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Jackets Visit Michigan State in ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Nov. 28, 2005

ATLANTA –

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Georgia Tech, coming off its first loss of the season (73-51 Friday night to Illinois-Chicago) is playing its first road game of the season and is facing its first top-25 opponent when it visits No. 12 Michigan State at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.

The game is being nationally televised on ESPN. Radio coverage can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1). The Tech broadcast can also be heard on XM Satellite Radio (Ch. 197).

The Yellow Jackets started the season with two homecourt victories over UNC-Asheville (80-52) and Elon (81-69) before dropping Friday’s game, also at home. Tech enters this season with a 21-35 record against opponents ranked in the AP or coaches’ top 25 at the time of the game. The Jackets were 2-8 in such games last season.

Tech is beginning its sixth season under Hewitt. The Yellow Jackets are 98-67 overall with three post-season appearances in five seasons under Hewitt, and are on a quest for a third straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Tech leaves campus only three times between now and Jan. 10, visiting Michigan State Wednesday night, Georgia on Dec. 7 and Air Force on Dec. 28.

Series vs. Michigan State

Wednesday’s game is the fourth meeting between Georgia Tech and Michigan State in men’s basketball and the first since 1990, when the Yellow Jackets defeated the Spartans, 81-80, in overtime in the NCAA Southeast Regional semifinals in New Orleans. The teams split the two other meetings, both in East Lansing, in 1947 and 1949, when Roy McArthur was Tech’s head coach.

In that 1990 game, Kenny Anderson made a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer ending regulation play to send the game into overtime. The basket was initially ruled a three-pointer, which would have won the game, but was changed to a two-pointer upon review, sending the game into overtime. Dennis Scott’s 12-foot hook shot was the winning basket for Tech in OT, lifting the Jackets into the reigonal final, where they defeated Minnesota to reach the first Final Four in school history.

Tech in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Georgia Tech is 3-3 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Yellow Jackets are playing their fourth road game in the series, having gone 1-2 in the three previous games on opponents’ home courts. Tech has played twice at home (2-0) and once at a “home-neutral” site (1999 at Philips Arena). Michigan is the only team the Jackets have played more than once in the series.

Tech is 14-27 all-time against members of the Big Ten Conference.

Tech’s previous ACC-Big Ten Challenge results: 1999 — Michigan 80, Tech 77, Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga. 2000 — Iowa 85, Tech 67, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa 2001 — Tech 62, Wisconsin 61, Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta, Ga. 2002 — Minnesota 64, Tech 63, Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minn. 2003 — Tech 73, Ohio State 53, Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio 2004 — Tech 99, Michigan 68, Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta, Ga.

Quick Look at Tech

Tech’s probable starting lineup for Wednesday’s game includes 6-0 sophomore Zam Fredrick at point guard, 6-4 junior Mario West and 6-5 sophomore Anthony Morrow on the wings, 6-6 sophomore Jeremis Smith at forward, and 6-9 sophomore Ra’Sean Dickey at center.

Morrow, a Charlotte, N.C., native who is Tech’s top returning scorer from last season, leads the Jackets in scoring at 12.7 points a game, shoots 53.3 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from three-point range. He is one of four Tech players averaging in double digits, including Dickey (11.7), Fredrick (11.7) and freshman Lewis Clinch (10.3).

Morrow is joined in the starting backcourt by West, an outstanding athlete from Douglas, Ga., with high energy and excellent defensive skills averaging 8.0 points a game, and Fredrick, a former South Carolina Mr. Basketball from St. Matthews, S.C., who has shot 36.7 percent from the floor and averaged 2.0 assists in the point guard role.

Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., and D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 guard/forward from Los Angeles, Calif., both high-scoring players in the prep ranks, are strong physically and boost Tech’s firepower from the perimeter off the bench. Paco Diaw, a 6-6 freshman from Dakar, Senegal, has played in all three games but for only eight minutes.

Up front, Hewitt looks for better things from Dickey, of Clio, S.C., in the post and Smith of Fort Worth, Texas, at power forward. Dickey has made 51.9 percent of his field goal chances and 70 percent of his free throws while averaging 6.7 rebounds per game. Smith, who missed 17 games last year after dislocating his right kneecap, has averaged 8.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 senior from Monroe, La., figures in heavily in the post as the most experienced player on Tech’s team, and has averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game thus far. Freshman Alade Aminu, a 6-9 player with good offensive skills and shot-blocking capabilities, has averaged 2.0 points and 2.7 rebounds.

Jackets Stumble Against Illinois-Chicago

Georgia Tech suffered its first loss of the season Friday night, 73-51, to Illinois-Chicago at home. The Yellow Jackets trailed by four points at the half, then shot just 29.3 percent in the second period while the Flames shot 59.1 percent and pulled away. The closest Tech came in the second half was four points, 45-41, at the 8:30 mark.

Anthony Morrow, Ra’Sean Dickey and Jeremis Smith each got into foul trouble in the first half and played just 24 minutes combined. Morrow eventually fouled out after scoring just seven points, and shot just 3-for-10 from the floor. Smith went 1-for-8 from the floor and 0-for 6 from the foul line and scored just two points. Dickey, though limited to 21 minutes, scored 10 points (5-8 FG) and grabbed six rebounds.

Tech’s 51 points matched the lowest total for the team under Paul Hewitt and was 30 points below the team’s average from the first two games of this season.

A Tale of Three Halves

Georgia Tech’s last three halves of basketball (including the second half of the Nov. 21 game with Elon) have been a struggle offensively. The Yellow Jackets have scored a total of 81 points, while shooting 32.9 percent from the floor (26-of-79) and 3-of-24 from three-point range.

After shooting 52.9 percent in the first half of the Elon game, Tech made just 7-of-19 field goal attempts (0-for-4 on threes) and turned the ball over 13 times in the second half. Against Illinois-Chicago, Tech shot just 32.8 percent from the floor and 3-of-20 on threes.

Both teams (Elon in the second half) managed to limit Tech’s top two perimeter threats, Anthony Morrow and Lewis Clinch. In the last three halves of play, the two players have combined to go 6-for-27 from the floor.

In the second half of Tech’s last two games, the Yellow Jackets have shot just 31.7 percent from the floor (1-for-15 from three) while allowing 48.1 percent.

From the Stat Sheet

> Anthony Morrow went 6-for-8 against UNC Asheville and began the Elon game game by making 6-of-7. He is 4-for-15 (1-for-7 from three) since then.

> Lewis Clinch reached double figures off the bench in each of the first two games, giving Tech 20 double-figure performances off the bench in the last 35 games. Tech’s bench has contributed 16.3 points per game so far.

> Mario West, a career 36.7-percent shooter, is 7-of-10 games.

> Zam Fredrick led the Jackets with 17 points (7-14 FG) against Illinois-Chicago, just his second career double-digit game.

> Backup center Theodis Tarver had one of the better games of his career against UIC, scoring six points with five rebounds, two steals and five blocked shots (one off his career-best).

> Reversing a five-year trend in which the Yellow Jackets have shot free throws poorly early in the season, Tech made 71.4 percent of its charity tosses in the first two games. The Jackets made their last seven attempts in salting away its win over Elon. However, Tech followed that with a 4-for-13 performance against UIC (Jeremis Smith was 0-for-6).

> Tech placed five players in double figures in scoring in each of the first two games, but only two against UIC. The Jackets put five in double digits only four times all of last season.

> Opponents have made just 10-of-44 three-point attempts against Tech (22.7 percent).

> Nine Tech players are averaging double figures in minutes.

> Tech has forced 62 turnovers and turned them into 65 points.

Coach Hewitt says …

[On preparing for playing at Michigan State]

“You do some special things like pipe sound into the building, you pick up the tempo of practice. We really try to tire them out a little bit, then at the end of practice, really work on their execution. There’s nothing else you really can do to try and simulate (the environment).”

[On what the tape revealed after the UIC loss]

“We missed a lot of shots. From a technical standpoint, I didn’t think the game was that poorly played. We missed eight free throws in the second half. We missed 16 shots in the paint. The other thing that was very obvious to me was that our four main guys that we count on either had subpar games or were in foul trouble. If your leading guys aren’t present and accounted for, you’re not going to win. When Morrow, Dickey, Smith and Clinch are not playing to their capabilities, it’s tough to win.

“What they have to understand is that they’re too important to pick up two quick fouls the way they did. Morrow picked up a second foul that he could have avoided. Jeremis, in an effort to set a good screen, set an illegal one. Jeremis played four minutes in the first half. It’s tough to find a rhythm, especially if you’re a shooter. They’ve got to better understand their value to this club. When they guard, they have to be smarter.

“I’m still not going to back off my belief in the talent level of this team, but we’ve got to avoid putting ourselves in position for a disaster like we saw Friday night.”

[Can a game like this set a long-term tone for your team, win or lose?]

“It’s a game that could galvanize us. We know what’s at stake here. Playing well or not playing well is not going to tell us anything about how we’re going to be this year. If we play well, then we have to come back and play well against our next opponent. If we don’t play well, you have to shrug it off and come back and play. It’s about consistency.

“Our breakdown started in the second half against Elon. I’m disappointed in myself because I saw it coming. We talked about it and talked about it, drilled and did the things we thought we needed to in practice. But the message wasn’t heard. I blame that squarely on myself. You’ve got to get your team better prepared than that.”

“The second half of the Elon game, I thought, was the worst defensive half of basketball in my five years here. I told them that and showed them on the tape. We had a decent practice on Wednesday (two days later after an off day), then Thursday, we went back to being lackadaisical, acting young instead of acting business-like.

“At some point, pride has got to kick in. We’re a good basketball team. I’m not going to stop saying that.”

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