Dec 13, 2003
By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech led by only seven points in an ugly game being played mostly in the half court.
One brilliant, 90-second span was enough to turn it around.
B.J. Elder scored 17 points and had two steals during that game-changing run early in the second half to help the 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets beat Saint Louis 75-62 Saturday in the Peach Bowl Classic.
Georgia Tech (8-0) continued its best start since 1989-90, and the Yellow Jackets could run the streak to 13 straight before traveling to North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener Jan. 11.
Like the first seven victories, this one was keyed by frantic, full-court defense.
“It all starts with defense,” guard Isma’il Muhammad said. “Once we get our defensive pressure up, we’re hard to beat.”
Georgia Tech led by only three points at halftime, but in a 90-second span that started with 16:36 left, the Yellow Jackets basically ended the game.
“I think it just kind of got ugly from there,” Saint Louis forward Chris Sloan said.
First, Luke Schenscher hit a hook, his only basket of the game. Elder made a steal on the inbounds pass and fed Clarence Moore for a layup, then stole the ball again. He passed to Jarrett Jack, who scored from in close.
After a timeout, Saint Louis (3-3) missed two shots on its end, and Will Bynum – playing his first game for Georgia Tech since transferring from Arizona last year – hit a leaner along the baseline to make it 48-33.
“That was what we wanted,” Muhammad said. “We said that in the first five minutes of the second half, let’s jump on them quick.”
The lead later reached 20 on a layup by Marvin Lewis, and the Yellow Jackets cruised from there, thanks to two highlight-reel dunks by Muhammad.
B.J. Elder scores a game-high 17 point on 6-for-12 shooting.
“It’s great to have all the X’s and O’s in place, but it’s better to have guys who go out and make plays,” Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said. “Right now, my focus with this team is just on the defensive end of the floor. When we can get in transition by defending and rebounding, we can be pretty good.”
Josh Fisher had 14 points for the Billikens, who lost their third straight and second in a row to a Top 10 opponent. Last Saturday, they lost 68-67 to then-No. 7 Arizona.
“They are exceptionally good,” Saint Louis coach Brad Soderberg said. “That’s about as good a backcourt, in combination, that we are going to see all year, certainly.
“We just played Arizona, and they don’t have that kind of depth.”
The first half was a struggle of wills, with Saint Louis patiently working the shot clock and Georgia Tech looking for any opportunity to increase the pace.
The Billikens clearly won that battle, using 11 points by Reggie Bryant and 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range to keep it close. They forced the Yellow Jackets into a half-court game and didn’t allow one fast-break point.
“We knew Saint Louis was going to make us work, especially on the defensive end of the floor,” Hewitt said. “It was important that we continued to defend right until the end of the shot clock. There were times in the first where we got deep in the shot clock and then had a breakdown.”
Elder, kept in check most of the half, finally broke free for consecutive 3s in the closing three minutes and finished with 10 in the half.