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Cagers Visit Georgia

Jan. 8, 2008

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech leaves Atlanta for the first time since Dec. 1 Wednesday night for the first of two straight road games, visiting state-rival Georgia at 7:30 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. The Yellow Jackets are looking for their first win in Athens since the 1976-77 season.

Radio coverage of the game is provided on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). The game will be televised on a tape-delayed basis at 10 p.m. on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).

Tech is 7-6 for the season and 0-1 in the ACC following a 77-64 win over Presbyterian Sunday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Three of the Yellow Jackets’ six losses this year have come to teams in the current top 25 (No. 3 Kansas, No. 13 Indiana, No. 13 Vanderbilt), two of those on the road. The Jackets are 2-2 on opponents’ home courts this season.

Georgia, which has not yet played a Southeastern Conference game, is 8-4 overall following a 75-67 loss at Gonzaga Saturday night. The Bulldogs have dropped three of their last five games after beginning the season 6-1.

Tech last won in Athens on Nov. 26, 1976 (64-43), and has lost 11 straight games in Stegeman Coliseum.

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Series vs. Georgia

Georgia Tech won its 100th game in the series with Georgia, which began in 1906, with a 78-69 win over the Bulldogs on Dec. 22, 2006 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Tech leads 100-83 and has played the Bulldogs more than any other opponent in its basketball history.

The series has been played alternately on the respective schools’ campus since the 1995-96 season, and the Bulldogs have won seven of those 12 games. Tech has won the last three meetings at home, and five of the last six games played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the series moved back to campuses.

Tech lost the last meeting in Athens, 91-75, and has lost all six meetings with the Bulldogs in Athens since the series returned to the campuses. The home team has won all but one of the 12 meetings, the exception being Georgia’s 75-70 win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 6, 2000.

Before the December, 1995 meeting in Athens, the teams played 14 straight years at the Omni in downtown Atlanta, which was located on the site of the current Philips Arena. Tech went 8-6 against the Bulldogs in the facility, including eight of the last 10 before the neutral series ended. The teams have played on neutral sites other than the SEC or Southern Intercollegiate championships only one other time, that coming at the 1960 Gator Bowl Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

Twelve of the last 27 meetings have been decided by five points or fewer, 19 by 10 points or less. Three games have gone to overtime, one to three overtimes and one to two.

Quick Look at Tech

Head coach Paul Hewitt’s starting lineup for the last six games has include senior Matt Causey at point guard, senior Anthony Morrow and junior Lewis Clinch on the wings, senior Jeremis Smith at strong forward and freshman Gani Lawal at center.

Tech has used three different starting point guards this season, beginning with freshman Moe Miller in the first two games, then Causey for one game and D’Andre Bell for four after Miller was injured in a practice just before the Paradise Jam. Causey returned to the starting lineup for Tech’s Dec. 5 at Georgia State and has started each game since.

Morrow, Clinch and Smith have started all 13 games.

Causey, a 6-0 senior from Gainesville, Ga., has averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 assists in his six starts. He ranks eighth in the ACC in assist average (3.92) and fifth in assist-turnover ratio (1.82-1) while averaging 4.8 points for the season.

Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 10 of the last 12 games, but has scored just seven each in Tech’s last two games. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 13.1 points per game (19th in the ACC), and has hit 38.6 percent of his three-point attempts.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 10th in the ACC with 14.9 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 208 for his career, Morrow has hit 46.3 percent of his three-point attempts this season.

Smith, the team captain and a 6-8 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, made the all-tournament team at the Paradise Jam. Tech’s third-leading scorer at 9.2 points per game and its leading rebounder at 6.8 per game (12th in the ACC), Smith has five double-figure rebound games this season, and collected 11 in Tech’s ACC opener against Florida State.

Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., has started the last six games, averaging 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds while hitting 20-of-26 shots from the floor (76.9 pct.) in those games. He has averaged 7.5 points and 3.7 rebounds for the season while hitting a team-high 66.1 percent of his shots from the floor.

Backcourt reserves — Moe Miller, a 6-1 native of Memphis, Tenn., averages 5.7 points and 2.8 assists for the season. Bell, a 6-5 native of Los Angeles, averages 6.0 points for the season with 27 assists and gives Tech solid perimeter defense. Six-foot-4 freshman Lance Storrs of Decatur, Ga., averaging 2.1 points per game, had his best game of the season against Centenary (8 pts.).

Frontcourt reserves — Hewitt can go to 6-8 sophomore Zack Peacock of Miami, Fla., 6-10 junior Alade Aminu of Stone Mountain, Ga., and 6-11 red-shirt freshman Brad Sheehan of Latham, N.Y. Peacock, who missed the first five games of the season with a foot injury, is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer (9.0 ppg) and rebounder (3.9 per game). Aminu, who started the first seven games of the year, averages 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds while hitting 56.4 percent of his field goal tries. Sheehan has seen limited action this season, playing in eight of 13 games.

Quoting Coach Hewitt

On Tech’s recent play

“We’ve been playing a little bit better lately. We have an important game coming up against Georgia before we resume ACC play. Moe Miller, our freshman point guard, is probably showing the most improvement. D’Andre Bell has probably been our most consistent player over the last four or five ball games.”

More on Moe Miller and Tech’s point guard play

“Moe got off to a good start this season, then got hurt the day before we played our first game down in the Virgin Islands and missed three games. That kind of set him back. Now Matt Causey has done a nice job for us, but we need Moe to take on more of the load at the point guard position. And beyond that I think we need the other four guys on the court help out until our point guards get their feet completely under them.”

On Tech’s 7-6 start “We are disappointed by our record, but I would not say that I am discouraged. We have played a very difficult schedule, probably not the smartest scheduling that could have been done for this basketball team, but I have no one to blame for that except myself. “We are definitely improving. I think we are pretty close. People look at our numbers and say that we are not guarding very well. I think we are guarding very well. The problem that we have been having is live ball turnovers, above the foul line or above the top of the key, and people can scoop them up and make an uncontested lay-up. That has really been one of the things ailing us. “In the Kansas game in particular, and the Florida State game for that matter, I thought our half court defense was very good, almost outstanding. We don’t help ourselves, and we had so many turnovers that led to easy baskets for the other team. So I see us improving defensively, I see us improving on the boards, I see us improving running our halfcourt offense. So am I disappointed in our record, but discouraged? No. Not even close. And I think that we are a lot closer to turning this thing around and playing more consistent basketball than we have been at any point this year.”

On how playing Georgia will help Tech

“We are just trying to make small steps here. And when I say small steps, I mean just going and take this game for what it is. It’s going to be a pretty intense game because of the rivalry, but you also have a bunch of kids who know each other real well having played high school and AAU ball together. So it’s going to be a pretty hard fought game, and again for us, if there is one area I hope that we can improve on as we get into the New Year, it is just take care of the basketball. “I like our defense, I like our half court execution, and I like our personnel. I particularly like our big guys. I think our four big guys are playing very, very well. If you stack them up in the conference, I think they would come out somewhere in the upper reaches of the conference’s best post players. But we right now, for this game, want to continue to doing all the things we are doing well, but cut down on those live ball turnovers. I don’t mind a couple deadball turnovers, but we can not have the live ball turnovers lead to easy baskets.”

On Jeremis Smith’s value to the team

“He certainly is one of our hardest playing guys. He plays with a lot of force, and a lot of strength. He is a leader in the locker room. I think that he is a guy that everyone in the locker room looks up to because of how hard he plays. Stats don’t mean a lot to him. I think he is like any kid that just wants to score, but I think he is more interested in doing more of the tough things that you need to do to win basketball games. “Someone mentioned earlier about the Notre Dame game being our best win, well in that game I think he had like 13 rebounds, he stopped the kid Harangody in the last four or five minutes, and did a lot of good things to put us in the position to win that game. Those are the type of guys that you win with, guy that just go out and give it all they got every game.”

On Gani Lawal

“As I’ve said before, he’s one of those guys that understands what we are trying to do. He picks things up and it is really starting to show. He’s getting better every day. We’ve hit a point now where in tight spots I think you’re going to see us getting him the ball more. He’s got to do a better job on the foul line and he knows it. He works at that too. In the Florida State game, he stepped up and made two big free throws down the stretch. I’ve got confidence in him but told him that (Presbyterian) would have been a more complete performance if he had done a better job at the foul line.

“He’s improving on the passing game. At time, I think he’s a little too stubborn when double-teamed. If they come and double you, you have to find that open man. “

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