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No. 3 Georgia Tech Tops VCU, 86-65

Dec 29, 2003

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By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA Marvin Lewis clanged his first 3-pointer off the rim, then made his next two. At that point, he felt as if he couldn’t miss.

“I’m a shooter, and like all shooters, when you make one, you think they’re all going in,” Lewis said.

Lewis snapped out of a nearly monthlong slump by scoring 19 points, helping No. 3 Georgia Tech survive a lackluster second half to beat Virginia Commonwealth 86-65 Monday night. The victory gave Yellow Jackets their best start ever.

They also have their highest ranking since Feb. 3, 1986, when they were No. 2, and at 12-0, they’re one game better than the 1962-63 team.

“That means a lot to me, since I’m a senior,” Lewis said. “That puts me and this team in the record book, and nobody can ever take that away from us.”

B.J. Elder and Jarrett Jack each added 17 points for Georgia Tech, and Clarence Moore had 14. Lewis finished 5-of-9 from beyond the arc after going only 8-of-28 (29 percent) in the previous five games.

A trip home over the holidays to visit his father, a high school coach, got him back on the right track.

“I went to practice with him one day, and we worked some on my technique,” Lewis said. “I basically just got a lot of reps, shooting over and over. He just told me to stay aggressive and keep shooting, because eventually, the shots would start falling.”

The Rams (6-3) were without starting point guard Alexander Harper, who is out four-to-six weeks after having surgery Monday to repair a broken bone in his foot. Michael Doles and Domonic Jones each had 15 points for VCU.

“We certainly struggled a little bit,” Rams coach Jeff Capel said. “He’s the only true point guard on our team. He’s the guy who is the calming influence on our guys, and he allows Domonic Jones to score and not have to worry as much about bringing the ball up.”

The Yellow Jackets looked solidly in control at halftime thanks to a suffocating 31-9 run over the final 11? minutes. A putback by Kevin Moore brought the Rams within 17-16, but they went about 5 minutes without another basket.

Clarence Moore scores in the first half against Virginia Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, Elder scored eight consecutive points, including two straight 3s, and Georgia Tech was on its way.

A layup by Jones made it 35-19 with 6:08 left in the half before another scoring drought. The Rams missed eight straight shots, getting only a free throw from Nick George in that span, and the Yellow Jackets led 46-20. It was 48-25 at halftime.

“They got us playing their pace, and we talked about that for three days in preparation for the game,” Capel said. “They were gambling on defense and really getting after it, and sometimes, they were missing steals, but it got us in a frantic pace.”

An 8-0 spurt after halftime made it a 31-point lead, but VCU slowly rallied. B.A. Walker hit a 3-pointer midway through the second half to cut the lead to 61-44, and it eventually got all the way down to 14.

“At halftime, Coach just told us to go out there and fight, just fight,” Rams guard Jesse Pellot-Rosa said. “They made a run at us but we still knew in our hearts and our minds that we were going to fight it out until the end.”

Another run by Georgia Tech, this one punctuated by a thunderous dunk by Moore, sealed the victory. He stole the show a bit from Isma’il Muhammad, who normally provides the high-flying moments for the Yellow Jackets.

“I’ve been telling him I’ve got some wind beneath my wings, too,” Moore said. “It’s all in fun. Ish is the highlight reel, but I got mine, too.”

The Yellow Jackets, who burst upon the national scene by winning the Preseason NIT, had 21 first-place votes in The Associated Press poll that was released Monday. That total was second only to No. 1 Connecticut, which lost 77-61 to Georgia Tech in the semifinals of that tournament.

So far, the Yellow Jackets have won their games by an average of 25 points. The two closest contests of the season have come against St. John’s and St. Louis, both of which Georgia Tech won by a 13-point margin.

In this one, they forced 21 turnovers and surrendered 23 baskets, just missing out on holding their opponent to less field goals than turnovers for the fifth time.

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