Feb. 10, 2009
ATLANTA – Unable to sustain the momentum it grabbed with a Jan. 31 victory over Wake Forest, Georgia Tech goes in search of its second Atlantic Coast Conference victory of the season Wednesday night when it visits Virginia Tech in a 7 p.m. game at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
Wednesday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and is available in Atlanta on flagship station WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1).
Tech (10-12 overall, 1-8 ACC), has lost two straight games since that 76-74 victory over the sixth-ranked Demon Deacons, including a 57-56 defeat to Maryland Sunday night in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets have lost seven of their last eight games and are 0-4 on the road in conference play this season. Six of Tech’s conference losses have come by seven or fewer points, three of those in overtime.
Virginia Tech (15-7 overall, 5-3 ACC) has played its share of close games as well, but has come out on the winning side more often. The Hokies rallied to defeat NC State, 91-87, Sunday for their second overtime win in ACC play this year, and seven of their eight conference games have been decided by eight points or fewer.
The teams split their regular-season series last year, each team winning at home, and the Yellow Jackets will look to capture their first-ever win in Cassell Coliseum (0-4 previously).
Free throw shooting and/or turnovers, the primary culprits in Tech’s 1-8 conference start, have negated a fine defensive effort by Coach Paul Hewitt’s team. The Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense in conference games (39.1 pct.) and rank fourth in scoring defense (72.0 ppg). But Tech has struggled to score consistently, averaging 64.1 points over its last eight games while committing 6.2 more turnovers per game and getting outscored by nearly five points per game at the charity stripe. Tech has scored less than 60 points five times this year, and has shot less than 50 percent in its last 13 straight games.
Series With Virginia Tech
> Virginia Tech has won eight of 11 all-time meetings with Georgia Tech, including four of six as a member of the ACC. The Hokies won the first three games played in Atlanta before the Yellow Jackets captured an 81-70 decision last season on Jan. 19.
> Georgia Tech won the teams’ only ACC Tournament encounter, a 73-54 victory in the first round of the 2005 tournament in Washington, D.C. Tech, which outscored the Hokies 43-29 in the second half and shot 54.9 percent from the floor in the game, went on to reach the tournament finals.
> Georgia Tech has lost all three previous meetings with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, including a last-second, 63-62 loss on Jan. 31, 2006, and a 92-84 decision last year. The Hokies, led by future NBA star Dell Curry, held off the Jackets and their future All-Americans Mark Price and John Salley, 77-74, in the teams’ first meeting at Cassell Coliseum in 1984. It was Georgia Tech’s first post-season game in 13 years and a precursor to the ACC Championship season a year later.
> Georgia Tech’s first victory over Virginia Tech occurred on Dec. 27, 1962, a 73-72 overtime triumph at the Gator Bowl Tournament that was part of an 11-0 start for the Yellow Jackets. Tech went on to finish the season 21-5. Both teams were ranked in the UPI poll at the time, Georgia Tech at No. 18, Virginia Tech at No. 14.
> Both teams were members of the old Metro Conference, but not at the same time. Georgia Tech was a member for three seasons from 1975-76 through 1977-78 before leaving to join the ACC. Virginia Tech joined the league for the 1978-79 season.
Tech Players vs. Virginia Tech
Alade Aminu – 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in two meetings last year (6-12 FG, 4 blocked shots)
Lewis Clinch – two total points in two meetings last year, five total points in three career games
Gani Lawal – 6.0 points, 3.5 rebounds per game in two meetings last year (4-13 FG)
Moe Miller – scored a career-high 29 points (7-12 FG, 13-14 FT) with five assists in 92-84 loss last year in Blacksburg
Zachery Peacock – 1.7 ppg (1-6 FG) in three career meetings
Brad Sheehan – played only five minutes in loss at Blacksburg, did not play in Atlanta
Lance Storrs – played in both games last year, but did not score
Team – this has not been a high-scoring series traditionally – Tech scored 81 and 84 points in the two meetings last year, its highest point totals of the 11-game series … the Jackets averaged 67.3 points in the first four meetings between the two teams after Virginia Tech joined the ACC, the Hokies averaged 65.0.
Struggling to Score
Georgia Tech has ranked as one of the better defensive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year (see below), but has not been able to capitalize on that due to shortcomings on offense.
The Jackets rank 11th in the ACC in scoring average, ninth in field goal percentage and 11th in three-point percentage overall this year, and are even further down the charts in conference games only, averaging 66.3 points and shooting 40.2 percent in league games. Turnovers, 19.4 per game, are part of the problem.
> Tech has not shot better than 43.1 percent in nine games, and less than 40 percent in four of those. Over that span, the Jackets have failed to score 60 points in a game four times, and have reached 70 points just four times (three of those in overtime).
> Tech has lost five games in which it has held its opponent to under 40 percent from the floor. Why – a minus-9.0 turnover margin and a minus-8.4 point differential at the foul line.
> In Tech’s last eight games, it has committed 6.2 more turnovers per game and been outscored at the foul line by 4.6 points per game.
> Tech’s overall field goal percentage of 43.5 is its lowest since the 2001-02 season (43.1 pct.). Between 1996 and 2002, the last four years under Bobby Cremins and the first two under Paul Hewitt, Tech went through a period of poor shooting from the floor, beginning with a 39.6-percent year in 1996-97. The Jackets followed that with 41.1 percent in 1998-99, 40.8 percent in 1999-00 and 42.6 percent in 2000-01.
Nothing to Show for the Defense
Georgia Tech’s offensive struggled are well documented, but the defensive effort put forth by the Yellow Jackets this year ranks among the better ones by Paul Hewitt’s teams.
Tech’s opponents are shooting 39.4 percent from the floor, which ranks fourth in the ACC and third-best among Hewitt’s nine Yellow Jacket teams. In fact, only two Tech teams since 1960-61 have held opponents under 40 percent for a season (2003-04 and 2004-05), both coached by Hewitt.
In conference games only, Tech ranks fourth in scoring defense (72.0 ppg) and FIRST in field goal percentage defense (39.1 pct.). Tech also ranks sixth against the three (32.1 pct.) in ACC games, third in blocked shots (5.7 pg) and seventh in steals (6.7 pg).
Tech has allowed only two opponents to shoot 50 percent in a game this year, and no ACC opponent has shot better than 44.6 percent (Wake Forest in Tech’s lone conference victory).
Tight Finishes Again Dot Tech Schedule
Georgia Tech’s 57-56 loss to Maryland was the Yellow Jackets’ 10th game this season decided by five points or less, and Tech is 4-6 in those games. Only three of Tech’s 10 losses this year have come by 10 or more points.
Tech has played four overtime games this season (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.
Quoting Coach Hewitt
On what is needed to improve on offense – “I guess our guys are feeling freer and easier in shooting the ball because they’ve been moving the ball very well. They have been getting good looks but just not knocking them down. They are trying hard to make them maybe they just need to relax a little bit.”
“The last couple of games have been the story of our season going all the way to the first game against Virginia when we lost in overtime. We’ve had three overtime games; six games that came down to the last minute. Early in the year it was free throw shooting that was bothering us and our free throw shooting has improved dramatically but our shooting from the floor is kind of gone the other way.”
On having an inexperienced point guard – “Well I’m sure it helps to have an experienced point guard out there. Iman is playing some really good basketball for us this year. Moe has been up and down, I think largely because of the fracture he had and he had to have surgery. So I’m sure that had something to do with it. But we’ve had our chances. It’s not like we haven’t had chances to close games out, whether it’s with free throw shooting, making our shots, or even just poor turnovers, unforced turnovers. I wouldn’t want to put it all on the point guard. We’ve just got to step up and make some plays at some point.”
On having lost so many tight games – “It’s tough for sleep, that’s the only impact it has had on me but that’s coaching. You know you want to get up and watch tapes and try to figure out ways to make things easier on this ball club, because they have been giving us a tremendous effort out there. I give the kids a lot of credit. I worry more about their staying power and their resilience, but every day they come back to practice, and they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. You look at our defensive numbers and the rebounding numbers, and that tells you all that you need to know about the effort level these kids are putting out. You just don’t do that by sleep walking around and feeling sorry for yourself. They’re trying really hard.”