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Jackets Look to Rebound Against Virginia Tech

Jan. 19, 2005

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press and No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings this week, entertains Virginia Tech Saturday after a six-day layoff, opening a two-game homestand in which the Yellow Jackets also host No. 3 Wake Forest on Jan. 27. The Virginia Tech game is the Jackets’ only game over a 10-day period, and it is the teams’ first meeting since the 1984 NIT first round.

Saturday’s game will be televised over the ACC’s Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot Network, and will air in Atlanta on WATL-TV (WB36). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and airs in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1). The Tech broadcast is carried nationally on XM Satellite Radio (Ch. 180).

Tech (11-4, 2-2 ACC) won its first two ACC games with homecourt victories over Miami (80-69) and Virginia (92-69), but followed with two road losses at North Carolina (91-69) and NC State (76-68). The Yellow Jackets are undefeated at home this season (9-0) and have won 35 of their last 40 games in the Thrillerdome dating back to the final two home games of 2001-02.

Virginia Tech (8-6, 1-2 ACC) notched its first-ever ACC win with a 59-57 homecourt triumph over Clemson last Saturday and hosted NC State on Wednesday night.

Despite dropping its last two games, Tech still leads or is close to the lead in several defensive categories, including points allowed (second, 61.5 ppg), field goal percentage defense (first, .353) and three-point defense (first, .289), rebounding (third, 41.5 per game) and defensive rebounds (first, 29.1 per game). The Yellow Jackets’ struggles during their two-game losing streak stem primarily from turnovers (21 in the first half of those games) which put them behind early, and poor perimeter shooting (5-of-32 from three) which hampered their comeback efforts.

The Yellow Jackets have played the last four games without leading scorer B.J. Elder (13.2 ppg), who strained his left hamstring in the first half of the game at Kansas and has a chance to play in the Virginia Tech game. Backup center Ra’Sean Dickey, who sustained a hyperextended right knee late in Tech’s game with Virginia, missed the North Carolina game but returned to action against NC State.

Tech has played its last four-and-a-half games without 6-4 senior guard and leading scorer B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), who was averaging 13.2 points a game until he strained his left hamstring muscle in the first half of the Yellow Jackets’ loss at No. 2 Kansas on New Year’s Day. A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, Elder was shooting 43.2 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three-point range.

In his absence, Tech has gone with a starting lineup led by 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), who tops Tech in most every offensive category. Also a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring (15.5 ppg), seventh in assists (4.33 per game), fourth in field goal percentage (54.7) and second in both three-point percentage (46.4) and free throw percentage (90.2).

Jack has scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games, including 26 at Kansas and 24 at North Carolina, trying to pick up the scoring void left by Elder’s absence.

He is joined in the lineup by a quartet of seniors in 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 9.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 10.9 points and 3.1 assists.

Schenscher, who ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.40 per game), is hitting 55.0 percent of his shots from the floor and has averaged 10.8 points in league games thus far. Bynum led Tech with 21 points against Miami (8-of-15 FG), and has averaged a team-best 3.8 assists in conference games. Muhammad has made 48.1 percent of his field goals and ranks 16th in the conference in rebounding.

Jack and Schenscher have started every game, while Muhammad, McHenry and Bynum have taken turns coming off the bench. Elder had started every game until sustaining his injury.

Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, has played more and more of late, with 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) giving the Yellow Jackets a huge lift since mid-December.

Morrow scored 11 points against Miami and 13 against Virginia (in just 14 minutes), hitting 6-of-12 three-point field goals and 7-of-14 shots overall in the two wins, helping him earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. He has shot 41.2 percent from behind the arc this season, ranking seventh in the ACC, and is averaging 9. 3 points vs. the ACC so far.

Dickey, who has shot 67.4 percent from the floor to lead the team this the season, has entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center behind Luke Schenscher. He is 11-for-13 from the floor in the three ACC games he has played, including his top game of 13 points (5-5 FG) with five rebounds in just 13 minutes against Virginia.

Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has not scored yet in conference games, but played 14 minutes against Virginia, dishing three assists against just one turnover.

Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior who has logged more minutes at the power forward position while Jeremis Smith has been out. He played his best game of the season against Virginia with six points and five rebounds. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively on the perimeter. He had the best offensive game of his career against the Cavaliers with seven points, and helped limit North Carolina’s Rashad McCants to 12 points.

Smith, a 6-6 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, who had averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 points in Tech’s first two games, suffered a dislocation of his right kneecap late in the Arkansas-Little Rock game on Nov. 26 and is out indefinitely.

QUOTING COACH Paul Hewitt

On Tech’s off-week – “Hopefully we’ll use this week to iron out some of the difficulties we’ve had executing offensively. We’ll also take this time to get healthy. Ra’Sean Dickey came back last night and played very well, but this week will help him fully recover from his knee injury. Hopefully we’ll get B.J. Elder back on Saturday as well.”

On Jarrett Jack – “Jarrett is a very good all-around player, a good defensive player. He is shooting the ball much better this year. He has made a significant leap in all areas, from the floor, from three and from the foul line. He’s one of the best in the country.”

On B.J. Elder’s return – “I’m not sure when he’ll be back to practice. He practiced a little in the halfcourt on Saturday, but had a little stiffness the next day, so we have to be real careful. The biggest thing I’m concerned about is him aggravating that hamstring. The way I left it with our trainer is if he practices by Thursday, that’s fine with me.

Whether this a key stretch of Tech’s schedule (three of next four games at home) – “I think this week is crucial because it’s a great time to work on some of the things that have been bothering us, especially on the offensive end of the floor. We’ve been squandering some pretty good efforts defensively by not taking care of the ball or taking bad shots. We’ve been making some poor decisions, especially in transition. Our decisions in transition have not been very good over the past week or so.”

On the perception that North Carolina and Wake Forest are a step ahead of the rest of the ACC – “Those two teams are outstanding, but you can’t overlook Duke, which is having an outstanding season. What goes on in January, a lot of times, is not indicative of what’s going to happen as you move on. Teams are going to improve, other injuries could happen. Miami is 3-1, so you have to factor them in there until somebody beats them.”

Is Tech in that mix if Elder comes back – “I don’t want to make light of B.J.’s injury. B.J. is a significant part of our team. But as I’ve said the last two games, B.J. would have had to have superhuman efforts in order for us to win the last two games with the way we’ve played. B.J. is an outstanding player, probably our best all-around player. But we’ve got to play smarter basketball, especially at the offensive end of the floor. There’s not just one person that is going to fix what’s wrong with us right now.

SERIES NOTES WITH VIRGINIA TECH

> Virginia Tech has won four of five prior meetings with Georgia Tech, including the Yellow Jackets’ only homecourt meeting with the Hokies, a 70-59 loss in 1957, the second season the Yellow Jackets played their home games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

> Georgia Tech’s only victory over Virginia Tech in five previous meetings 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.

> The most recent meeting between the two teams occurred in the first round of the 1984 National Invitation Tournament. The Hokies, led by future NBA star Dell Curry, held off the Yellow Jackets and their future All-Americans Mark Price and John Salley, 77-74. It was Tech’s first post-season game in 13 years and a precursor to the ACC Championship season a year later.

> 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.

> Neither Paul Hewitt nor Seth Greenberg has ever faced a team coached by the other during their head coaching careers, nor has either coach faced each other’s current school. The last time the two teams met, in 1984, Bobby Cremins was in his third season at Georgia Tech, and Charlie Moir was the head coach at Virginia Tech.

JACK GOES OVER 1,000

Jarrett Jack scored 16 points Sunday to become the 36th player in Georgia Tech history to reach 1,000 career points. The 6-3 junior currently has 1,001 points and has averaged 20.4 points in his last five games.

B.J. Elder reached the 1,000-point career milestone on Jan. 20 with his first point of the game at Wake Forest last season. The 6-4 senior currently has 1,471 career points, which ranks 16th on Tech’s career chart. He needs 27 points to surpass Kenny Anderson (1,497 from 1990-91).

> Elder also holds sixth place on Tech’s career chart in three-point field goals (202). Matt Harping is fifth on the list with 211.

> Luke Schenscher stands No. 5 on Tech’s blocked shot list (137). Eddie Elisma holds the fourth position with 174.

> Jack surpassed 400 career assists in Tech’s season opener and ranks seventh in career assists (463) at Tech. Mark Price has the No. 6 position with 510.

> Jack ranks eighth in career steals (152) at Tech. Kenny Anderson is seventh with 168.

JACK A FINALIST FOR BOB COUSY AWARD

Jarrett Jack is on a list of 18 finalists for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, which considers outstanding point guards from all three NCAA divisions and is sponsored by the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jack joins a group that includes Travis Diener of Marquette, Raymond Felton of North Carolina, Chris Hernandez of Stanford, Aaron Miles of Kansas, Carl Krauser of Pittsburgh and Chris Thomas of Notre Dame. Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph’s won the award last year.

TECH AGAINST THE ACC

> Against the ACC, Tech still ranks first against the league in field goal percentage defense (36.2), sixth in three-point defense (31.7 pct.), second in blocked shots (7.24 per game), fourth in rebounding (41.0 per game) and ninth in scoring defense (76.2 ppg).

> Tech is third in scoring offense (77.2), fifth in field goal percentage (45.3), eighth in three-point percentage (28.4) and eighth in three-pointers per game (5.25).

> Jarrett Jack ranks fourth among his peers in scoring at 19.0 points per game, first in three-point field goal percentage (55.6), fourth in three-point field goals made (2.50 per game) and third in free throw percentage (92.3 pct.).

> Luke Schenscher ranks seventh in rebound average at 8.3 per game, third in blocked shots (3.25 per game) and is shooting 54.5 percent against the league.

> Will Bynum ranks sixth in assist average (3.75 per game) and fifth in assist-turnover ratio (2.14-1).

TECH STOCK TIPS

> Jarrett Jack has made 16 straight free throws dating back to his final attempt against Virginia on Jan. 8. He went 10-for-10 at North Carolina and 5-for-5 at NC State. Away from Atlanta this season, Jack is 24-of-25 (96.0 percent) from the charity stripe.

> Jack’s 54.7 percent shooting from the floor leads all ACC guards.

> Ra’Sean Dickey is 11-for-13 from the floor in three ACC games.

> Tech has made just 5-of-32 three-point shots in its last two games (both losses) and has shot 31.4 percent from that distance in its last five games dating back to Jan. 1 vs. Kansas.

> Tech has a minus-4 rebounding deficit against the ACC and has outrebounded only Virginia.

> Tech has turned the ball over 15.3 times per game against the ACC, the same as its overall season norm. An average of 8.8 of those have come in the first half, including 11 against NC State and 10 against North Carolina.

> In four conference games so far, Tech’s opponents have been to the free throw line 126 times to Tech’s 98. In the two road games, the opponents have shot 72 free throws to Tech’s 53.

> In its losses this season, Tech has shot just 40.9 percent from the floor overall and 27.5 percent of its three-point attempts. Conversely, Tech has allowed the three opponents 42.0 percent from three-point range. Tech has been outrebounded in each of those games.

> At home this season, Tech has outshot its opponents 49.6 percent to 33.2. From three-point range, Tech has shot 38.7 percent to its opponents’ 23.4 percent.

> Tech’s three freshmen are averaging 13.3 points a game combined.

> Tech has played only three games closer than 10 points, a 60-59 victory at Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 22, a 70-68 loss at Kansas and a 76-68 loss at NC State. The average margin of the other games has been 27.2 points.

TECH IN THE THRILLERDOME

Georgia Tech is playing its 49th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center, and the Jackets have a record of 487-163 (.749) in the building, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke. Since the 1981-82 season, Tech is 249-62 (.801) in its on-campus home.

The Yellow Jackets are 9-0 at home this season, and have won 35 of their last 40 games in the Thrillerdome dating back to the final two home games of 2001-02.

Tech is 141-8 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, including 22 straight wins against such teams. From 1981 through last season, the only non-ACC teams to win at the Thrillerdome were Penn, Tulane and IUPUI (all in the 2001-02 season), Georgia (2000), Penn State (1998), College of Charleston (1993), Louisville (1989), and Richmond (1987).

Georgia Tech played to sellout crowds every home game after its run to the Preseason NIT championship, and that included all of Tech’s home games during the break between fall and winter semesters. The Thrillerdome has been sold out for this entire season since early summer.

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