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Jackets Visit UConn in Final Non-Conference Game

Feb. 8, 2008

ATLANTA – In the midst of a three-game road swing, Georgia Tech plays its last non-conference game of the regular season Saturday when it visits 19th-ranked Connecticut for a 4 p.m. nationally-televised (ESPN) game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. This is a return game for the Huskies visit to Atlanta last year, when the Yellow Jackets prevailed 65-52 at the Georgia Dome.

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), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Channel 190.

Tech is 11-10 for the season and 4-4 in the ACC, having won four of its last five games since an 0-3 conference start, including an 89-83 win at Wake Forest 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 in a tie for sixth place in the ACC standings with NC State.

Tech is 5-4 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.

Connecticut, 17-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big East, has reeled off six straight wins beginning with an 89-73 win over Marquette on Jan. 20. Three of those wins over come on the road, including a 63-61 triumph Wednesday night at Syracuse, and the Huskies hold third place in the Big East standings.

Tech has played a strong schedule thus far, 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 163-61 (through Thursdday’s games), including losses to five top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 96-17.

Series vs. Connecticut

Saturday’s game will be the first between the two teams on either school’s campus. Georgia Tech leads the series 2-1, with all three prior meetings played at neutral sites, including a 65-52 Georgia Tech win last season at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The other two contests both occurred during the 2003-04 season. Tech knocked off the Huskies, ranked No. 1 in the nation, 77-61, in the semi-finals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden on its way to the tournament title. UConn returned the favor with the highest stakes of all on the line, an 82-73 win in the NCAA Tournament national championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Matt Causey is the only current Tech player to have faced Connecticut that season; he was a freshman playing for Georgetown. He went scoreless in 11 minutes in the teams’ only meeting. Only five current Tech players participated in last year’s game at the Georgia Dome.

Common opponents — UConn lost 73-67 on Jan. 5 at Notre Dame, a team Tech defeated, 70-69, on Nov. 19 in the Paradise Jam. The Huskies won, 68-63, on Jan. 26 at Indiana, a team the Jackets lost to, 83-79, on Nov. 27 in Bloomington.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech’s starting lineup for the last seven games (beginning Jan. 12 at Miami) has included freshman Moe Miller at point guard and junior D’Andre Bell at one wing. 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. Bell, who replaced Lewis Clinch, started four games at point guard earlier in the season.

Seniors Anthony Morrow (wing) and Jeremis Smith (big forward) have started all 21 games for the Yellow Jackets, while freshman Gani Lawal has started the last 14 games at center.

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 roughly 18 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks seventh 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 12.6 points and 4.0 assists since moving to the bench. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., has accumulated 42 assists and 16 turnovers in the last 12 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 13th in the ACC with 14.5 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 226 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 6.1 points for the season, 8.0 vs. the ACC, and has shot 48.5 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 9.4 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 7.8 points and 4.0 rebounds while leading the Jackets in field goal percentage at 63.1. Lawal has averaged 10.8 points in Tech’s last six games.

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 10.8 points in Tech’s last three games. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.2 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 three 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 (4.3), and has averaged 15 points and 5.7 rebounds in Tech’s last three games. Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games of the season, has averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds while hitting 56.3 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.

Last Time Out — Georgia Tech 89, Wake Forest 83

Georgia Tech won its third straight ACC road game, and rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half for the second straight road game to do it, defeating Wake Forest Wednesday night at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Trailing 62-50 with 13:49 remaining in the game, the Yellow Jackets reeled off 14 consecutive points in the next two-and-a-half minutes to take its first lead at 64-62. The game would feature five ties and six lead changes after thatbut the Jackets took the lead for good on a three-pointer at the 1:51 mark by Anthony Morrow, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half. His shot gave Tech an 84-81 lead, and the Charlotte, N.C., senior protected the advantage by hitting all four of his free throw attempts in the final minute.

Tech shot 59.4 percent from the floor in the second half, including four three-pointers, and turned the ball over just four times in carving out the victory. Post players Zack Peacock (15 points) and Alade Aminu (11) also reached double figures off the bench, while Moe Miller and Lewis Clinch added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Sowing the Seeds of Victory

With apologies to Tears for Fears, Georgia Tech began its current run of success, four wins in five 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 Wednesday’s come-from behind win at Wake Forest.

> With the current starting lineup, Tech has shot 48.8 percent from the floor and 38.4 percent from three-point range, and limited the seven opponents to 30.7 percent from three-point range. Tech also has a plus-2.7 turnover margin during that stretch and has averaged 4.4 blocked shots and 9.6 steals per game.

> In the 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 78.6 points per game matches 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 six games, Tech has averaged 84.5 points per game and has failed to score 80 points only once during that stretch. The Jackets have shot an even 50 percent over those six games, 38.9 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 three times this season, against Kansas (66), Florida State (64) and Miami (68), 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 (47.9 pct.) and fifth in three-point percentagte (38.0). In ACC games only, the Jackets rank fourth (79.9), first (48.9 pct.) and third (38.9 pct.) in the same categories.

> Tech has shot 45 percent or higher from the floor in 16 of 21 games this season, 50 percent or better in seven games.

The Bell Tolls

Part of the reason for the improvement in Georgia Tech’s perimeter defense is the insertion of D’Andre Bell back into the starting lineup. Bell has averaged 30 minutes in the last five games and is the Yellow Jackets’ top perimeter defender. He was a large part of a Tech defensive effort that held UVA’s Sean Singletary to 11 points (5-of-19 FG, 0-6 on threes) in 41 minutes.

Over the five games before Maryland, Tech held the top perimeter scorer of each opponent (four of them among the ACC’s top seven scorers), below their averages. Singletary (18.3 ppg), Wayne Ellington (16.8), Jack McClinton (16.1), A.D. Vassallo (16.0) and Gavin Grant (14.1) combined to score 47 points against the Jackets, and neither scored more than 11. They combined to shoot 12-for-54 from the floor, 2-for-22 from three-point range.

The Close-Out

Some numbers to support Georgia Tech’s improvement in closing out games of late…

> In the last five minutes of all games this season, Tech is outscoring its opponents 14.0 to 10.2 points per game, outshooting them 52.1 to 37.3 percent, outshooting them from three-point range 36.7 to 20.7 percent, outshooting them from the free throw line 73.4 to 66.9 percent, and outrebounding them 5.3 to 4.6 per game. Tech also has 29 turnovers during the final five minutes of its games, compared to 46 for its opponents.

> In the last five minutes of ACC games, Tech has outscored opponents 13.8 to 10.0 per game, outshot them 55.4 to 33.3 from the floor overall and held its opponents to 3-for-27 from three-point range. Tech also has shot more free throws (58-48) in those situations, and made a higher percentage (74.1 to 64.6).

> In Tech’s last four games, the Jackets have turned the ball over only 17 times total after halftime. Tech has fewer turnovers in the last five minutes of conference games (12 to 16) and in the last five minutes of its last six games (8 to 14).

The Bench Factor

Since Matt Causey has come off the bench, which is the last seven Georgia Tech games beginning Jan. 12 at Miami, he has averaged 12.6 points per game, which ranks second the team. Tech’s bench players are outscoring those of its opponents over that span, 35.9 to 16.6, and still hold the edge over their counterparts even when the disparity in playing time is factored in.

> Yellow Jackets reserves have played 79.3 minutes per game (40 percent of available minutes) over the last seven games to their opponents’ 50.2 per game (25.4 percent). They have scored an average of a point every 2.2 minutes compared to the opponents one point every 3.1 minutes.

> In ACC games, Tech’s bench players have logged 39.4 percent of available minutes, compared to 25.3 percent for its opponents, and outscored them 34.5 to 16.4 points per game.

> Only two opponents’ benches have outscored Tech’s this season — Tennessee State (7/27) and Kansas (16/22).

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