Nov. 30, 2001
ATLANTA — Fresh off a thrilling, 62-61 comeback win over Wisconsin Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Georgia Tech opens conference play Sunday night against North Carolina.
Tech leveled its record at 3-3 with the win over the Badgers, while the Tar Heels (0-3) have yet to scratch in the win column after home losses to Hampton, Davidson and Indiana. The game begins a stretch of four consecutive Sunday games for Tech, followed by Georgia next Sunday, Syracuse on Dec. 16 and Tulane on Dec. 23.
“They’re wounded right now,” head coach Paul Hewitt said of the Tar Heels. “They’re taking good shots, but they aren’t falling for them. If they start hitting shots against us, they become a very strong team. Kris Lang and Jason Capel are among the best players in the ACC. They’ve got a lot of answers for us, particularly because we don’t have a lot of depth in the frontcourt. However, if we play with energy, our style of play could bother them.”
The backcourt tandem of Tony Akins (5-11, Lilburn, Ga.) and Marvin Lewis (6-4, Germantown, Md.) leads the Yellow Jackets. Akins, the senior point guard who made the Las Vegas all-tournament team, averages 15.8 points and 4.0 assists and is shooting 38.8 percent from three-point range. Lewis, a sophomore, is averaging 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, has hit 56.5 percent of his three-point attempts and is shooting 43.5 percent overall.
After using the same starting five in each of Tech’s first five games, Hewitt shuffled the lineup for Wisconsin, starting 6-8 sophomore Robert Brooks (Saginaw, Mich.) at center and 6-6 freshman Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.) at forward in place of 7-foot freshman Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia) and 6-5 sophomore Clarence Moore (Norco, La.). Brooks averages 2.0 points and 4.7 rebounds, while McHenry averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds. The fifth starter is 6-7 freshman forward Ed Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who averages 5.7 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds.
“Guys who start are of little consequence. It’s the guys who finish the game,” said Hewitt. “I wanted to get Anthony McHenry untracked. He didn’t play as well as we would have liked. Last night, he started to show some good signs of getting out of it, and was outstanding in practice this morning. He’s a very talented player. He needs to be challenged more.”
Freshman B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), a 6-3 freshman, is Tech’s top scorer off the bench at 8.3 points per game, third on the team. Moore averages 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds, and Schenscher 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds. Isma’il Muhammad, a 6-5 freshman forward from Atlanta (6.0 points, 3.0 rebounds) and Halston Lane, a 6-5 sophomore from Oak Ridge, Tenn. (6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds) also receive significant minutes off the bench.
Tech has struggled offensively since going to Las Vegas, averaging just 63 points per game, and hit just 37.4 percent of its field goal attempts in the three games at Las Vegas. The Jackets improved Wednesday night against Wisconsin, however, hitting 45.5 percent from the floor.
After the Wisconsin victory, the Jackets got back on the court for practice at 6 a.m. Thursday to begin preparing for North Carolina. “We got a lot accomplished,” Hewitt said. “It was short and quick, spirited practice.”
Comeback over Wisconsin Biggest in Recent Memory
Down 51-31 with 16 minutes left in the game Wednesday, Tech staged a furious rally to post a last-second, 62-61 defeat of Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Tech outscored Wisconsin 31-10 in the final 16 minutes, holding the Badgers scoreless over the final 4:18 while senior guard Tony Akins scored seven of his game-high 20 points and sophomore Halston Lane hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to give Tech its first lead since midway through the first half. Freshman Isma’il Muhammad fueled the comeback at the front of Tech’s press, making a pair of steals and scoring six points in the run. Tech forced 10 of Wisconsin’s 17 turnovers in the final 16 minutes. The 20-point comeback was the biggest Tech has had in the last 20 years, eclipsing a 15-point deficit in the final 10:33 against Georgia on Dec. 13, 1998 for an 94-79 overtime victory, and an 11-point deficit in the final 4:51 against the Bulldogs on Dec. 3, 1996. Tech also rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Louisville, 94-86, on Dec. 20, 1997 at the Georgia Dome. “Our kids saw a great example of when you play hard and you play unselfish and together, you can be a very good team,” Hewitt said. “Wisconsin was well-prepared and ready to play. “We executed some very good things very well (during the rally), stuff we haven’t executed all year. Maybe it takes being down 20 to stop turning the ball over. But the last 12 or 15 minutes our execution was almost flawless in a lot of areas. What we need to do as a coaching staff is try and get them to maintain that concentration and energy level throughout the game.”
Tech vs. North Carolina
North Carolina leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 52-14, and has won the last seven in a row dating back to Dec. 22, 1998, when Tech posted a 66-64 victory at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (the last time the teams met in the month of December). The Jackets are 4-20 all-time in Chapel Hill, including a 3-13 mark at the Smith Center. Tech’s last win at the Smith Center was a 92-83 overtime victory on Feb. 10, 1996, which completed a season sweep of the Tar Heels. Last season, the Tar Heels defeated Tech 84-70 in Atlanta, 82-69 in Chapel Hill, and 70-63 in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament at the Georgia Dome. Tech’s greatest success in its series with North Carolina occurred during the middle 1990s when the Jackets won five of seven meetings during one stretch. The string included three straight wins over No. 1-ranked Tar Heel teams, 77-75 on Mar. 14, 1993 in the ACC Tournament finals, 89-69 on Jan. 12, 1994 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and 96-89 on Feb. 12, 1994 at the Dean Smith Center. (See page 246 of the Tech media guide for further details.) Current assistant coach Willie Reese was on Tech teams that went 1-8 against North Carolina, but the win came in his final home game as a Jacket when Dennis Scott stole an inbounds pass and drained a three-point shot with four seconds left for a 76-74 victory in Atlanta.
Tech Holding Its Own On The Boards
Rebounding and size were pre-season concerns for head coach Paul Hewitt, but the Yellow Jackets have gotten off to a good start on the boards. Tech has outrebounded its six opponents by an average of almost 10 (44.2 to 34.8). Even with 6-11 Alvin Jones leading the ACC in rebounding a year ago, Tech struggled as a team, being outrebounded 40-to-37.5 for the season. More impressive is the fact that Tech has averaged 17.8 offensive rebounds, which leads the ACC. Three Tech players – Clarence Moore (3.83), Ed Nelson (3.17) and Marvin Lewis (2.83) rank among the ACC’s top 10 in offensive rebounds.
Focus Shifts to Perimeter
After four years of Alvin Jones drawing the attention of opposing defenses, Georgia Tech has spread its offensive strength to the perimeter. Tech’s starting backcourt tandem of Marvin Lewis and Tony Akins rank No. 1 and 2 at 15.8 and 14.0 points a game, with reserve guard B.J. Elder at 8.8 and small forward Clarence Moore averaging 8.0 points. Reserve swingman Halston Lane is next at 6.2 points per game. Power forward Ed Nelson is sixth at 5.7 points.
A Case for the Defense
In all three of its wins this season, Georgia Tech has held its opponent under 70 points and under 40 percent shooting from the floor. Only once has Tech lost when its opponent failed to reach 70 points (67-54 to Saint Louis). In the three wins, Florida A&M scoreed 62 points while shooting 33.3 percent, Eastern Illinois scored 65 while shooting 31 percent, and Wisconsin scored 61 while hitting 39.2 percent of its field goal attempts. Last season, Tech was 14-2 when its opponents shot below 40 percent and failed to score 70 points.
Akins At The Point
Tony Akins has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player through five games, scoring in double digits each time out and leading the Jackets in scoring along with Marvin Lewis at 15.8 points per game. The 5-11 senior has scored in double figures and hit a three-pointer in 17 straight games since going scoreless against Clemson on Jan. 24 last season. He notched a season-high 20 points Wednesday night against Wisconsin, along with a season-high 8 assists and 5 rebounds. Akins went over the 1,000-point plateau for his career at Wake Forest last Feb. 14, the 32nd Tech player to do so all-time. He now has 1,213 career points, jumping from 27th to 23rd place in Tech history last week at Las Vegas. He needs 41 points to move past Drew Barry (1,253 points, 1993-96) for 22nd place. Akins also ranks ninth in career assists (400) and 11th in steals (122).
Lewis Becomes Leader for Jackets
As a freshman, Marvin Lewis grabbed a starting role and made the most of it, showing poise and maturity to the point where he is now considered one of the team’s leaders as a sophomore. Lewis, the only double-figure scorer for Tech besides Tony Akins thus far, is averaging 14.0 points per game including a season-high 21 points against Eastern Illinois. The 6-4 sophomore is 13-for-23 from three-point range and 17-of-20 from the foul line (3rd in the ACC). He has continued to be a solid rebounder from the wing, averaging 5.7 per game (17 offensive, 17 defensive). As a 6-3 small forward for the Jackets last year, Lewis averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, ranking third among ACC freshmen in both categories, and made the ACC all-Freshman team and the Academic all-ACC team.
Akins For Three
Tony Akins is making his mark as one of the top three-point shooters in Georgia Tech history. Only Dennis Scott (351-for-831), Travis Best (258-for-656) rank ahead of Akins on Tech’s career lists for three-point field goals made and attempted. Akins, who is 222-for-618 in his career (35.9 percent), has hit a three-pointer in 18 straight games. Scott, who set his records in three seasons, shot 42.2 percent from three-point range in his career.
Bench a Necessary Component for Tech
Playing with a 10-man rotation since the arrival of head coach Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech has come to rely more on its bench for scoring. Tech received 20.4 points per game from its reserves last season, roughly 25 percent of its total scoring output. This season, Tech has gotten 24.7 points per game from its bench, roughly 35 percent of its total scoring output of 70.5 points per game. The high was 40 points in the Jackets’ 97-62 win over Florida A&M. Tech has had a double-figure scorer off the bench in three of six games.
Georgia Tech (3-3, 0-0) vs. North Carolina (0-3, 0-0)December 2, 2001 o 6 p.m. o Dean E. Smith Center o Chapel Hill, N.C.
TV: Fox Sports Net, Thom Brennaman, pbp, Kenny Smith, color Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WTSH-FM (107.1), WMAX-FM (98.1), WSNY-FM (100.1), WLKQ-FM (102.3), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com Tech Record: 3-3, 0-0 ACC (H: 2-1, A: 0-0, N: 1-2) Series vs. North Carolina: UNC leads, 52-14 2000-01 meetings: Jan. 2, UNC won, 84-70, Atlanta, Feb. 3, UNC won, 82-69, Chapel Hill, Mar. 10, UNC won, 70-63, ACC Tournament Hewitt Record: 86-43 (.667), 5th season Hewitt at Tech: 20-16 (.556), 2nd season Last game: Nov. 28, Tech d. Wisconson, 62-61, in Atlanta Next game: Dec. 9, vs. Georgia, 2 p.m., in Athens More info: Ramblinwreck.com
Probable Starters F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 1.7 ppg 1.2 apg F 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 5.7 ppg 8.2 rpg C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 3.7 ppg 4.7 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 15.8 ppg 3.7 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 14.0 ppg 5.7 rpg
Top Reserves F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 8.0 ppg 6.7 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 6.0 ppg 3.0 ppg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 6.2 ppg 3.2 rpg G 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 8.3 ppg 2.2 rpg C 12 Luke Schenscher 7-0 Fr. 3.7 ppg 2.5 rpg