Jackets Take Two-Game Win Streak to No. 15 Wake Forest

GameNotes (PDF File)

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech carries a two-game winning streak as it faces its fourth consecutive ranked team Wednesday night against No. 15 Wake Forest at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The game will not be televised, but can be heard on the Georgia Tech/ISP Radio Network (WGST, 640 AM in Atlanta or Ramblinwreck.com).

Tech, 14-8 overall and 6-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (tied for third with Maryland), knocked off two ranked teams in the same week for the second time this season in defeating No. 13 Maryland (72-62) and No. 6 Virginia (62-56) last week. The Jackets did it with defense, holding both teams to their season lows for points and a collective 39.5 percent shooting from the floor.

The Jackets, who pulled off their first season sweep of an ACC opponent in two years with the Sunday win over Virginia, defeated Wake Forest at home (95-89 in overtime) on Jan. 13. The Demon Deacons have a 16-7 overall record and a 5-6 ACC mark.

Junior guard Tony Akins has averaged 21.7 points and hit 23 of 39 shots in his last three games. Tech continues to get strong inside play from center Alvin Jones, who is averaging 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in ACC games.

The 6-11 senior has moved into the team scoring lead, averaging 14.7 points and an ACC-leading 9.8 rebounds this season and is shooting 53.5 percent from the floor. Senior Shaun Fein, a 6-3 guard, averages 14.3 per game and is shooting 43.9 percent from three-point range. Also averaging in double figures are the 5-11 Akins, 13.7 points and 4.5 assists; and 6-3 freshman forward Marvin Lewis (10.0 points per game). The fifth starter is 6-7 senior forward Jon Babul, 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

At 14-8 with five games remaining, Tech has exceeded the total number of wins overall and in conference it had in 1999-2000.

Quoting Head Coach Paul Hewitt
“It’s going to be a lot different going to Joel Coliseum. We’re going to have to withstand a very good first half, I’m sure, by Wake Forest. I’m sure they’ll be very ready to play. They’ll be well prepared after we beat them a month ago.

“Their experience and balance concern me. They’ve been through the ACC wars, and they’re all talented players. Any one of them on a different night can carry that team.

“[On Alvin Jones] He did a very good job Sunday. He stayed focused defensively with four blocked shots and 14 rebounds. He did a lot of good things. We’ve got to prepare him as a staff for the double teams he sees. He’s been scoring so well for us, people have to do something to take him away. Virginia doubled him when he got the ball in the post. He’s just got to work on that so he feels more comfortable facing a double-team.

“We’ll need a couple of guys to step up at Joel Coliseum. I know Jon Babul will continue to play steady defense, but we’ll need some other guys to put some points on the board.

Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest Series Notes
With its 95-89 victory over Wake Forest on Jan. 13, Georgia Tech evened the all-time series record with the Demon Deacons at 24-24. It also snapped a three-game winning streak for Wake Forest in the series.

The home team has won 12 of the last 15 games in the series. Tech has lost the last two games and six of the last seven at Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum, where the Yellow Jackets are 3-8 all-time. Tech’s last win at Joel was a 77-76 squeaker on Feb. 11, 1998. Tech is just 5-12 in games played in Winston-Salem.

Tech is 21-14 against Wake Forest since 1985, including 11 wins in a row from 1985-91. In the 1990’s the teams were dead even at 11-11.

Eleven of the last 17 meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer.

Earlier This Season
Georgia Tech knocked off its second Top-10 team in five days with a 95-89 overtime decision over Wake Forest on Jan. 13 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Five Tech players scored in double figures, led by Halston Lane with 21 points off the bench. The freshman hit 4-of-5 three-point field goals and 7-of-10 overall, and scored 17 of his points in the second half.

Alvin Jones scored 17 points with 10 rebounds, Shaun Fein scored 16 points, Marvin Lewis added 16 and Tony Akins 14.

There were nine ties and six lead changes in the second half, and Georgia Tech missed four of six free throws in the final 24 seconds as Wake Forest was able to tie the game with one second remaining on a layup by Ervin Murray. But the Yellow Jackets made nine of 10 free throws in the overtime period to salt away the victory.

Craig Dawson led Wake with 16 points off the bench, and Darius Songaila scored 15 before fouling out in overtime. Robert O’Kelley added 15 and Josh Howard 14.

Last Time Out
For the second time in six days, Georgia Tech defeated a ranked opponent with a 62-56 victory over No. 6 Virginia Sunday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It was Tech’s fourth win over a ranked team in conference play

Tech held Virginia to only one field goal (a Roger Mason layup at :08) and four points in the final 5:22, limiting the Cavaliers to 38.6 percent shooting from the floor. The Cavaliers’ 56 points were its lowest output of the season and lowest since the Jackets’ 68-47 win over UVA last year.

Tony Akins led the Jackets with 19 points and four assists. Halston Lane scored 15 off the bench, seven of them in the last five minutes. The two combined to hit 13 of 20 field goals. The rest of Tech’s team was just 9 of 31, and hit just 5 of 20 three-pointers in the game. Alvin Jones (2 points, 14 rebounds), Marvin Lewis (2 points) and Shaun Fein (7 points) combined to hit just 3 of 14 field goals.

Mason scored 17 points to lead Virginia, while Travis Watson and Adam Hall scored 12 apiece. Donald Hand went 0-for-9 from the floor and scored 2 points for the Cavaliers.

Jackets Sweep ACC Weekly Honors
Georgia Tech’s Tony Akins and Halston Lane are this week’s ACC Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively.

Akins, who won the honor for the first time this season, averaged 23.5 points in Tech’s wins over No. 13 Maryland and No. 6 Virginia last week. The 5-11 junior hit 15 of 21 shots from the field and 13 of 18 free throws in the two games. Akins matched a season high with 28 points against Maryland (8-of-11 FG, 9-of-12 FT), and followed that with 19 against Virginia (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-6 FT).

Lane won the Rookie honor for the third time after scoring 15 points off the bench to help Tech down Virginia. He hit 6 of 10 field goals and scored seven of his points in the final five minutes.

Road Jinx Ends
After losing 16 straight road games over three seasons, Georgia Tech is 2-3 in ACC play this season, including its first win at Clemson in eight years on Jan. 24 (111-108).

That is one win shy of the collective road win total for Virginia, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson and Florida State, who have a combined 3-21 road record.

With a 73-68 win at No. 10 Virginia on Jan. 9, Georgia Tech ended a 16-game losing streak in games on opponents’ home courts that dated back to Feb. 11, 1999, when Tech defeated Florida State, 111-108, in double-OT in Tallahassee. The string included 11 ACC games.

The Yellow Jackets are now 2-5 overall on the road this season with losses coming at Iowa, Stanford, Maryland, NC State and North Carolina.

Shooting Touch Returns
Georgia Tech snapped a brief two-game shooting slump against Maryland, hitting 9 of 20 attempts (45 percent). Tech has shot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc 11 times in 22 games this season.

Having depended on its capable three-point shooters this season, Georgia Tech ranks second in the ACC in three-point percentage (39.1 overall, 37.7 in ACC games). Tech achieved a two-year high in field goal percentage with 57.6 percent overall on a school-record 17 three-point field goals in 31 attempts (54.5 percent) at Clemson.

The Jackets rank 2nd in the ACC and 4th nationally in three-point field goals per game (8.95).

Two Tech players rank officially among the ACC’s top 10 in three-point field goal percentage, led by Shaun Fein (3rd, 43.9), followed by Tony Akins (5th, 39.7). Fein has made 45.9 percent in ACC games, third-best in the conference. Freshmen Marvin Lewis (41.0 percent from three) and Halston Lane (41.2) have shot well but do not have enough attempts to make the league rankings.

Shooting and Defense
Georgia Tech has won all four games 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 6-8 when its opponent has shot 40 percent or higher.

Tech ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (40.2) and fourth in three-point defense (31.7).

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. Against Virginia, he snapped a seven-game streak if scoring in double figures with just two points, but he grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked four shots and maintained his control of the lane defensively.

The 6-11 senior still leads the Jackets in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and has taken over the ACC lead in rebounding at 9.8 per game. He has reached double digits in rebounds in four straight games, averaging 14.3. That includes an 18-board effort at North Carolina, the most by any ACC player this year.

In his last eight games, Jones has made 40 of his 81 field goal attempts (49.4 percent) in that stretch and averaged 2.0 assists (career high 6 vs. Clemson). Remarkably, he has made 70.3 percent of his free throws in that span (52 of 74), 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 (14.7, 9th in the ACC) and in ACC games (15.2, 9th). He has a chance to become the first Georgia Tech center ever to make first-team all-ACC.

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 13.7 points (16th in the ACC) and 4.5 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 19 points in the last four games, including a season-high 28 vs. Maryland. He has shot 57.4 percent from the floor, 44.4 percent from three-point land, and averaged 4.0 assists in that stretch.

Sunday against Virginia, he snuffed out the Cavaliers’ Donald Hand, who went 0-for-9 from the floor, scored just 2 points and had 7 turnovers.

The Lilburn, Ga., native enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season against 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.

For the season, Akins ranks 5th in the ACC in three-point percentage (39.7) and 6th in three-point field goals per game (2.27). He also shoots 73.3 percent from the foul line.

Lane Comes Up Big Again
Freshman Halston Lane added another big game to his big-game resume Sunday, scoring 15 points off the bench (6-of-10 FG) to help Georgia Tech to a 62-56 win over No. 6 Virginia. He scored 7 of his points in the final five minutes of the game while the Jackets were holding the Cavaliers to just four points during that stretch.

Lane averaged 12.5 points, hitting 10 of 15 field goal attempts, in two games vs. the Cavaliers this season.

All of Lane’s biggest games this season have come in key wins against important opponents, starting with 9 against UCLA on Dec. 2. He scored 23 vs. Kentucky, 10 in the first meeting at Virginia, 21 in a win over Wake Forest, 17 at Clemson and 15 in the second meeting with Virginia. Only one of his double figure scoring efforts has come in a loss (11 vs. North Carolina on Jan. 2).

Big Wins Dot First Season Under Hewitt
In its first season under head coach Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech has accomplished much, not the least of which was its first victory at Clemson since 1993, two conference wins on the road after 16 straight losses and four wins over ranked teams in conference play.

Tech has defeated three teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time (Virginia twice and Wake Forest) for the first time since the 1993-94 season.

Georgia Tech opened some eyes by defeating two of the nation’s all-time best programs, Kentucky and UCLA, in December. But the Yellow Jackets made the entire country take notice with their performance against No. 10 Virginia and No. 6 Wake Forest in back-to-back games earlier this month, and again with their win Tuesday over 13th-ranked Maryland.

For the first time since the 1985 ACC Tournament, Tech upended two Top-10 teams in back-to-back games with its win at Virginia (73-68) on Jan. 9 and a 95-89 win over No. 6 Wake Forest Jan. 13. Tech had not beaten two teams ranked in the Top 25 in consecutive games since February of 1996, defeating 12th-ranked North Carolina and 8th-ranked Wake Forest.

The Jackets defeated two ranked teams last week, avenging its earlier loss to Maryland by beating the 13th-ranked Terps, 72-62, last Tuesday and downing No. 6 Virginia, 62-56, Sunday to complete a season sweep of the Cavaliers.

A Case for the Defense
Georgia Tech has held 27 of its last 28 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 40.2 percent from the floor, which ranks 3rd in the ACC, and 31.8 percent from three-point range, 4th in the ACC.

Rugged Road
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. 27, and its strength of schedule is rated 8th 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 (11th), Virginia (14th) and Maryland (18th).

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 Stanford (2), Iowa (26), Kentucky (7) and UCLA (15) – and has won six of them. Georgia (34th) was ranked in the top 30 until last week.

The RPI Report, which is supposed to mirror the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index but is produced independently without NCAA input, ranked Tech 32nd and its strength of schedule 15th as of Monday.

Four of Tech’s eight 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.

Free Throw Mark on the Line for Jones
For the first time all season, Alvin Jones failed to get to the free throw line Sunday against Virginia. Jones had averaged 13.2 attempts in the five games prior to that.

The 6-11 senior, who has attempted 673 charity tosses in his career and made 391 (8th on the all-time list), needs just 2 to equal 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 26.6 times in conference games this season, compared with 20.9 times in pre-conference play. Only Duke (323 FTA) has been to the line more than Tech (293) 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 70.3 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 69.4 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 (62.9 percent overall, 65.0 percent in ACC games), Jon Babul (82.2, 77.3), Tony Akins (73.3, 72.9) 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.

Shooting for 1,000 on the Boards
Alvin Jones has risen to fourth on Georgia Tech’s all-time list for rebounds with 979. He has averaged better than 14 caroms in his last four games, including 18 boards North Carolina, a season high for any ACC player and one off his career best, and 14 Sunday against Virginia.

Jones needs 21 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 Next to a Thousand
Tony Akins is 5 points away from 1,000 for his career. His 19 points Sunday against Virginia gave him 995 in two-plus seasons. If he makes it, he will be the third player on Tech’s current team with 1,000 career points. Shaun Fein, including two years at Stonehill College, has 1,604.

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 1,235 career points (22nd in Tech history) and is averaging 14.7 points per game so far this season, the best of his career.

Tower of Babul
Jon Babul has stepped forward in conference play this season, averaging 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds and getting nearly half of his points at the free throw line (34 of 44, 77.3 percent). He has committed just 15 turnovers, a team low which translates into one every 29.4 minutes.

In his last six games, Babul has averaged 8.0 points and 4.7 rebounds, hitting 22 of 29 free throws and dishing out 8 assists with just 4 turnovers in 144 minutes. Left open on many occasions Sunday 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.

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