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Jackets Visit Clemson in Key ACC Contest

Feb. 13, 2008

ATLANTA – Completing a three-game road swing, Georgia Tech returns to conference play Thursday night with a 9 p.m. regionally-televised game against Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum. Both teams are coming off road losses in their last games, Tech at Connecticut on Saturday (80-68) and Clemson at North Carolina Sunday (103-93 in double-overtime).

The game will be regionally televised on the ACC/Raycom television network, and will air in Atlanta on WATL-TV (Ch. 36).

Click here for a complete listing of affiliates carrying the game.

Radio coverage of the game is provided on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1).

Tech, 11-11 for the season and 4-4 in the ACC, has won four of its last five ACC games since an 0-3 start, including an 89-83 win at Wake Forest last Wednesday night. The Jackets have won three straight road games in that stretch, the first time they have accomplished that since the Final Four season of 2003-04, and find themselves alone sixth place in the ACC standings.

Tech is 5-5 on opponents’ home courts this season, 3-1 in ACC road games. At home, the Jackets are 1-3 in conference play, with the three losses coming by a TOTAL of five points.

Clemson is 17-6 overall and 5-4 in the ACC, holding fourth place alone. The Tigers had won five of seven games prior to Sunday’s loss in Chapel Hill, and have lost two in a row only once this year.

Tech has played a strong schedule, posting a schedule strength rank of No. 7 according to this week’s RPI rankings (Collegiate Basketball News). The teams Tech lost to have a combined record of 191-68 (through Tuesday’s games), including losses to six top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 121-22.

Series vs. Clemson

> Overall, Tech holds a 56-53 lead in a series that began in 1913. It is the oldest and longest-running series the Yellow Jackets have with an ACC member. The 109 all-time meetings are 28 more than Tech has played with any other ACC member.

> Clemson has won three of the last four meetings in the series, but the Jackets won five straight and nine of 11 before that.

> The Yellow Jackets trail 30-28 to the Tigers since joining the ACC.

> Tech and Clemson have split their season series 15 times in the last 20 years. The Jackets swept the season series from the Tigers three times in seven seasons under Paul Hewitt.

> The Yellow Jackets have won nine of the 14 games between the two teams since Paul Hewitt became Tech’s head coach, with a 5-2 record at home and a 4-3 mark at Clemson. Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell is 3-5 vs. Tech.

> Tech is just 15-34 all-time in games played at Clemson, including an 8-27 mark in Littlejohn Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets have won four of the last seven games at Littlejohn, but lost seven in a row at Clemson prior to that.

> Tech’s 111-108 win against the Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum on Jan. 24, 2001 is the highest scoring regulation game Tech has had with any ACC opponent. The Jackets defeated Florida State by the same score in Tallahassee (in two OTs) on Feb. 11, 1999, and lost to Wake Forest in the 2007 ACC Tournament, 114-112 in double-overtime.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech’s starting lineup for the last eight games (beginning Jan. 12 at Miami) has included freshman Moe Miller at point guard and junior D’Andre Bell at one wing. Seniors Anthony Morrow (wing) and Jeremis Smith (big forward) have started all 22 games for the Yellow Jackets, while freshman Gani Lawal has started the last 15 games at center.

Miller, who replaced Matt Causey in the lineup, had started Tech’s first two games of the season before injuring his back in the Virgin Islands. Regardless of which player starts, Miller and Causey both play significant minutes at the point, combining to average 16.6 points and 7.5 assists in ACC games.

Despite playing only 18 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks eighthth in the ACC in assists and assist-turnover ratio. Tech’s top scorer for four straight games until last Saturday’s loss to Maryland, Causey has averaged 11.3 points and 4.0 assists since moving to the bench. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., has accumulated 46 assists and just 18 turnovers in the last 13 games, and has averaged 6.0 points and 3.9 assists per game as a starter.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 14th in the ACC with 14.7 points a game, including an average of 17.3 over his last three games. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 231 for his career, Morrow has hit 45.4 percent from that distance this season, and has averaged 14.1 points in Tech’s ACC games.

Bell, a 6-5 junior, provides good physical defense on the perimeter and can score when needed (three double-figure games in ACC play). He averages 6.3 points for the season, 8.0 vs. the ACC, and has shot 49.5 percent from the floor. Bell started four games at point guard in Miller’s absence and now is playing primarily on the wing as Miller and Causey have developed into a solid tandem.

Smith, the team captain and a 6-8 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, is Tech’s third-leading scorer at 9.6 points per game and its leading rebounder at 6.9 per game (12th in the ACC). Smith has averaged 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in ACC games thus far, including two double-doubles.

Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., averages 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds while leading the Jackets in field goal percentage at 60.6.

Backcourt reserves — Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 14 games this year, including an average of 9.5 points in Tech’s last four games. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.0 points per game, but has been inconsistent in ACC games (7.0 ppg, 40 pct. FG). Six-foot-4 freshman Lance Storrs of Decatur, Ga., averaging 1.7 points per game, has begun to see more significant playing time off the bench in the last four games as an additional perimeter defender.

Frontcourt reserves — Hewitt can go to 6-8 sophomore Zack Peacock of Miami, Fla., and 6-10 junior Alade Aminu of Stone Mountain, Ga. Peacock is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer (9.2) and No. 3 rebounder (4.2), and has averaged 13.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in Tech’s last four games. Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games of the season, has averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 rebounds while hitting 54.8 percent of his shots from the floor. Tech also has 6-11 red-shirt freshman Brad Sheehan of Latham, N.Y., who has not played since Dec. 27.

Sowing the Seeds of Victory

With apologies to Tears for Fears, Georgia Tech began its turnaround, four wins in six games, with a lineup shuffle Jan. 12 at Miami, when Moe Miller and D’Andre Bell replaced Matt Causey and Lewis Clinch in the starting lineup. Even though it took three games to produce a victory, Tech began to play the kind of sticky, physical defense that propelled it to a strong finish to last year’s regular season.

The Yellow Jackets played their best defense of the season in the first 13 minutes of that game before 25th-ranked Miami rallied and eventually won by 10. Next, Tech took No. 1 North Carolina down to the final possession at Alexander Memorial Coliseum before bowing, 83-82.

Next came three straight victories over Virginia Tech at home, NC State and Virginia on the road, a homecourt loss to Maryland after a week off, and a come-from behind win at Wake Forest. Even in Tech’s loss at No. 19 Connecticut Saturday, the Yellow Jackets handled the Huskies physically for the first half and a portion of the second before UConn turned the tables.

> With the current starting lineup, Tech has shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from three-point range, and limited the eight opponents to 30.1 percent from three-point range. Tech also has a plus-2.8 turnover margin during that stretch and has averaged 4.5 blocked shots and 9.1 steals per game.

> In its three ACC road wins, Tech rallied from second-half deficits of six, 10 and 12 points, respectively, and committed a total of only NINE turnovers in 65 total minutes after intermission.

Tech Carries on Offensively

Head coach Paul Hewitt never doubted that this Georgia Tech team would be able to score and score often. The Yellow Jackets’ current scoring average of 78.1 points per game is just a half-point shy of the highest for Tech in eight seasons under Hewitt, and the Jackets are doing even better, 79.9 points per game, against the ACC.

In the last seven games, Tech has averaged 82.1 points per game and has failed to score 80 points only twice times during that stretch. The Jackets have shot an even 48.6 percent over those seven games, 38.2 percent from three-point range. During that stretch, Tech has shot 59.2 percent against NC State, matching a high under Hewitt, 53.6 percent at Wake Forest and 50.8 percent at Virginia.

> Tech has failed to score 70 points only four times this season, against Kansas (66), Florida State (64), Miami (68) and Connecticut, but in each case the total exceeded the opponent’s defensive yield for the season. The Yellow Jackets scored 81 points against the ACC’s top defensive team in Virginia Tech (59.5 ppg at the time), 77 against NC State (third at 65.2) and 86 against Maryland (fifth at 67.8).

> Tech ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring average, third in field goal percentage (47.5 pct.) and fourth in three-point percentagte (378). In ACC games only, the Jackets rank fourth (79.9), second (48.9 pct.) and fourth (38.9 pct.) in the same categories.

> Tech has shot 45 percent or higher from the floor in 16 of 22 games this season, 50 percent or better in seven games.

Quoting Coach Hewitt

On Tech’s loss to Connecticut — “I think we are playing pretty good basketball and obviously as we get to the last eight games of the conference schedule, it is very important that we finish strong. I thought we had good effort on Saturday at Connecticut. We couldn’t overcome some things there, but I definitely liked the effort. I thought we played a very competitive basketball game there.”

On the importance of a strong “sixth-man” — “Having Matt (Causey) come off the bench provides a lift of energy. Wes Durham, our play-by-play guy, says it seems like you have a sixth starter, and that is the same role Mario West played for us last year. He gives us a great lift off the bench with his defensive energy. I think kids have a hard time understanding that the first guy off the bench is just as important as any starter you have on the floor.”

On the key to being 3-1 on the road in the ACC — “Our point guard play is getting better, and consequently, we are taking care of the ball. I think we have a good ball club – we have good size and good depth. When we have had trouble on the road, it’s been mostly because of a shaky or inexperienced point guard play. Now we have two guys that are beginning to play really well, and that gives you a chance.”

On Clemson — “They are a very good team. It is a great time for them to get healthy, because this certainly is a team that will be in the NCAA tournament. As hard as they play and as well as they shoot the basketball, there is no telling how far they can go.”

On the tightness in the middle of the ACC standings — “It is probably an entertaining time for you guys (the media), it’s tough for us. What makes it tough or agonizing is that every game becomes a big swing game because it is so tightly bunched.”

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