ATLANTA (Dec. 13) – Georgia Tech begins a stretch of four holiday home games Saturday with a 7 p.m. game against Morehead State and a 7:30 p.m. contest Wednesday, Dec. 22, against Wofford at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
The Yellow Jackets (3-4) have lost four in a row since a 3-0 start, including its last three by a total of eight points against Michigan, Georgia and No. 3 Stanford. Tech took the Cardinal to overtime Saturday before falling, 64-61, at Philips Arena. Saturday’s game will be only Tech’s second home game of the season and first since the Nov. 19 opener against Mercer.
Morehead State comes to Atlanta 4-3 after defeating Asbury College, 96-73, Saturday. Wofford is 3-4 against a schedule which has included a win over Clemson and losses to South Carolina, West Virginia, Marquette and Venderbilt. The Terriers travel to No. 16 Texas and William & Mary before visiting the Tech campus.
“We’re in exams this week, and we can’t take anybody lightly when you look at some of the scores around the country,” head coach Bobby Cremins, mindful of recent performances like Wofford’s win over Clemson, Winthrop’s overtime loss to Maryland and Indiana State’s triumph over Indiana.
“The worst thing we can do is take somebody lightly. You have letups today, and you’re going to be burned. Right after exams, we have to get after it. We’ve got to get better. Yes, we did have a chance to beat Stanford, but I’m still not happy with the way we’re playing.”
The Yellow Jackets are led by a pair of pre-season all-ACC choices in 7-0 senior forward Jason Collier (Springfield, Ohio) and 6-11 junior center Alvin Jones (Lakeland, Fla.).
Collier leads the Jackets with 18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, both second in the ACC. He leads Tech with 50 percent shooting from the floor and 74.3 percent from the line. Jones averages 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and blocking 2.4 shots per game.
The rest of Tech’s starting lineup includes 5-11 sophomore point guard Tony Akins (Lilburn, Ga.), 6-3 junior guard Shaun Fein (Centerville, Mass.) and 6-6 senior forward Jason Floyd (Hampton, Ga.).
Akins has put together a strong early season, averaging 13.6 points per game. He ranks fourth in the ACC with 5.1 assists and has been Tech’s top three-point marksman with a 39.5-percent success rate, ranking third in the ACC in three-point field goals per game and three-point percentage. Floyd averages 9.6 points per game, while Fein averages 9.3.
Tech’s bench may be the deepest of the Bobby Cremins era with 5-10 junior T.J. Vines (Woodstock, Ga.) in the backcourt, 6-7 junior Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.) in the frontcourt and 6-4 freshman Clarence Moore (Norco, La.) on the wing. The trio averages between 15 and 19 minutes per game and has combined for more than 13 points per game.
“[Stanford] was a tough loss, and a game like that could have really turned things around for us,” said Cremins. “I felt bad for our players, because they need something good to happen. We got after it. We felt like we could win any of those games we played. We need confidence, and we need to make shots.”
Morehead State brings a veteran squad with four double-figure scorers led by 6-7 senior Scott Charity (15.4 points per game) and 6-6 senior Jeremy Webb (5.3) at the forwards, and 6-7 sophomore Kyle Umberger at center, and 6-3 senior Brad Cleaver (15.3) and 6-2 junior Greg Hendricks (13.4) at the guards.
Wofford’s top three scorers all hail from the Atlanta area, led by 6-3 junior guard Ian Chadwick (18.1 points per game), 6-3 senior guard Starzee Walker (13.4), both of whom start, and 6-3 freshman reserve guard Mike Lenzly (10.4). Rashane DeLoach (7.0), a 6-7 senior center from Stone Mountain, and 6-7 junior forward Bishop Ravenel (5.7) complete the Terriers’ starting lineup.
Series vs. Morehead State, Wofford
Georgia Tech and Morehead State have met only once, a 98-76 Tech victory in the Kuppenheimer Classic at the Omni on Dec. 27, 1989.
The Yellow Jackets have a longer history against Wofford, holding a 9-2 lead in a series that dates back to 1921. Tech is 9-1 against the Terriers at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Under Bobby Cremins, Tech is 5-0 against Wofford, including wins in each of the last three seasons (76-63 last year, 90-58 on Jan. 3, 1998 and 74-49 on Nov. 22, 1996). The Terriers’ last win against the Jackets was a 49-44 triumph on the 1980-81 season.
The Yellow Jackets’ last three games have been similar in that Tech fell behind early in each half and rallied for a chance to win or send the game into overtime in the final minute.
Saturday, Stanford led 10-2 early, but Tech rallied to lead at halftime 24-23. Tony Akins’ three-point basket tied the game at 57-57 with one second remaining and sent the game into overtime, where the Jackets lost 64-61 after having tied the game at 61-61 with 35 seconds remaining.
Georgia raced to a 14-2 lead in the first half and led 42-29 early in the second half before Tech came back to tie the game at 68-68 with 37 seconds left. The Bulldogs’ Shon Coleman scored on a follow shot at the shot clock buzzer with 1.9 seconds left for the win. Against Michigan, Tech fell behind by 12 in each half, but had two possessions with a chance to tie the game in the final minute. The Jackets were unable to get off a shot.
Defensive Effort one of Tech’s Best
Georgia Tech held the nation’s third-ranked team to 30.8-percent shooting from the floor Saturday in its 64-61 overtime loss to No. 3 Stanford, its best defensive effort since limiting Charleston Southern to 29.2 percent in the second game of last season.
It also was the lowest field goal percentage by a ranked opponent since No. 4 Temple managed just 26.9 percent (18-of-67) against the Jackets on Dec. 27, 1993.
The Cardinal made just 20 field goals in 65 attempts, and made only three of 19 three-point attempts (15.8 percent).
Jackets Stay Balanced in Scoring
Georgia Tech has been able to remain fairly balanced in its offensive production, with its five starters ranging from 18.6 points per game for Jason Collier to 9.3 for Shaun Fein. Tony Akins averages 13.6 points and Alvin Jones 13.1, while Jason Floyd is up to 9.6 after his 11-point game Saturday against No. 3 Stanford.
Led by Collier’s 17 points, four Tech players reached double figures against Stanford despite the Jackets’ posting their lowest point total of the young season (61 points).
All five starters have at least two double-digit scoring efforts through seven games. Collier has at least 10 in every game, while Jones and Akins have missed the mark only once each.
Collier Rebounds Against Georgia, Stanford
Jason Collier, after a two-game dry spell in losses to Kansas and Michigan, rebounded last week with strong games against Georgia and No. 2 Stanford.
The 7-0 senior scored 26 points, one off his season high of 27 against Grambling, on 11-of-20 shooting against Georgia, then led the Jackets with 17 points (6-of-16 field goals, 4-of-5 free throws) against the Cardinal. He also pulled down 10 rebounds against Georgia and 11 against Stanford for his third and fourth double-doubles of the season.
Collier resurrected his three-point shot, hitting five of 10 attempts in the two games. Prior to Georgia, Collier had attempted only five and made one.
Akins Remains Steady
Point guard Tony Akins has made definite strides as a sophomore, averaging 13.6 points and 5.1 assists while committing just 19 turnovers in Tech’s first seven games. He has hit 17 of his 43 three-point attempts (39.5 percent), including a big game-tying three with one second left in regulation Saturday against Stanford.
In the last four Tech games, Akins has scored 17 against Kansas, 19 against Michigan, 11 against Georgia and 16 against Stanford. The Lilburn, Ga., native had six points and seven assists in Tech’s 82-65 win over Washington in Alaska, a game which head coach Bobby Cremins maintained was one of his best.
Non-Conference Foes Beware
Georgia Tech is 107-4 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum during the Bobby Cremins era. Tech’s third-round NIT loss to Penn State to end the 1997-98 season snapped a 24-game home winning streak against teams outside the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The other non-conference teams to win at the Thrillerdome during Cremins’ tenure are Richmond (Dec. 22, 1987), Louisville (Jan. 15, 1989) and the College of Charleston (Jan. 16, 1993).