ATLANTA – Georgia Tech faces a pair of nationally televised games this week, hosting NC State Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center before travelling to Wake Forest Sunday for a 2 p.m. game at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
The NC State game will air on ESPN2 with Mike Patrick and Dan Bonner, while Bonner and Gus Johnson will work the Wake Forest game for CBS-TV (WGNX, Ch. 46 in Atlanta). Both games can also be heard on the Georgia Tech-ISP network (WGST 640AM/105.7 FM in Atlanta), featuring Wes Durham and Randy Waters.
The Yellow Jackets (11-14, 3-9 ACC) have lost three in a row, including a pair of road games last week at Maryland (92-70) and Florida State (64-54). NC State (15-9, 5-8 ACC) has dropped five in a row, while Wake Forest (14-12, 5-8 ACC), which plays at Virginia Thursday, has lost five of its last seven.
“We’re trying to finish this thing off the best way we can,” said Tech head coach Bobby Cremins. “These are big games for NC State and Wake Forest because they’re fighting for NCAA bids.
“I thought we played NC State tough at their place. They’ve had a tough string of games, but everybody knows they’re very capable.”
Cremins continues to tinker with Tech’s starting five, indicating that he might return to the original quintet of 7-0 senior Jason Collier (Springfield, Ohio), 6-11 junior Alvin Jones (Lakeland, Fla.) and 6-6 senior Jason Floyd (Hampton, Ga.) in the frontcourt, with 5-11 sophomore Tony Akins (Lilburn, Ga.) and 6-3 junior Shaun Fein (Centerville, Mass.) as the guards.
Collier leads Tech in both scoring (16.0) and rebounding (9.6). He ranks seventh in the ACC in scoring and first in rebounding, and he leads the league with 11 double-doubles, including five in ACC play. Jones averages 10.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and an ACC-leading 2.6 blocks per game, while Floyd averages 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Akins, coming off a career-high 33 points against the Seminoles, is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game along with a team-leading 3.6 assists per game. Fein, who was hampered by illness against FSU, contributes 10.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 3.3 apg with an assist-turnover ratio of 1.59. He also leads Tech with 29 steals.
That lineup would leave a bench consisting of 6-4 freshman forward Clarence Moore (Norco, La.), 5.2 ppg and 4.1 rpg, 5-10 junior guard T.J. Vines (Woodstock, Ga.), 4.3 ppg and 2.2 apg, and 6-7 junior forward Jon Babul (North Attleboro, Mass.), 4.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg, who returned against Florida State after missing eight games with a strained right quadriceps.
NC State features a balanced scoring attack, led by 6-2 sophomore guard Anthony Grundy, 13.3 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Also in double figures are 6-8 junior forward Damon Thornton, 10.5 ppg and 6.6 rpg, and 6-6 freshman forward Damien Wilkins, 10.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg, while 6-8 junior forward Kenny Inge averages 9.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg, and 6-0 senior point guard Justin Gainey contributes 8.5 ppg and 2.8 apg.
Wake Forest has used numerous different starting lineups during the season but the constant is 6-1 junior guard Robert O’Kelley, who leads the Deacons with 14.2 points per game. Rafael Vidaurreta, a 6-9 junior, is the only Deacon to start every game, averaging 4.2 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds. Sophomore forward Darius Songaila, 12.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg, and 6-6 freshman Josh Howard, 8.1 pgg and 4.5 rpg, along with several candidates for the fifth starting slot.
THE SERIES WITH NC STATE
NC State has won seven in a row over Georgia Tech, including a 66-58 win last month in Raleigh, to take a 39-27 lead in the series, which dates back to 1925. The Wolfpack’s last five wins have been by eight points or fewer.
Prior to NC State’s current winning streak, Tech had won seven in a row. The Jackets’ last win in the series was a 54-53 decision in Atlanta in 1996-97.
In the first meeting this season, Ron Kelley had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench and three other players scored in double figures in the Wolfpack’s 66-58 win at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. Jason Collier led Tech with 21 points and seven rebounds, but the Jackets managed to shoot just 34.5 percent from the field.
Tech has a 15-11 record against NC State on its homecourt, including a 12-11 mark at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, including six of the last eight meetings. The last three games in Atlanta have been decided by one or two points. NC State won last year’s game on Justin Gainey’s three-pointer with 15 seconds left, and the previous year, C.C. Harrison tied the game with a pair of free throws at the end of regulation and then hit a 14-foot jumper at the buzzer to give the Wolfpack a 71-69 overtime victory. In 1997, Tech earned a 54-53 win.
THE SERIES WITH WAKE FOREST
Wake Forest’s 60-46 victory in Atlanta last month evened the series with Georgia Tech at 23-23. Tech has won three of the last five meetings and is 22-17 against the Demon Deacons under Bobby Cremins.
Tech has a 3-7 record at Lawrence Joel Coliseum and a 7-14 mark in all games on the Demon Deacons’ homecourt. Wake Forest won last year game in Winston-Salem, 67-58. Tech’s last win at Wake Forest was a 77-76 victory in 1997-98.
The home team has won 10 of the last 13 games between Tech and Wake Forest.
AKINS ON FIRE
Sophomore point guard Tony Akins turned in the most prolific game of his career with a 33-point performance against Florida State. That is the highest scoring output by a Yellow Jacket in nearly two years, since Dion Glover had 33 against Seton Hall in the 1998 NIT. The last time a Tech player scored more was a 36-point effort by James Forrest in 1994.
Akins, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time in five games due to Shaun Fein’s illness, scored 27 of his points from three-point range as he went 9-for-14 from beyond the arc. His nine treys equalled the Tech high in an ACC game, matching Drew Barry (9 vs. North Carolina, 2-10-96) and Dennis Scott (9 vs. North Carolina, 1-28-89). Only Scott has made more three-pointers in any game, canning an ACC record 11 against Houston in 1988-89. Even Tech assistant coach Mark Price, one of the best shooters in ACC and NBA history, never had nine treys. His best effort was eight against Virginia in 1983.
TECH HOT FROM BEYOND THE ARC
Georgia Tech has been shooting well from three-point range, hitting 20 of 48 (41.6 percent) in the last two games and 33 of 77 (42.9 percent) in the last four contests.
Tech ranks second in the ACC in three-pointers per game, averaging 7.8 to 7.9 for Duke.
MOORE OF A GOOD THING
Clarence Moore made the most of his opportunity to start for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-4 freshman from Norco, La., averaged 10.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 steals, 2.0 assists and 1.4 blocked shots in his five starts. He has hit 17 of 35 shots from the field (48.6 percent) and 15 of 20 from the free throw line (75 percent).
Moore’s production as a starter includes a double-double against Virginia (15 points, 10 rebounds), a career-high 17 points against Florida A&M and a career-best 15 boards against Maryland. As a reserve, Moore’s highs were eight points against Morehead State and seven rebounds against UNC Greensboro.