Cagers Host Louisiana-Lafayette in Preseason NIT

Nov. 16, 2003

ATLANTA –

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After averaging 106 points in two exhibition victories, Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team opens its regular-season at 7 p.m. Tuesday night with a first-round Pre-Season NIT contest against Louisiana-Lafayette at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.

Tickets for the game are $20 each and will be on sale at the Coliseum. Radio coverage of the game is on WQXI-AM (790), and ESPN will televise the contest nationally. The winner of the game will meet either Hofstra or Marist on Thursday night. Tech must win two games to advance to the Nov. 26 semi-finals at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Yellow Jackets received offensive contributions in its two exhibition wins from the likely sources of 6-4 senior guard Marvin Lewis, who led Tech by averaging 18.5 points, and 6-4 junior guard B.J. Elder, who averaged 14.5 points.

“What we do offensively puts emphasis on keeping the floor spread out so we can take advantage of their ability to drive and shoot,” said head coach Paul Hewitt, who is beginning his fourth season at Tech. “I would also give some credit to Clarence Moore. His return makes us a little bit smarter basketball team. He’s been around the game enough where he knows how to get people shots.”

Moore, a 6-5 senior forward, and 6-3 sophomore Jarrett Jack, Tech’s starting point guard, each averaged 10.5 points in the two games.

But Tech’s offense also was fueled by 6-6 junior forward Isma’il Muhammad (18.0 points per game off the bench) and 7-1 junior center Luke Schenscher (16.5 ppg, 10.5 rebounds per game).

“Isma’il has made a very steady progression,” Hewitt said. “He closed both of his two seasons very well, and I think we’ve seen a carryover from the end of his sophomore season. He’s always been a dynamic player in terms of his athleticism, rebounds, dunks, getting out in transition. But he’s moving much better without the basketball and his outside shot has improved. He’s the type of guy who will go to the free throw line (12-of-16 in the exhibitions), and knock on wood, he’ll keep shooting well from there.

“Luke is making normal progress. He has shown the progression you expect from a big guy. I think he was somewhat frustrated with his progress last year. He’s carrying his weight well, but all the skill and knowledge he has have always been there. He has a great feel for the game, and he’s a great finisher around the basket.”

As a team, Tech shot 51.9 percent from the floor and scored 108 of its 212 total points in the paint. Muhammad and Schenscher each shot better than 54 percent for the two games.

“After practicing since October 18, and watching two exhibition games, what I’ve seen is what I expected,” said Hewitt. “We are very strong on the perimeter. We are a team that I think will be able to score pretty easily. The area that we have to concentrate on is rebounding. We are strong in many areas, but we are unproven on the boards. So that will really tell the tale.”

“We just need to stay healthy. Theo’s injury was unfortunate for him and couldn’t come at a worse time for our team. We’ve just got to wait and see how long he will be out. If we stay healthy, we’ve got enough to be very competitive.

For both exhibition games, Hewitt employed a starting five of Jack, Lewis and Elder across the backcourt, Schenscher in the post and 6-7 junior Anthony McHenry (5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg) at power forward.

The teams are meeting for the first time ever, but Hewitt and Lafayette coach Jessie Evans have met once before, with the Ragin’ Cajuns defeating Hewitt’s Siena team, 71-54, on Jan. 2, 2000. ULL went 20-10 last season and lost in the first round of the NIT.

“They have two young men who are outstanding scorers in (6-6 guard Brad) Boyd and (6-4 guard Laurie) Bridges,” said Hewitt. “I know they’re going to play fast. They’re a very athletic team. They upset Mississippi State last year, so they’re good. In my only other encounter with Jessie Evans, we got beat pretty bad, so I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”

All games in the Preseason NIT games are being played under experimental rules, in which the three-point line will be at 20 feet, 6 inches, and the foul lane is trapezoidal. Both elements are part of international basketball rules, and the new three-point distance has been approved for all games starting in 2004-05.

GAME DATA

Georgia Tech (0-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)November 18, 2003 * 7 p.m.Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald's Center (9,191

TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, pbp; Brad Daugherty, color) Radio: Georgia Tech/ISP Network (flagship WQXI-AM 790); Wes Durham, pbp; Randy Waters, color Series Breakdown vs. ULL: Overall: first meeting Tech vs. Sun Belt: 2-0 Tech in Preseason NIT: 7-3 (3 app.) Tech at AMC: 467-160 (48th season) Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt: 114-71 (.620), 7th season overall 48-44 (.527), 4th season at Tech 22-26 (.458) vs. the ACC 0-1 vs. ULL (while at Siena) ULL Coach Jessie Evans: 112-72 (.609), 7th season overall 112-72 (.609), 7th season at ULL 0-0 vs. Georgia Tech Next for Tech: Nov. 20 vs. Hofstra or Marist, 7 p.m.; OR Nov. 23 at Cornell, 3 p.m. Next for ULL: Nov. 20 vs. Hofstra or Marist, tba; OR Nov. 24 vs. Loyola-New Orleans, 7:05 p.m.

The Tip-Off

>Georgia Tech is beginning this season as it finished the last, in the National Invitation Tournament. Tech is appearing in its fourth Pre-Season NIT, and its first since 1995, when Stephon Marbury was a freshman. The Yellow Jackets have a 7-3 overall record in the event.

>In its previous three Pre-Season NIT appearances, Georgia Tech advanced to the final four in New York twice, in 1995 and 1991. The Yellow Jackets made the final in 1991 before losing to Oklahoma State (78-71), and finished third in 1995.

>Tech is beginning its fourth season under head coach Paul Hewitt, having posted a 48-44 overall record in three years.

>Tech is meeting Louisiana-Lafayette for the first time. However, Hewitt has faced the Ragin Cajuns and their head coach Jessie Evans before, in December of 1999 when Hewitt’s Siena Saints lost to ULL, 71-54, in Lafayette.

>This is Tech’s third game against a member of the Sun Belt Conference, having previously defeated New Orleans (1998) and North Texas (1997).

>Tech has won all three season openers under Paul Hewitt and eight straight dating back to the 1993-94 season, when the Jackets dropped an 80-70 decision to Michigan in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Mass. Tech has not failed to win a season-opener at home since the 1980-81 season (88-77 to Western Carolina).

Cremins Court

Georgia Tech is playing its 48th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center, but the arena’s main floor is now named “Cremins Court” in honor of the Yellow Jackets’ longtime head coach.

Bobby Cremins coached at Tech from 1981-2000, compiling a 354-237 record in 19 seasons with three ACC championships, 10 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and three in the NIT. A banner is also hung in Cremins’ honor in the arena ceiling along with Tech’s retired jerseys.

The court was named and the banner hung in a ceremony following Tech’s final home game last season against Clemson.

Expectations Low

Georgia Tech was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference, ahead of Virginia and Clemson, in a vote by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association at the annual ACC Operation Basketball on Oct. 26. In pre-season magazines, the Yellow Jackets were picked anywhere from sixth to eighth.

Shaking the Youth Label

Eleven of 13 players who saw action for Georgia Tech in 2002-03 return for this season, as will one player who started 29 games in 2001-02 but sat out last season. Tech has four seniors, including team captain Marvin Lewis and forward Robert Brooks as well as Clarence Moore, a 6-5 forward, and David Nelson, a 5-10 point guard.

Tech also has five juniors and four sophomores among its returning players, most of whom have significant game experience.

Collectively, Tech’s roster has 24 seasons of collegiate experience, four more than Tech’s last NCAA Tournament team (2000-01) which had five scholarship seniors.

Tech did not sign any new players for this season, but has two additions to the program nonetheless. Will Bynum, a 6-0 guard from Chicago, Ill., transferred from Arizona and enrolled for spring semester, 2003. He becomes eligible following the conclusion of the fall, 2003 semester, and will remain eligible through the 2004-05 season. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., who joined the team as a walk-on last fall and red-shirted, has four years of eligibility beginning this season.

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