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Starting 5: Georgia Tech at No. 24/21 Pittsburgh

Jan. 6, 2016

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

– Georgia Tech takes the next step in its rugged ACC-season-opening gauntlet tonight, with its second of three games against top-25 teams and second straight road game, this time visiting No. 24/21 Pittsburgh. Tip-off at the Petersen Events Center is set for 7 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets gave No. 7 North Carolina all it could handle in its ACC opener on Saturday, but fell short, dropping an 86-78 decision at the Smith Center. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored a career-high 25 points and Adam Smith added 20, hitting a season-best six three-pointers. The Jackets led by as much as nine and by three at the break, becoming only the second team all year to lead UNC at intermission. But after four ties and two lead changes in the second half — the 10th tie and fifth lead-change of the day — the Tar Heels took the lead for good with 5:07 left and used an 8-0 run to keep the Jackets at bay. The loss was only Georgia Tech’s third in 11 games when leading at the break.

The Panthers had no problem with their non-conference tune-up against Maryland-Eastern Shore, chalking up a 92-58 win Saturday at Petersen Center. The win was the Panthers’ eighth straight, seven of those by double digits, and raised their home record to 10-1. Jamel Artis and Michael Young each scored 14 to lead four double-figure scorers. Homestanding PIttsburgh took a 39-33 lead into halftime then came out storming in the second half, shooting 73 percent and outscoring the Hawks, 58-23. After seven ties and two lead changes in the first half, Pitt went on a 7-0 run to snap the game’s seventh tie and took a 39-33 lead into the locker room. In the second half, they used an early 14-2 run to open the lead to 17 and never looked back. The Panthers forced 11 second-half turnovers and scored 18 points off them.

Wednesday’s game will be the eighth meeting between the Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, with Tech holding a 5-2 lead, but looking to snap a two-game series-losing streak. They are 0-1 at Petersen Events Center, their only true road game in the series.

The game can be seen on Fox Sports South with Tom Werme and Mike Gminski calling the action. The game also will be streamed on ESPN3. It 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, as well as on satellite radio (Pittsburgh’s call) on Sirius Channel 93 and XM Channel 201. Fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and the GT Gameday App.

And now, the Starting Five for tonight’s game.

The Last Time We Met…: Robert Sampson came off the bench to score 16 points and grab eight rebounds but Georgia Tech doomed itself with 15 turnovers and fell to Pittsburgh, 70-65, last Jan. 15 at the Petersen Center. Marcus Georges-Hunt (13), Charles Mitchell (10) and Quinton Stephens (10) also scored in double-figures for the Jackets, who overcame a nine-point first-half deficit and cold shooting (37.5 percent) by hitting 11 of 13 free throw attempts. Mitchell also pulled in a game-high nine rebounds, seven on the offensive end. Led by Mitchell, the Jackets had a 16-12 edge on the offensive glass and used it to earn a 19-11 advantage in second-chance points. But turnovers plagued Tech the entire game, as they committed seven in the first half and eight more in the second, which the Panthers turned into a 14-2 edge in points off turnovers.

Rocky Road: Just how tough is Georgia Tech’s early ACC schedule? It’s unprecedented in school history. For the first time since moving to the ACC prior to the 1979-80 season the Jackets will open conference play with back-to-back-to-back games against top-25 teams, two of them in the top 10, and the first two on the road. This season is the first they’ve opened an ACC season against back-to-back top-25 teams since 2007-08, when they visited No. 25/RV Miami then hosted top-ranked North Carolina. Following tonight’s game the Jackets’ host No. 4/4 Virginia in their home-opener. It’s the first time they’ve played their first three ACC games against ranked teams but not the first time they’ve played back-to-back-to-back conference games against the top 25. The last time that happened was 2000-01, when Tech played four straight (Jan. 2 through 13) against top-25 representatives (vs. No. 13/14 North Carolina, at No. 17/17 Maryland, at No. 10/9 Virginia and against No. 6/6 Wake Forest).

On The LIne: Marcus Georges-Hunt hit 12 free throws in 15 attempts against North Carolina. Both were career highs. Georges-Hunt is making a nice living on the line this season, as the 15 FTAs marked the fifth time this season that he has taken at least 10 foul shots in a game — he also was 9-for-10 on Nov. 22 against East Tennessee State, 11-for-12 Dec. 15 against VCU, 9-for-10 Dec. 19 at Georgia and 6-for-10 Dec. 29 against Duquesne — after having four games with double-digit free throw attempts in his previous three years. He’s also gone to the line at least 10 times in back-to-back games twice this season, something he’d done once in his previous three seasons. Georges-Hunt is getting to the line 7.2 times per game, up more than two shots a game from his previous career-best last year (5.1), and he’s also converting at 81.2 percent. That’s up from his 76.3 of a year ago, is 4/100ths of a point from cracking the top 10 in the ACC although he’s attempted 25 more foul shots than eight of the 10, and is second on the team behind only Josh Heath’s 91.7, who is 11-for-12 on the season.

Tech Trivia: At his current rate, Marcus Georges-Hunt would attempt 231 free throws this season (including one ACC Tournament game). That total would rank second all-time for a season in Georgia Tech history. Who holds the school record for most free throw attempts in a season?

Safe Keeping: It’s safe to say the ball is in good hands when it’s in the hands of Georgia Tech’s point guards. Josh Heath and Travis Jorgenson continued that trend against North Carolina. Heath had six assists against only two turnovers and has chalked up 27 assists to only five turnovers (a 5.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio) over his last five games. The two turnovers were actually high for Heath, whose 61-to-18 assist-turnover ratio ranks third in the ACC and his 4.4 assists per game is 10th. Jorgenson had five assists against two turnovers at UNC and has 38 assists to only eight turnovers this season. Over his last five games, he has 17 helpers against three miscues (5.6-to-1). The two turnovers against UNC were actually high for both of them, as Heath has three clean games and six others with one turnover, while Jorgenson has seven clean games and four others with one.

The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech begins play fourth in the ACC in rebounding margin at plus-8.9 and has won the rebounding battle in 11 of their first 14 games even though they did not win it against North Carolina, which is one of the three teams in front of them. The Jackets will be tested again against Pittsburgh, as the Panthers also rank ahead of them at plus-12.1 (second in the conference). The Jackets will see ACC rebounding leader, Louisville, on Jan. 23, their sixth conference game…Georgia Tech is averaging 15.1 assists per game this season (211 assists in 14 games). That’s almost four more per game than they averaged last season, when they had 11.7 (362 in 31 games)…Trivia Answer: Rich Yunkus took 241 free throws during the 1970-71 season. He also set the school record that season by making 187 of them…Ben Lammers has hit eight of 10 free throws over his last four games, including 3-for-4 in each of his last two. He started the season making one of his first five FTAs…Nick Jacobs’ four steals against North Carolina matched his total from 2013-14 and were a career-best. His previous high was three while with Alabama on Jan. 19 , 2013 against Texas A&M. Jacobs had three steals in the Jackets’ first 13 games.

GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 15.3 ppg
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt (ACC), 25.0 ppg
PITTSBURGH SCORING LEADER: Michael Young, 16.9 ppg

PITTSBURGH SCORING LEADER (ACC): Jamel Artis, 18.0 ppg

GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Charles Mitchell, 11.2 rpg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER (ACC): Marcus Georges-Hunt, Charles Mitchell, Ben Lammers, 6.0 rpg
PITTSBURGH REBOUNDING LEADER: Michael Young, 7.4 rpg

PITTSBURGH REBOUNDING LEADER (ACC): Jamel Artis, Sheldon Jeter, 9.0 rpg

GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Josh Heath, 4.4 apg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER (ACC): Josh Heath, 6.0 apg
PITTSBURGH ASSISTS LEADER: James Robinson, 5.2 apg
PITTSBURGH ASSISTS LEADER (ACC): Jamel Artis, 8.0 apg

GEORGIA TECH PPG/ACC: 77.7/86.0 ppg
OPP. 2014-15 PPG/ACC: 69.9/78.0 ppg

PITTSBURGH PPG/ACC: 85.0/72.0
OPP. PPG/ACC: 62.7/61.0

PITTSBURGH Player To Watch – James Robinson: The 6-3, 198-pound senior point is a big reason why the Panthers are one of the most explosive teams in the ACC and the nation and why they’re fourth in the nation in assists per game (20.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.78:1). He is the one that keeps the dynamic duo of 6-7, 215-pound Jamel Artis and 6-9, 235-pound frontcourt and classmate Michael Young happy. Robinson begins play tonight as the nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.1), is second in the ACC in assists (5.2 apg) and, on the other side of the ball, is tied for seventh in steals (1.4 spg). He’s only the fifth player in school history to record at least 900 points, 500 assists, 300 rebounds and 125 steals for his career, is the all-time Panther leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.51:1), and has the third-longest streak in program history with at least one assist (75 — 16 away from tying the career record). Tonight the indestructible Robinson will move into a tie for fifth place in school history with his 117th consecutive game played and fourth place with his 102nd straight start.

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