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Jackets Hope to Build Momentum with Visit to Florida State

Feb. 4, 2009

Complete Game Notes in PDF Format

ATLANTA – Hoping to build on the momentum of Saturday’s victory over No. 6 Wake Forest, Georgia Tech travels to take on Florida State at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Thursday’s game is being televised nationally on ESPNU. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and the game can be heard in Atlanta on flagship station WQXI-AM (790), as well as WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1).

Tech (10-10 overall, 1-6 ACC) snapped a five-game losing streak and earned its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory Saturday when it defeated the Demon Deacons, 76-74, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets had dropped four of their ACC games after holding late leads (Virginia, Maryland, NC State, Boston College), and lost three of those in overtime.

Florida State (16-5, 3-3 ACC) dropped a heart-breaking, 80-77 decision to North Carolina in its last game Thursday night. The Seminoles have defeated NC State, Maryland and Virginia in conference play.

Tech is 2-5 in road games this year, 0-3 in conference play. The Yellow Jackets have won two of their last three meetings with FSU in Tallahassee, including a 63-57 win in February of 2007. The Seminoles won the teams’ only encounter last year, 66-64, in Atlanta.

Free throw shooting and/or turnovers, which were the primary culprits in Tech’s 0-6 conference start, worked in the Jackets’ favor against Wake Forest. Tech turned the ball over just 15 times, and shot 23-of-30 (76.7 pct.) from the free throw line. In fact, Tech has made 75.9 percent of its charity tosses in its last four games.

The Yellow Jackets have struggled to score consistently since a trip to California just before Christmas, averaging 66.5 points over their last seven games. Tech has scored less than 60 points three times this year, and has shot less than 50 percent in its last 11 straight games.

Series With Florida State

> Florida State leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 30-27, but Tech has won eight of the last 12 meetings and 17 of the last 27, including a season sweep of the Seminoles in 2006-07. FSU won the only meeting between the two teams in 2007-08, a 66-64 decision in Atlanta.

> Since FSU joined the ACC, Tech is 17-16 against the Seminoles. Florida State won the first six in a row, Tech followed by winning five straight, and is 12-10 against the Seminoles since then.

> In those 33 games, 15 have been decided by four points or less, 23 by 10 points or less. One of those games went to double-overtime, which the Yellow Jackets won 111-108 on Feb. 11, 1999 in Tallahassee.

> The teams have split the regular-season series six of the last 10 years except the 2001-02, 2004-05 and 2006-07 seasons, when Tech won both games. In that span, FSU also won the schools’ only ACC Tournament meeting in 2000.

> Tech is 9-5 against FSU with Paul Hewitt as its head coach, and is 6-4 against Seminoles teams led by head coach Leonard Hamilton. Tech is 7-4 against Hamilton overall, with a victory over his Miami team in December of 1997.

> Tech is 10-16 in games played in Tallahassee, including a 7-8 mark at the Donald L. Tucker Center, formerly known as the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.

> The Yellow Jackets had won the last seven homecourt meetings with FSU before last year’s loss. Overall, Tech is 16-12 against the Seminoles in Atlanta, all of those games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

> Tech and Florida State were both members of the old Metro Conference from 1976-78, and the Seminoles won three of those four meetings.

Tech Back to Three-Guard Lineup

Head coach Paul Hewitt returned to a three-guard starting lineup for Georgia Tech’s game at Clemson on Jan. 25, inserting sophomore Moe Miller at point guard in place of senior forward Alade Aminu.

It allowed junior Zachery Peacock, who has played the small forward position for most of this season, to return to the strong forward position where he is most effective. For most of this season, Tech has started two guards along with Peacock, Aminu and sophomore Gani Lawal in the front court.

Tech has been led this season by post players Lawal and Aminu, who rank 1-3 on the team in scoring (16.1 and 12.2 ppg, respectively) and 1-2 in rebounding (10.4 and 8.8 pg). The two players rank 1-5 in the ACC in rebounding, and in the ACC’s top four in field goal percentage.

Senior Lewis Clinch has started the last 13 games after missing the first seven games due to academic ineligibility. He has scored in double digits in 10 of the 13, averaging 13.2 points a game, while also logging minutes at point guard (2.8 apg). Freshman Iman Shumpert, who has played the point in Miller’s absences, averages 11.6 points and is third in the ACC in assist average (5.5 pg).

Peacock, who has scored in double figures in four of his last six games, averages 10.1 points and a career-best 5.7 rebounds per game.

Miller missed seven games due to a nasal fracture sustained in Tech’s game with UIC on Dec. 14. He returned to the court Jan. 10, and averages 6.4 points and 4.6 assists per game. He is the primary ballhandler when he and Shumpert are both on the floor.

Sophomore Lance Storrs (4.7 ppg, 42.1 pct. from three-point range) and freshman walk-on Nick Foreman (1.9 ppg) have been key reserves in the backcourt, Storrs for his shooting ability and Foreman for his defense.

Brad Sheehan, a 7-foot sophomore averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds, is averaging more than 12 minutes a game off the bench in the post, and Bassirou Dieng (1.2 ppg in nine games) provides additional depth.

Tight Finishes Again Dot Tech Schedule

Continuing a trend from last season, 11 of Georgia Tech’s games this season have been decided by seven points or fewer. Only three of Tech’s 10 losses has come by 10 or more points.

Tech has played four overtime games this season (including three in conference games), the most in one season since 1998-99, when the Yellow Jackets played five OT games. Tech is 1-3 in overtime games this season, 6-7 under head coach Paul Hewitt.

Last season, 21 of Tech’s 32 games were decided by 10 points or fewer, and the Jackets were 9-12 in those games. Fourteen games were decided by five points or fewer or went to overtime, and Tech was 7-7 in those contests.

Tech’s five home ACC losses last year came by a total of eight points (one to Miami, two to Maryland, one to North Carolina, two to Florida State, two to Virginia). Of Tech’s three home ACC games to date, two went to overtime and were decided by four points each.

They Said It

Wake Forest guard Ishmael Smith on Tech – “They try to physically impose their will on you, and if you don’t take the fight to them then you’re in for a long game. We didn’t beat Georgia Tech at all last year. So we knew what kind of team they are and how well coached they are. But they just punched us in the mouth.”

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton on Gani Lawal – “He’s turned into a man-child. He has really been a factor in just about every game. He is strong physical, and he blocks shots. He has been a guy who has really come on as fast as any player that I’ve seen in the ACC in several years.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Gani Lawal – “He’s good. He’s gotten really strong, and you can tell that kid’s really worked. I don’t think anybody that I’ve seen yet, and I know I haven’t seen everybody, but I don’t think anyone runs the floor quicker than Lawal. He goes from the defensive end to the offensive end real fast. He’s a big time player and competitor.”

Quoting Coach Hewitt

On defeating Wake Forest – “I think it’s good we made some plays down the stretch and we shot the ball well from the free throw line. We got the turnover numbers down to a respectable number. We continued playing pretty good basketball, rebounding it well, defending it well. We executed some things. The nice thing obviously was to get that win on Saturday.”

On Gani Lawal offensively – “I think he would tell you that he has slowed down quite a bit. Last year, he was in a hurry when he got the ball in his hands – trying to out-quick people to the shot, out-quick people to the rim – as opposed to getting the ball, seeing where the defense is, seeing how they were playing the ball. I talked to him about it all year, in addition to playing with more poise, just more patience at the low post. If he could ever get to the point where he is a 75-percent free throw shooter, in my mind, he would become somewhat unguardable. Saturday, he got 25 points on only 10 shots. He had 14 from the foul line.”

On the advantages of Moe Miller starting, Alade Aminu coming off the bench – “The ball movement is better, and I think I might have mentioned that when we made the change in the line-up, we have become a better shooting team because of that ball movement. Having Peacock at the four, again it improves our ability to space the floor out, have crisper ball movement, and have better skill players out there. Certainly, it also gives us a punch off the bench. When you have Alade coming off the bench who can get you a double-double, that’s a nice lift.”

On Aminu’s energy – “It’s funny you ask that because I think that about both (Aminu and Peacock). I think Zack’s (Zachery Peacock) energy has increased, but his minutes are also in the twenties. Early in the year Zack was having some really bad problems with his knees, so he has lost some weight. During that weight-loss period, I think he got a little sluggish, and putting him back at the four has also not only helped Alade, but has also helped Zack.”

On Shumpert taking over the game at the end – “I can remember talking to Mike Gymenski before the Virginia game, and he asked me, at the end of the game who’s hands would you put the ball in? And I said Iman Shumpert, because I think he’s got the size and skill and can make those plays. He had a shot at the end of the Virginia game, he had a really good shot, but it just bounced off wrong. I think since then, people have recognized he’s the guy at the end of the game, and then people start playing really physical. He did not respond well to that over a few games. On Saturday, the first shot was more just out of the flow of our motion, and Zack did a good job of executing that triple handoff and got him into the high lane, high paint area, and made the shot. But that second shot we definitely wanted the ball in his hands, because he’s got size and he’s got skill. I think three or four games ago, if Teague bumped him at half court, he might have fallen over, might have lost the ball. But now, he expects the contact, doesn’t wait for the whistle, and he gets to the area of the floor that you have to to make that shot.”

On what makes Gani Lawal a good rebounder – “First of all, he has a great motor. He just constantly plays hard. He is always going hard. I think the biggest difference between last year and this year is that he is in just so much better physical condition. He is taking great care of his body. He has never been a guy who has ate poorly, but I think he is really paying attention to what he is doing to prepare his body mentally for practice and games. I think his conditioning has led to more rebounding. He has always tried to get rebounds, but he fatigued quickly last year. That’s why he only played 17, 18 minutes. Now, he can play 32, 33 minutes a game because of his superior physical condition. He has always been a great worker and has had a great motor for the game.

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