and as everybody can see, the ACC again is outstanding. There are no givens, so we have to keep getting better. If we improve upon our last performance, then we have an outstanding chance to beat VCU.
“But as far as 12-0 goes, if you told me we would lose this game and then go 16-0 in the ACC, I’d say let’s go. It’s one of those type of things. If we get better, and VCU beats us, then I’ll live with it.”
Jarrett Jack, Tech’s sophomore point guard, echoed the sentiments of his head coach saying, “Truthfully, I heard it for the first time yesterday. It would be good to get in the record books and have the best start in school history. But we’re just concentrating on coming in and playing VCU hard, and hopefully get another big win.”
The VCU game is the last of a six-game stretch of games within the city of Atlanta. Tech’s next out-of-town contest comes Saturday at Georgia. Tech has outscored its opponents by 26.4 points a game, a figure which leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation. Tech’s closest games have been 13-point decisions over Saint Louis (75-62) and St. John’s (79-66), and the Jackets have won two games by 50 points or more. Tech’s opponents are shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor (only Saint Louis has shot 40 percent in a game against Tech this season), and 24.9 percent from three-point range, both of which lead the ACC.
Marist managed just 40 points, the fewest points the Jackets have allowed in the shot-clock era, and shot 29.4 percent from the floor, the fifth team that has failed to reach 30 percent against Tech this year.
“Back in 1982, I coached against Georgetown and they were the No. 1 team in the country and had Patrick Ewing and that’s the last time I’ve seen a team that good defensively and that active, that deep and that versatile until tonight,” said Marist coach Dave Magarity. “They take you out of everything, everything that you want to do, they’re that good.”
Georgia Tech has employed the same starting lineup for every game this season — 6-3 Jarrett Jack at point guard, 6-4 Marvin Lewis and 6-4 B.J. Elder on the wings, 6-7 Anthony McHenry at the strong forward spot and 7-1 Luke Schenscher at center.
Five Jackets have scoring averages in double figures for the season, led by Elder at 14.9 points per game. Elder, a junior, ranks ninth in the ACC in scoring, has hit 32.7 percent of his three-point attempts and is shooting 42.7 percent overall.
Jack has been impressive in many respects, averaging 12.3 points a game (third on the team, 21st in the ACC) and 7.3 assists per game (2nd in the ACC) while hitting 50.6 percent of his field goal tries and 35.5 percent of his three-point attempts. He is also Tech’s second-leading rebounder (5.5 per game), ranks second in the ACC in steals (2.5 per game) and fourth assist/turnover ratio (2.6-1).
Lewis, a senior who is the only player to play in every game Paul Hewitt has coached at Tech, averages 11.6 points a game to rank 25th in the ACC and fourth on the Tech squad. He has shot 42.2 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from three-point range (14th in the ACC).
Schenscher, a junior, has played extremely well of late, averaging 15 points and 7.1 rebounds while hitting nearly 81 percent of his field goals (21 of 26). He averages 10.0 points and 6.2 rebounds a game while hitting 58.2 percent of his shots for the season. McHenry, a junior playing strong forward, has been solid all season averaging 4.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while blocking a team-high 11 shots and hitting 51.4 percent of his field goals.
“Marvin Lewis calls him the X-factor,” Hewitt said of McHenry. “He’s been saying that since the summer. He can guard one through four, he can handle the ball like a point guard.”
Tech’s top reserve has been junior forward Isma’il Muhammad, a 6-6 defensive whiz who has become a force offensively, averaging 12.5 points (second on the team, 19th in the ACC) while leading the conference in field goal percentage (64.4). He has led Tech in scoring off the bench twice this season, including 22 against UConn and 16 against Marist.
The Jackets are also getting important contributions off the bench from Clarence Moore, a 6-5 senior forward averaging 5.9 points and 4.0 rebounds; Robert Brooks, a 6-8 senior postman averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds; and 6-0 junior Will Bynum, who became eligible Dec. 13 against Saint Louis and has averaged 7.0 points and 3.5 assists.
#4/4 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-0, 0-0 ACC)vs. Virginia Commonwealth (6-2, 1-0 CAA)December 29, 2003 * 7 p.m. ETAlexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta, Ga. (9,191)
TV: Fox Sports Net South; Mike Hogewood, pbp; Dan Bonner, color Local Radio: WTSH-FM (107.1); Wes Durham, pbp; Randy Waters, color Tech Record Breakdown: Home: 6-0; Away: 2-0; Neutral: 3-0
Series vs. VCU: first meeting Tech at AMC: 473-160
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt: 125-71 (.638), 7th season overall 59-44 (.573), 4th season at Tech 0-0 vs. VCU
VCU coach Jeff Capel: 24-12 (.667), 2nd season overall 24-12 (.667), 2nd season at VCU 0-0 vs. Georgia Tech
Next for Georgia Tech: Jan. 3 at Georgia, 3 p.m. ET Next for VCU: Jan. 2 vs. Middle Tennessee State, 7:30 p.m. ET