Jan. 1, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Georgia Tech kicks off 2016 and ACC play in a big way on Saturday afternoon, taking on No. 7/8 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tip-off at the Dean Smith Center is set for noon.
The Yellow Jackets wrapped up 2015 by taking care of Duquesne, 73-67, on Tuesday night at McCamish Pavilion. The win was the sixth in seven games for Tech and gave the Jackets a sweep of their three-game homestand and their second 10-win non-conference record under Brian Gregory. Marcus Georges-Hunt led the way with his third 20-point game of the season and Adam Smith and Nick Jacobs added 17 and 14 points. The Jackets trailed by as much as nine in the first half and by one, 36-35, at the break but Smith’s three-pointer with 8:25 to play gave the Jackets a one-point lead and sparked a decisive 12-0 run, allowing the Jackets to finally pull away in a second half that saw six ties and nine lead changes. Charles Mitchell pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Tar Heels opened ACC play Wednesday night by topping Clemson, 80-69, at the Smith Center. Marcus Paige had a game-high 18 points to lead five Jackets in double-figures. Carolina overcame an early six-point deficit to take a seven-point lead into halftime, expanded the lead to 16 in the second half then withstood a late Clemson charge. The win continued UNC’s dominance over Clemson as they won for the 18th time in 19 meetings and raised its all-time record to 58-0 against the Tigers in Chapel Hill. Joel Berry II added 16 for the Heels. Leading scorer Brice Johnson was held to three points, but still grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.
Saturday’s game will be the 91st meeting between the two schools with North Carolina holding a 66-24 edge and riding a six-game series winning streak. The Tar Heels are 30-5 in Chapel Hill and 23-4 at the Smith Center.
The game can be seen on the ACC Network (WATL in Atlanta). It also can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, WYAY (93.7 FM) and 680 The Fan (680 AM), with Brandon Gaudin and Randy Waters on the call and on satellite radio on Sirius and XM, Channel 84 on both networks. Tech fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and the GT Gameday App.
And now, the Starting Five for Saturday’s game.
The Last Time We Met…: Charles Mitchell had a game-high 16 points with eight rebounds and Demarco Cox had 14 and eight, but Georgia Tech lost Marcus Georges-Hunt to a foot injury early and could not keep up with the 19th-ranked Tar Heels, falling 81-49 at McCamish Pavilion on March 3, 2015. The Jackets struggled from the perimeter, missing all six first-half three-point attempts and trailed 39-21 at the half. They’d miss their first five threes in the second half before Tadric Jackson nailed one with 7:31 to play and finished 1-for-16 on three-point attempts. Tech shot 32.8 percent for the game, while Carolina, which led by as much as 32, shot 53.1 percent for the game, 60.7 in the second half. The Jackets hurt themselves with turnovers, committing 18, which Carolina turned into 25 points. The Heels also had a 22-6 edge off the break.
The (Georges-)Hunter: After suffering his season-ending foot injury against North Carolina in last season’s regular season finale, Marcus Georges-Hunt has a score to settle with the Tar Heels and had a good game last time out upon which to build to do so. Georges-Hunt had his third 20-point game of the season against Duquesne, and shot 42.8 percent (6-for-14). The percentage was his best in four games, while the FGMs were his best in five and matched his second-best game of the season. Georges-Hunt enters play 20th in the ACC in scoring at 14.5 points per game. He is averaging 13.0 points with five field goals made in the last three full games against UNC — that does not include last year’s game at McCamish, where he played a little more than two minutes — and is shooting 46.9 percent in those games (15-for-32). Georges-Hunt has shot 76.9 percent from the line against the Heels over his last two games (10-for-13 — he’s 10-for-15 career), and he’s pulling down 5.5 rebounds per game (again, not counting that final game) including his ACC career-best 10 set as a freshman in Chapel Hill.
Tech Trivia: The Georgia Tech school-records for three-point field goals and points in an ACC game were set against North Carolina in back-to-back seasons. Who set both records?
Smith and Wesson: Adam Smith continued his hot shooting from behind the arc against Duquesne, hitting four of his nine attempts. It was Smith’s fifth game this season with at least four 3s and his sixth game in seven in which he’s hit at least three three-pointers. That trend could continue Saturday, as in his lone game game against North Carolina — on Jan. 18, 2015, at the Smith Center while with Virginia Tech — Smith went 3-for-6 from three-point range. Smith finished non-conference play with 38 three-point field goals made — 23 more than his nearest teammate, Marcus Georges-Hunt, and six more than Quinton Stephens’ season-leading total last season — on 43.7 percent shooting. He begins ACC play third in the conference in three-point field goals (2.92 per game) and seventh in percentage.
Born In The 50s: Georgia Tech’s field goal defense will be on the spot on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets limited opponents to 42.9 percent shooting in non-conference play and allowed only one to shoot over 50 percent. That one was No. 8/9 Villanova, which shot 52.9 percent, and beat the Jackets, 69-52, in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Nov. 27. That loss dropped Georgia Tech to 1-18 under Brian Gregory when opponents shoot over 50 percent. North Carolina has made 50 percent shooting the norm, as they’ve done so in 10 of their 14 games this season, in 16 of their 28 halves, five of the last seven halves and four straight. Last season, North Carolina shot 57.6 percent against the Jackets (72-for-125), shooting north of 60 percent in three of the four halves.
The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech’s 10-3 start matches its best win total under Gregory (2012-13) in the non-conference season…Charles Mitchell heads into conference play leading the ACC in rebounding (11.6 RPG), tied for the lead in defensive rebounds (7.6, tied with North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, both have 99), fourth in offensive rebounds (4.0 ORBG), and also ranks is third in field goal percentage (58.4)…Trivia Answer: Dennis Scott. Scott hit nine three-point field goals on Jan. 28, 1989 at the Smith Center in a 92-86 loss, That record has been since been matched three times — by Drew Barry on Feb. 10, 1996, also in North Carolina, by Tony Akins at Florida State on Feb. 21, 2000, and by Lewis Clinch on March 4, 2009 against Miami). The next season, on Feb. 1, 1990 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Scott went for 37 points in Tech’s 102-75 rout…While North Carolina leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9), Georgia Tech is not far behind (1.4). The difference comes primarily in assists, where the Tar Heels have 4.9 more per game. Turnover-wise, the Jackets average 10.6 per game, while the Heels have 10.5, having committed two more (138-136). Josh Heath has been central to taking care of the ball. He begins play Saturday fifth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio, at 3.4 (55 assists vs. 16 turnovers)…Tadric Jackson set his career-high for rebounds with seven the last time the Jackets saw the Tar Heels.
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 14.5 ppg
CAROLINA SCORING LEADER: Brice Johnson, 15.3 ppg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Charles Mitchell, 11.6 rpg
CAROLINA REBOUNDING LEADER: Brice Johnson, 9.6 rpg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Josh Heath, 4.2 apg
CAROLINA ASSISTS LEADER: Joel Berry II, 4.4 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG: 77.7 ppg
OPP. 2014-15 PPG: 68.7 ppg
CAROLINA PPG/ACC: 86.6/80.0
OPP. PPG/ACC: 70.0/69.0
CAROLINA Player To Watch – Marcus Paige: The 6-2, 175-pound senior sharpshooter appears to be over ankle issues and is hitting his stride — and his shots. A two-time All-ACC guard and preseason All-ACC first-teamer, Paige went off for a game-high 18 his last time out, shooting 8-for-12, including 1-for-3 from three. The eight field goals were a season-high, while the three-pointer extended his school career record for three-point field goals to 243. Paige has made at least one three-pointer in 38 consecutive games, also a school-record, having blown by the old mark of 34 earlier this year. In his seven games, Paige is shooting 47.1 percent, 45.9 from three-point range and 80.8 from the line.