Jan. 2, 2002
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech finishes off a five-game homestand this week, first with Cornell Wednesday night and then Clemson Saturday (12 noon) at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.
The Yellow Jackets (6-7) have lost two straight games, 79-69 to Tulane and 98-92 to IUPUI, both at home, since a three-game winning streak that included wins over Syracuse, Davidson and Wofford.
“It’s frustrating. But you can’t dwell on it,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “If you do, you lose out on the rest of the season. We just need to regroup and get ready to play Wednesday night at 7.
Cornell (2-9) also enters this game with two straight losses, 56-40 to James Madison and 52-41 to Richmond.
“Defensively, they’re very good, and they’re very patient offensively. They can give you problems if you’re not alert defensively, because they do a lot of back-door cutting, and they have a couple of guys who can shoot the ball very well. That’s what I’m most concerned about with the way they run their offense.”
Tech has been balanced offensively, but are led primarily by the backcourt tandem of 5-11 Tony Akins (Sr., Lilburn, Ga.) and 6-4 Marvin Lewis (So., Germantown, Md.). Akins, Tech’s point guard who ranks among the Top 10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and assists, leads Tech in both categories with 15.5 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 39.0 percent from three-point range on the season. Lewis is Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures with 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He has hit 45.8 percent of his three-point attempts, best on the team, and is shooting 45.6 percent overall.
The rest of Tech’s starting five for Cornell is expected to be 6-5 Clarence Moore (So., Norco, La.) and 6-7 Ed Nelson (Fr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at the forwards and 6-8 Robert Brooks (So., Saginaw, Mich.) at center.
Moore, who notched a career-high 20 points against Syracuse, averages 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. Nelson scored a career-high 18 vs. IUPUI and averages 6.3 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds. Brooks, who averages 5.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for the season, is averaging 10.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in the last six games.
B.J. Elder (Fr., Madison, Ga.) and Halston Lane (So., Oak Ridge., Tenn.) are Tech’s top scorers off the bench at 9.5 points per game each. Also coming off the bench are 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 rebounds, and 6-5 guard Anthony McHenry (Fr., Birmingham, Ala.), 1.3 points per game.
Hewitt’s main focus, however, has been shoring up a Tech defense that has given up better than 50 percent shooting from three-point range in the last two games.
“We gave up 98 points in the last three games and gave up a lot of open threes to good shooters, and you can’t do that,” Hewitt said. “When you press you end up with some mismatches, and you can deal with that. Not rotating over and picking up guys, that’s what hurts you.
“We didn’t practice the next day. I thought we needed the time away. But we bounced back pretty good [Monday] and again [Tuesday]. We had a pretty spirited practice.”
Tech Series vs. Cornell
Georgia Tech and Cornell are meeting for the first time on the basketball court, but the Yellow Jackets have plenty of past experience with the Ivy League. Tech is just 5-6 against league members, including a 79-71 loss to Penn on Nov. 19 of this season.
Last Time Out
Georgia Tech lost its second straight game in a 98-92 loss at home to IUPUI on Dec. 29. After a 39-39 tie at halftime, IUPUI scored 59 second-half points, and the Jaguars shot 52.2 percent from three-point range (12-of-23) in the game.
Tech lost despite placing four players in double figures, including a career-high 18 from freshman Ed Nelson and 11 from sophomore Marvin Lewis in starting roles, as well as 17 each from B.J. Elder and Halston Lane off the bench. The Jackets also had a season-low 8 turnovers against 24 assists.
Brian Buchanan led the Jaguars with 28 points, followed by Josh Mullins with 24, and IUPUI enjoyed a banner day at the free throw line (28-of-37).
Could it happen again? The last time Georgia Tech entered the New Year under .500 was the 1995-96 season, when the Yellow Jackets had an identical 6-7 mark to this year’s squad.
Tech went on to win the ACC regular season title with a 13-3 mark and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. That team had Stephon Marbury, Drew Barry, Matt Harpring, Michael Maddox and Eddie Elisma.
Tech in the Thrillerdome
Georgia Tech is playing its 46th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center in 2001-02. The Jackets have a record of 449-154 (.745) in the facility, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke.
Since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, Tech is 211-53 (.805) in its on-campus home, but has struggled at home this season with a 3-3 record to this point.
Georgia Tech is 120-8 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, and impressive mark indeed. But three of those eight losses have occurred this season to Penn, Tulane and IUPUI. From 1981 through last season, the only non-ACC teams to win at the Thrillerdome were Georgia (Dec. 6, 2000), Penn State (March 18, 1998), the College of Charleston (Jan. 16, 1993), Louisville (Jan. 15, 1989), and Richmond (Dec. 22, 1987).
A Balanced Attack
Only two Yellow Jackets, Tony Akins (15.5 ppg) and Marvin Lewis (13.2 ppg), are averaging in double-figures for the season, but Georgia Tech has been balanced offensively for the past month, placing at least four players in double figures for seven consecutive games.
Eight different players are averaging better than five points per game, including six who are scoring 7.7 points per game or more. Eight different Yellow Jackets have scored in double figures at least three times this season.
Overall, Tech has averaged 77 points per game this season, just 9/10 of a point below last season’s average against non-conference opponents.
Offense Clicking Since Las Vegas
Georgia Tech has emerged from the offensive slump it experienced in the Las Vegas Invitational and against Wisconsin, averaging 82.5 points in the last seven games. That includes 96 points against 13th-ranked Syracuse on Dec. 16, its highest scoring output since 97 in the season opener against Florida A&M, and 92 points vs. IUPUI in the Yellow Jackets’ last game.
The key to Tech’s success has been the ability to hit the three-point shot. Tech hit 17-34 (50.0%) from three-point range in the Yellow Jackets’ back-to-back victories over Syracuse and Davidson, but has managed just 26 percent (20-of-77) in the last three games.
Elder and Lane Hot off the Bench
Freshman B.J. Elder has scored in double digits in the last three games and is averaging 14.3 points in that stretch. Elder has hit exactly 50 percent of his shots (17-of-34) and is 6-of-18 from three-point range.
Halston Lane, who started three games before returning to reserve duty against IUPUI, has scored in double figures four straight games and six of the last seven, averaging 12.3 points in the last seven games. He has hit 15 of 31 three-pointers (48.4 percent) in that stretch.
Elder and Lane are Tech’s top two scorers off the bench at 9.5 points per game.
Taking Better Care of the Ball
Despite its struggles in other areas, Georgia Tech has taken better care of the ball over the last five games, averaging just 14.1 turnovers, including a season-low eight Saturday vs. IUPUI.
Tech averaged 19.1 turnovers over its first eight games, including three games with more than 20.
Shuffling the Lineup
Facing a roster with five new scholarship players, head coach Paul Hewitt used his fifth different starting lineup vs. IUPUI, tinkering to find that right combination. The backcourt duo of Tony Akins and Marvin Lewis are the only players to have started all 13 games this season, while eight different players have started at least one game.
Sophomore swingman Halston Lane cracked the starting five for the first time in his career against Davidson, while freshman Ed Nelson came off the bench for the first time this season. Nelson returned to the lineup against IUPUI and will start again vs. Cornell.
Despite who starts the game, Hewitt is still using a nine-man rotation while Schenscher is out with a foot injury (see below). Counting Schenscher, 10 different Yellow Jackets are averaging at least 10 minutes a game.
Schenscher Still Out With Broken Foot
Luke Schenscher, who averaged 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in six games, has out of the lineup since the Dec. 1 North Carolina game after X-rays revealed a broken third metatarsal bone in his left foot Nov. 29. The 7-foot freshman, who has missed seven games, shed his walking boot last week and has begun doing very light work on the court.
The loss leaves Tech with just nine healthy scholarship players. Senior Michael Isenhour will miss the entire season while being treated for leukemia.
It also leaves Tech with a small roster with the tallest player being 6-8 Robert Brooks.
Bench Providing a Spark for Tech
Playing with a 10-man rotation (nine now with the absence of Schenscher) since the arrival of head coach Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech has come to rely more heavily on its bench. They have provided the Jackets some real spark offensively through the early going this season.
Tech’s reserves have contributed 32.3 points per game in the last three outings, and also scored 46 points Dec. 1 at North Carolina and 40 vs. Florida A&M in the season opener.
This season, Tech has gotten 26.8 points per game from its bench, roughly 35 percent of its total scoring output of 77.0 points per game. Tech has had a double-figure scorer off the bench in nine games this season.
Last year, Tech received 20.4 points per game from its reserves, 25 percent of its total scoring output.
Tech Stronger at the Line
Georgia Tech has shown modest improvement this season from the free throw line (69.2 percent), and have five players over 70 percent from the stripe.
Besides freshman Ed Nelson, who has struggled at 46.2 percent on 39 attempts, second most on the team, Tech has an aggregate free throw percentage of 73.3 percent.
Akins At The Point
Tony Akins, who is making his 100th career start vs. Cornell, has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player, scoring in double digits in 11 of 13 games and leading the Jackets in scoring at 15.5 points per game (7th in the ACC) while averaging 5.4 assists (4th in the ACC).
The 5-11 senior has made 39 percent of his three-point attempts this season and has a 1.56-1 assist-turnover ratio. His 5.4 assists per game are a career high, almost a full assist better than his freshman-year rate of 4.5.
Akins ranks seventh in career assists (454), having tied Kenny Anderson for that spot in the IUPUI game, and 9th in steals (138). He has 1,320 career points, jumping to 18th place in Tech history after beginning the year in 28th. He needs 44 points to move past Bobby Kimmel (1,363 points, 1954-57) for 17th place.
Streaks End for Akins
Two streaks ended for Tony Akins in Georgia Tech’s last three games – 22 straight games in double figures (5 vs. Wofford on Dec. 21) and 24 straight games with a three-point field goal (0 vs. IUPUI).
Lewis Finds His Mark Inside the Arc
Marvin Lewis has already established himself as one of the top three-point shooters in the ACC. But over the last five games, Lewis has made his mark from two-point range.
While struggling to just a 4-for-17 mark on threee-point attempts in the last five games, Lewis has made 18 of 30 two point attempts (.600) in that stretch. He continues to show his smooth stroke at the free throw line, making 18 of his last 19 attempts from the charity stripe and shooting 87.8 percent for the season.
Lewis still leads Tech at 45.8 percent from three-point range, and his overall rate has improved to 45.6, third on the team.
As a freshman 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.
Brooks Provides a Lift for Jackets
Robert Brooks may not be 7-feet tall, but he has walked tall for the Yellow Jacket since joining the starting lineup for the Wisconsin game on Nov. 28.
The 6-8 sophomore began to heat up in his third start against Georgia on Dec. 9, and has responded with 10.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in the last six games against the Bulldogs (13 and 10), Syracuse (17 and 8), Davidson (5 and 9), Wofford (12 and 9), Tulane (6 and 5) and IUPUI (7 and 5).
Head coach Paul Hewitt inserted Brooks in the lineup Dec. 28 against Wisconsin, and the 6-8 sophomore has started the last seven contests.
Georgia Tech (6-7) vs. Cornell (2-9)
January 2, 2002 * 7 p.m. * Alexander Memorial Coliseum * Atlanta, Ga.
Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1), WSNY-FM (100.1), WTSH-FM (107.1), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com
Tech Record: 6-7, 0-1 ACC H: 3-3, A: 0-2, N: 3-2
Series vs. Cornell: first meeting
Tech vs. Ivy League: 5-6
Tech at AMC: 449-154 (.745)
Hewitt Record: 89-47 (.654), 5th season
Hewitt at Tech: 23-20 (.535), 2nd season
Last game: Dec. 29, IUPUI d. Tech, 98-92, Alexander Memorial Coliseum
Next game: Jan. 5 vs. Clemson, 12 noon, Alexander Memorial Coliseum
More info: Ramblinwreck.com
|F||5||Clarence Moore||6-5||So.-R||7.7 ppg||5.0 rpg|
|F||32||Ed Nelson||6-7||Fr.||6.3 ppg||7.0 rpg|
|C||34||Robert Brooks||6-8||So.||5.7 ppg||6.3 rpg|
|G||3||Tony Akins||5-11||Sr.||15.5 ppg||5.4 apg|
|G||24||Marvin Lewis||6-4||So.||13.2 ppg||5.0 rpg|
|G||1||B.J. Elder||6-3||Fr.||9.5 ppg||2.1 rpg|
|F||33||Halston Lane||6-5||So.||9.5 ppg||3.6 rpg|
|F||55||Anthony McHenry||6-6||Fr.||1.3 ppg||1.2 rpg|
|F||2||Isma’il Muhammad||6-5||Fr.||7.7 ppg||3.3 rpg|