ATLANTA – Looking to bounce back from a mid-week loss at No. 23 Wake Forest, Georgia Tech returns home for a key Atlantic Coast Conference contest at 4 p.m. Saturday against NC State at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
Tech, 14-9 overall and 6-6 in ACC games, comes into the game in a four-team logjam in the conference standings. The Yellow Jackets are tied with Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland, teams they are 4-2 against in head-to-head competition this season. North Carolina (11-0) and Duke (10-2) hold the top two positions, while the Wolfpack comes into Saturday’s game in seventh place at 12-11 overall and 4-7 in league play.
Tech has won four of its last six games, including a pair of wins over Maryland, ranked No. 13 at the time, and Virginia, No. 6 at the time. But the Yellow Jackets took an 81-65 loss at Wake Forest Wednesday to snap the two-game streak. Head coach Paul Hewitt’s team is 4-2 at home in conference games this season, while State is 1-4 on the road.
Junior guard Tony Akins has averaged 18.4 points and shot 56.1 percent from the floor in his last five games. Tech continues to get strong inside play from center Alvin Jones, who is averaging 14.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in ACC games.
The 6-11 senior leads Tech in scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.7 points and an ACC-leading 10.0 rebounds this season and is shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. Senior Shaun Fein, a 6-3 guard, averages 14.1 per game and is shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range. Also averaging in double figures are the 5-11 Akins, 13.8 points and 4.3 assists. The other two starters are 6-3 freshman forward Marvin Lewis (9.7 points per game) and 6-7 senior forward Jon Babul, 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
After Saturday’s game, Tech’s remaining games are at Duke on Feb. 20, Clemson at home on Feb. 25 and at Florida State on Feb. 28.
Georgia Tech vs. NC State Series Notes
NC State won the first meeting between the two schools this season, 72-60, on Jan. 16 in Raleigh, extending its lead in the all-time series to 40-28.
The Wolfpack have won 8 of the last 9 meetings with Tech, including a 7-game winning streak from 1997 to last year. Prior to that, Tech won 7 in a row from 1994-97.
Tech has a 13-11 record against NC State at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Jackets won the last meeting here, 66-63, on Feb. 24 of last season. The Wolfpack won two in a row at AMC prior to that. Tech is 16-11 all-time against NC State at home.
Despite the commanding series lead by NC State overall, Tech is 19-18 against the Wolfpack since 1985. Tech is 20-27 vs. State since joining the ACC.
State’s 72-60 win on Jan. 16 was the first double-digit win for either team in seven meetings dating back to an ACC Tournament encounter on Mar. 6, 1997.
Neither team has scored more than 75 points in the last 10 meetings dating back to the 1995-96 season.
The first meeting between the two teams occurred on Feb. 16, 1925, a 35-12 Wolfpack win in Raleigh.
Tech coach Paul Hewitt is 0-1 against NC State. State coach Herb Sendek is 8-2 against Tech.
Last Time Out
No. 23 Wake Forest ended a two-game Georgia Tech winning streak with an 81-65 victory over the Yellow Jackets Wednesday night in Winston-Salem. Josh Howard led the Demon Deacons with 18 points, and Robert O’Kelley matched that with 18 off the bench, hitting 4 of 7 three-point field goals.
Tech placed four players in double digures, led by Tony Akins with 16 points and Alvin Jones with 11 and 13 rebounds. Shaun Fein and Robert Brooks each added 10. Brooks’ 10 points, a career high, came on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the floor, and Tech had just 14 turnovers. But Wake Forest commanded the boards by a 36-24 margin, and Tech grabbed just four offensive rebounds for eight second-chance points.
It was Tech’s first loss this season when shooting 50 percent (4-1). Wake became only the second Tech opponent this season to shoot 50 percent.
Alvin Jones became Tech’s all-time leader in free throw attempts, going 5-for-7 to push his career total in attempts to 680, passing Matt Harpring.
Jones achieved his 9th double-double of the season, 6th in ACC games, and the 30th of his career.
Tech in the Thrillerdome
Georgia Tech is playing its 45th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center in 2000-01, and the Yellow Jackets are 9-3 on their home court this season. The Jackets have a record of 443-150 (.747) in the facility, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke.
Since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, Tech is 206-50 (.805) in its on-campus home, including an 11-3 mark last season. The Jackets are 117-5 against non-conference opponents at the Thrillerdome since 1981-82.
A Look at Tech’s Record
Tech has four wins over ranked teams in conference play – Virginia twice, Maryland and Wake Forest. Three of those wins came when the teams were ranked in the Top 10 (both vs. Virginia, first meeting vs. Wake Forest).
Tech is tied with Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland at 6-6 in the ACC. Tech is 4-2 head-to-head against those teams.
Tech is 4-2 at home in conference play, 2-4 on the road (wins vs. Virginia and Clemson). Tech’s 2-6 overall on the road this season includes losses at Iowa, Stanford, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina and Wake Forest. All but Iowa are currently in the top 25, and Iowa has spent several weeks there.
Tech has exceeded its total win and conference win totals from last season.
Four of Tech’s nine losses this season have come against teams who have held the No. 1 ranking at some point during this season – Stanford, North Carolina (twice) and Duke. The Jackets have one game remaining against Duke.
Tech has played 12 games against teams currently rated in the Top 30 of the Sagarin index – more than any other Division I team – including non-conference games against Stanford, Kentucky and UCLA – and has won six of them. Iowa (32nd) Georgia (33rd) were ranked in the top 30 until last week.
Following its two wins over No. 10 Virginia and No. 6 Wake Forest in January, Georgia Tech zoomed as high as No. 20 in the Sagarin NCAA Basketball Rankings. Tech is currently No. 28, and its strength of schedule is rated 6th in the Sagarin rankings.
Tech has 10 games out of 16 conference contests against Top 20 teams, including Duke (1st in Sagarin), North Carolina (3rd), Wake Forest (8th), Virginia (12th) and Maryland (23rd).
College RPI.com, which is supposed to mirror the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index but is produced independently without NCAA input, has Tech ranked 35th and its strength of schedule 14th as of Thursday.
Shooting Touch Flickers
Georgia Tech has struggled with its perimeter shooting in the last five games since knocking down a school-record 17 three-pointers and shooting 54.8 percent from behind the arc against Clemson.
The Yellow Jackets have shot just 29.1 percent in the last five games, and that includes a 9-for-20 (45 percent) performance against No. 13 Maryland. Tech shot 50 percent Wednesday night at Wake Forest, but just 7-of-21 from three-point range.
Having depended on its capable three-point shooters this season, Georgia Tech remains second in the ACC in three-point percentage (38.9 overall, 37.3 in ACC games). The Jackets rank 2nd in the ACC and 5th nationally in three-point field goals per game (8.87).
Two Tech players rank officially among the ACC’s top 10 in three-point field goal percentage, led by Shaun Fein (3rd, 43.5), followed by Tony Akins (5th, 39.6). Fein has made 44.8 percent in ACC games, second-best in the conference. Freshmen Marvin Lewis (40.5 percent from three) and Halston Lane (40.6) have shot well but do not have enough attempts to make the league rankings.
Shooting and Defense
Georgia Tech is 4-1 this season in which it has topped the 50-percent mark from the field, is 6-0 when scoring 90 points or more and 8-1 when scoring 80 or more.
At the same time, the key to Tech’s ability to win this year has been defense. So far this year, Tech is 10-0 when holding opponents under 70 points, and 8-0 when holding them under 40 percent on field goals. The Jackets held Virginia under 40 percent in both their victories over the Cavaliers. Tech is 6-9 when its opponent has shot 40 percent or higher.
Tech ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (40.6) and fourth in three-point defense (32.8).
Basketball Jones Continues Great Stretch
Alvin Jones is enjoying his finest season as a Yellow Jacket, and currently is enjoying the finest stretch of his career. He recorded his 30th career double-double Wednesday night at Wake Forest with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The 6-11 senior still leads the Jackets in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and has taken over the ACC lead in rebounding at 10.0 per game. He has reached double digits in rebounds in five straight games, averaging 14.0. That includes an 18-board effort at North Carolina, the most by any ACC player this year.
In his last nine games, Jones has made 43 of his 89 field goal attempts (48.3 percent) in that stretch and averaged 2.1 assists (career high 6 vs. Clemson). Remarkably, he has made 70.4 percent of his free throws in that span (57 of 81), including 24 of 34 combined against Clemson and FSU.
Jones has led the Jackets in scoring seven times this season, and currently leads the squad in scoring both in all games (14.6, 11th in the ACC) and in ACC games (14.8, 11th). He has a chance to become the first Georgia Tech center ever to make first-team all-ACC.
Alvin Jones is the ACC’s career leader among active players in double-doubles with 30, having done it four times in the last six games and six times against ACC opposition this year, including a 11-point, 13-rebound effort against Wake Forest in Tech’s last game. Jones also notched double-doubles against Florida State (26 points, 14 rebounds), Wake Forest (17 points and 10 rebounds), North Carolina (16 points, 18 rebounds) and in both games against Maryland (15/14 and 11/11).
Akins Contributes, Scoring or Not
Tony Akins may not be the most improved player on the floor for Georgia Tech this season, but he is close, scoring when needed and distributing the ball effectively when not.
The 5-11 junior point guard has averaged 13.8 points (15th in the ACC) and 4.4 assists per game (6th in the ACC) with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and direct Tech’s offense.
Since going scoreless against Clemson for the first time in his career, Akins has rebounded to average 18.4 points in the last four games, including a season-high 28 vs. Maryland. He has shot 56.1 percent from the floor, 42.3 percent from three-point land, and averaged 3.6 assists in that stretch.
The Lilburn, Ga., native enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season in Tech’s second meeting with Maryland, matching his season high with 28 points (8-of-11 FG, 3-of-3 3FG, 9-of-12 FT) with four assists and four rebounds. Against Virginia, he snuffed out the Cavaliers’ Donald Hand, who went 0-for-9 from the floor, scored just 2 points and had 6 turnovers.
For the season, Akins ranks 5th in the ACC in three-point percentage (39.6) and 6th in three-point field goals per game (2.30). He also shoots 73.4 percent from the foul line.
Shooting for 1,000 on the Boards
Alvin Jones has risen to fourth on Georgia Tech’s all-time list for rebounds with 992. He has averaged 14 caroms in his last five games, including 18 boards North Carolina, a season high for any ACC player and one off his career best.
Jones needs 8 rebounds to reach the 1,000 plateau for his career and become only the second Tech player to do so. Jim Caldwell holds third place (993 from 1963-65), and Matt Harpring holds second (997 from 1995-98).
Only Malcolm Mackey, who holds the Tech record for rebounds with 1,205 and ranks 10th in Tech history with 1,734 points, has surpassed the 1,000 plateau in both points and rebounds at Tech.
Akins Third Tech Player With 1,000 Points
Tony Akins went over the 1,000-point plateau for his career Wednesday at Wake Forest, the 32nd Tech player to do so all-time. His 16 points in the game gave him 1,011 in two-plus seasons, joining Alvin Jones to pass the mark this year.
Alvin Jones went over the 1,000-point barrier for his career on Dec. 6 against Georgia, becoming the 31st Tech player to do so. The 6-11 senior center has 1,246 career points (22nd in Tech history).
He became the third player on Tech’s current team with 1,000 career points. Shaun Fein, including two years at Stonehill College, has 1,614.
A Case for the Defense
Georgia Tech has held 27 of its last 29 opponents under 50 percent, including a 23-game streak that ended at Clemson (51.7 percent).
Dating back to last season’s regular season finale against Clemson, Georgia Tech has held 10 of 23 opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor, including both meetings with Virginia this season (35.1 and 38.6).
Tech has twice held opponents under 30 percent this season: UCLA managed just 28.6 percent in Tech’s 72-67 win, and Wofford with 25.5 percent in the season opener, and came close to that with Idaho State (30.6) and Harvard (30.1).
Tech has defended the perimeter well. Ten opponents have managed no better than 30 percent from three-point range, including Stanford (6-of-20), North Carolina (4-of-14), Maryland (3-of-13), Virginia (6-of-25 and 3-of-18) and Wake Forest (4-of-19).
For the season, Tech has allowed opponents just 40.6 percent from the floor, which ranks 3rd in the ACC, and 32.8 percent from three-point range, 4th in the ACC.
Free Throw Mark on the Line for Jones
By going 5-for-7 from the free throw line Wednesday night at Wake Forest, Alvin Jones became the all-time leading free throw shooter, in terms of attempts, at Georgia Tech.
The 6-11 senior, who has attempted 680 charity tosses in his career and made 396 (7th on the all-time list), pass the mark of 675 set by Matt Harpring from 1995-98. Harpring also holds the Tech record for free throws made (508).
Jackets Toe the Line
Georgia Tech has been to the free throw line an average of 25.4 times in conference games this season, compared with 20.9 times in pre-conference play. Only Duke (342 FTA) and Virginia (307) has been to the line more than Tech (305) has in conference games.
That includes 25-of-37 vs. Wake Forest, 28-of-34 vs. Duke, 26-of-39 vs. Clemson, 25-of-36 vs. Florida State and 21-of-32 vs. Maryland.
Tech is shooting better as well since conference play began, making 70.2 percent of its free throws as a team in league games, compared to just 68.3 percent before the New Year began. For the season, Tech has improved to 69.3 percent.
The last Tech team to shoot 70 percent for a season was the 1995-96 edition that finished the ACC regular season in first place and reached the NCAA round of 16. One of the hallmarks of Paul Hewitt’s teams at Siena was excellent free throw shooting. The Saints shot 77.8 percent from the charity stripe in his three seasons, and led the nation twice.
Alvin Jones (63.2 percent overall, 65.4 percent in ACC games), Jon Babul (82.2, 77.3), Tony Akins (73.4, 73.1) and Shaun Fein (66.7, 68.2) are all at career-high levels from the free throw line. Freshman Marvin Lewis has outshot all of them at 87.2 percent overall and 88.0 percent in conference games. Babul ranks fifth in the ACC.
Jones Causes High Attrition Rate
Eight post men have fouled out guarding Alvin Jones this season, Lonny Baxter of Maryland becoming the 8th last week. The list includes Jared Reiner of Iowa, Marvin Stone of Kentucky, Michael Canady of Morgan State, Watson, Ray Henderson of Clemson, and Mike Mathews and David Anderson of Florida State.
Another group of seven players, including Anthony Evans of Georgia, Doug Silva of Idaho State, Onnie Mayshak of Harvard, Brendan Haywood of North Carolina, Baxter (on Jan. 6), Shoemaker and Carlos Boozer of Duke, have finished the game with four fouls each.
In two games vs. Tech, Baxter scored a total of 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the floor and 2-of-4 from the line. Jones held Haywood scoreless (0-for-6 FG) in Tech’s first meeting with North Carolina and to 7 points (2-of-5 FG) in the second meeting.
Tower of Babul
Jon Babul has stepped forward in conference play this season, averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds and getting nearly half of his points at the free throw line (34 of 44, 77.3 percent). He has committed just 16 turnovers, a team low which translates into one every 29.0 minutes.
In his last seven games, Babul has averaged 8.0 points and 4.4 rebounds, hitting 22 of 29 free throws and dishing out 10 assists with just 5 turnovers in 167 minutes. Left open on many occasions against Virginia, Babul scored nine points, including a critical second-half three-pointer.
The 6-7 senior turned in the best game of his career against an ACC team at Clemson, scoring 14 points in Georgia Tech’s 111-108 victory. Babul went 5-of-7 from the floor, including a three-pointer, and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. He also matched a season high with six rebounds and dished three assists before fouling out.