Dec. 10, 2003
ATLANTA – Tenth-ranked Georgia Tech goes for its eighth consecutive win Saturday when it meets Saint Louis at 12:30 p.m. in the opening half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic doubleheader at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta.
The game will be regionally televised on Fox Sports Net South, with the radio broadcast on WQXI-AM (790). Tickets for the doubleheader, which includes the 3 p.m. nightcap between Georgia and Clemson, can be purchased through the Tech ticket office at 888-TECH-TIX or online at Ramblinwreck.com.
Tech (7-0) holds the No. 10 position this week in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today rankings, the highest the Yellow Jackets have been rated since Jan. 11, 1993. The Yellow Jackets, who have received four first-place votes in the writers’ poll, two in the coaches’ poll, have been off for fall semester final exams since Saturday, when they defeated Tennessee State, 94-43, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Saint Louis (3-2) also has not played since last Saturday, when it nearly beat No. 7 Arizona at home. The Billikens led by 11 in the second half but fell by one, 68-67.
Tech is in the midst of a six-game stretch in which it does not leave the city of Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets play their next four games at home, and their next out-of-town contest comes Jan. 3 at Georgia.
The Jackets are 8-5 in the history of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic, which has been known by various names since the inception of the doubleheader in 1989. Since the event moved to Philips Arena, Tech is 2-2, including a 70-69 loss to Tennessee last year. This is the first appearance for Saint Louis in the event.
The two teams are meeting for the 10th time, and the third time in the last three seasons. The teams split two games during the 2001-02 season, the Billikens defeating Tech, 67-54, on Nov. 24, 2001 in the Las Vegas Invitational, and the Yellow Jackets returning the favor by a 60-40 score at the Savvis Center on Feb. 16, 2002.
Head coach Paul Hewitt, who will coach his 100th Tech game Saturday, has employed the same starting lineup for all seven games this season — 6-3 Jarrett Jack at point guard, 6-4 Marvin Lewis and 6-4 B.J. Elder on the wings, 6-7 Anthony McHenry at the strong forward spot and 7-1 Luke Schenscher at center.
Lewis, a senior, and Elder, a junior, are Tech’s top two returning scorers from last year’s squad and have begun this season in similar fashion. Elder leads the Jackets at 16.0 points a game (8th in the ACC), while Lewis is third on the squad at 13.7 points a game (15th in the conference). Lewis is shooting 46.4 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from three-point range (9th in the ACC). Elder has shot just 42.3 percent this season, but has hit 46.4 percent (26-of-56) in his last three games.
Jack has been impressive in many respects, averaging 14.0 points a game (second on the team, 13th in the ACC) and 8.4 assists per game (2nd in the ACC) while hitting 58.6 percent of his field goal tries (second on the team). He is also Tech’s leading rebounder (6.3 per game), and ranks third in the ACC in steals (3.0 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (3.28-1).
Schenscher, a junior who averages 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, notched his first career double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) Saturday vs. Tennessee State. He has averaged 11.0 points and 7.7 rebounds while hitting 60 percent of his field goals in the last three games. McHenry, also a junior, has been solid with 4.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and has recorded 16 assists against six turnovers and blocked seven shots (tops on the team).
Tech’s top reserve has been junior forward Isma’il Muhammad, a 6-6 defensive whiz who has become a force offensively, averaging 12.9 points (fourth on the team, 20th in the ACC) while leading the ACC in field goal percentage (66.7). He earned MVP honors at the Preseason NIT after scoring 38 points in the two games in New York, and has scored in double figures off the bench in five games this season.
The other primary players off the bench include Clarence Moore, a 6-5 senior forward averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds; Robert Brooks, a 6-8 senior postman averaging 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds (12-of-20 from the floor); and 6-4 red-shirt freshman Mario West, a defensive specialist who averages 1.7 rebounds per game.
Tech adds one player to an already strong backcourt this week when 6-0 junior guard Will Bynum, a transfer from Arizona, plays for the first time Saturday against Saint Louis. Bynum arrived at Tech last January after averaging 6.6 points in 39 games for the Wildcats, and has sat out the necessary year under NCAA transfer rules.
Tech has outscored its first seven opponents by 25.9 points a game (best in the ACC), with the closest margin of victory being the 77-61 victory over No. 1 Connecticut. Tech’s opponents are shooting just 34.2 percent from the floor (none has yet shot 40 percent in a game), and 21.7 percent from three-point range, both of which lead the ACC. Tech also has a +3.3 turnover margin and has forced nearly as many turnovers (133) as it has allowed field goals (139).
7-0 Start Best Since 1989-90
Georgia Tech has begun its fourth campaign under Paul Hewitt with seven straight wins, the third-best start in the history of Tech basketball, matching the 1943-44 team, and the best start since the Final Four team of 1990.
Only two teams in Tech history have pushed an undefeated record beyond seven wins. The 1989-90 Tech Final Four team under head coach Bobby Cremins won its first 10 games, finishing 28-7, and the 1962-63 squad under Whack Hyder began 11-0 and finished 21-5 without an NCAA or NIT invitation.
Not Just Winning, But Winning Big
Georgia Tech has not only won its first seven games this season, it has done so in remarkably strong fashion, winning them by an average of 25.9 points, tops in the ACC. The closest margin of victory has been the 77-61 win over No. 1 Connecticut, the widest being Saturday’s 51-point defeat of Tennessee State.
Defensive pressure, both half-court and full-court, has fueled the Tech streak and created the offensive opportunities that have the Yellow Jackets averaging 81.9 points a game (third in the ACC) and shooting 50.3 percent from the floor (second in the ACC).
The Jackets have yet to allow a team to shoot 40 percent this season, and have limited their opponents to shoot 34.2 percent collectively and 21.7 percent from three-point range (both lead the ACC) while forcing 19 turnovers a game.
Off the Trail
As one might expect given the margin of victory in its wins this season, Georgia Tech has spent very little time on the short end of the score.
In seven games this season, the Yellow Jackets have trailed for a total of 20 minutes and 38 seconds – never past the 7:24 mark of the first half – and have led from start to finish in three of those games. Tech has held an average halftime lead of 11.4 points.
Cornell held a 27-26 lead at the 7:24 mark of the first half, and came the closest to leading in the second half, within 55-54 at the 13:14 mark.
Paul Hewitt – The First 100 Games
Head coach Paul Hewitt, if Georgia Tech can defeat Saint Louis Saturday, would match Roy Mundorff for the best record after 100 games of any coach in Yellow Jackets’ history. Hewitt is currently 55-44, and will coach his 100th Tech game against the Billikens. Mundorff was 56-44 in hs first 100 games on his way to a 172-134 mark in 17 seasons on the Flats.
Hewitt will become the sixth Tech coach with at least 100 games at the Institute. Here’s the ledger on the other five through their first 100 games.
#10/10 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Saint Louis Billikens (3-2, 0-0 C-USA)
December 13, 2003 * 12:30 p.m. ET * Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga. (19,000)
TV: Fox Sports Net South; Bob Rathbun, pbp; Eddie Fogler, color
Radio: Georgia Tech/ISP Network (flagship WQXI-AM 790); Wes Durham, pbp; Randy Waters, color
Tech Record Breakdown: Home: 3-0; Away: 2-0; Neutral: 2-0
Series Breakdown vs. Saint Louis: Overall: Tech leads, 6-3 (3-0 in city of Atlanta, 1-0 at neutral sites) Last meeting: Feb. 16, 2002 (Tech won 60-40 in St. Louis)
Tech at Philips Arena: 2-3
Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt: 121-71 (.630), 7th season overall 55-44 (.556), 4th season at Tech 22-26 (.458) vs. the ACC 1-1 vs. Saint Louis
Saint Louis Coach Brad Soderberg: 150-89 (.628), 10th season overall 19-16 (.543), 2nd season at Saint Louis 0-0 vs. Georgia Tech
Next for Georgia Tech: Dec. 17 vs. Alabama A&M, 7 p.m. ET Next for Saint Louis: Dec. 17 vs. Grambling State, 8:10 p.m. ET