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Starting Five: Georgia Tech (5-3, 0-0 ACC) vs. Illinois (7-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Dec. 2, 2013

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

– Georgia Tech will try to snap a two-game losing streak and get a measure of revenge as it takes on Illinois tonight in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Tip-off in Tech’s first-ever Big Ten/ACC game at McCamish Pavilion is set for 7:15 p.m.

The Yellow Jackets had a tough weekend in Brooklyn, dropping a pair of games in the Barclays Center Classic, 77-67 to Ole Miss on Friday, then 68-59 to St. John’s in the finale. The Saturday afternoon loss to the Johnnies really hurt, as Tech let an early 15-point lead get away. Guard Solomon Poole hit a pair of threes early, as Tech went on an early 10-0 run to open a 19-4 lead. They led by 10 with 13 minutes left, but were undone by a 22-4 run. The Jackets shot only 28.6 percent in the second half and committed 10 turnovers, which resulted in 12 Johnnies’ points. Guard Trae Golden and forward Robert Carter, Jr. tied for the team lead with nine points, while center Daniel Miller grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots, both team highs.

The Fighting Illini raised their record to 7-0, 6-0 at home, by downing IPFW, 57-55, Friday night at the State Farm Center in Champaign. Rayvonte Rice had a game-high 17 and Tracy Abrams came off the bench to score 15, 12 in the second half, as the Illini held off the upset-minded Mastodons. IPFW led by 11 with 25 seconds left in the half and by eight at the break, but Illinois chipped away. The second half saw three ties and nine lead changes, with the ninth and final one coming when Abrams buried a jumper with two minutes left, as the Illini scored five straight points to finally pull away.

Tonight’s game will be the ninth meeting between the schools in a series that began in 1966. The Yellow Jackets have won only once in the previous eight games, a 61-53 win on March 21, 1985, in the NCAA Tournament East Regional Semifinal at the Providence Civic Center in Providence, R.I. They have lost the last five meetings, including a 75-62 road defeat in last year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Tech is 3-3 at home in the Challenge.

The game can be seen on ESPN2, with Bob Wischusen and Len Elmore calling the action. It also can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, WYAY (106.7 FM), with Brandon Gaudin and Randy Waters calling the action and via Satellite Radio on Channel 85 on both Sirius and XM. Tech fans also can follow the game online on WatchESPN or Ramblinwreck.com.

And now, the starting five for tonight’s game.

The Last Time We Met: Kammeon Holsey came off the bench and scored a team-high 14 and Mfon Udofia and Jason Morris each had 10 points, but Tech fell to No. 22 Illinois, 75-62, at Assembly Hall in Champaign. Guard Joseph Bertrand came off the bench and hit consecutive 3-pointers as part of his 10 straight points in a 21-4 run over the final 7:15, to lift Illinois. The Illini shot 53.8 percent in the second half (7-for-13) and hit 14 of 28 from behind the arc, outscoring Tech, 42-24 from three. Bertrand’s outburst overshadowed Tech’s 12-3 run, capped by a Morris slam with 10:19 to play, which gave Tech a 54-50 lead with 10:19 to play.

Tech Trivia: Georgia Tech has played ten different teams since the inception of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in 1999. Which two Big Ten teams have they not played?

Room and Boards: Forward Robert Carter, Jr. has been a rebounding machine over the first eight games for the Jackets. Carter is pulling down an ACC-best 9.5 rebounds per game and has four double-digit rebounding games, as many as the rest of the team combined (Daniel Miller has three, Kammeon Holsey, one). He had his streak of double-digit rebounding games halted at three on Saturday against St. John’s, when he had five. In his three games prior to Saturday he’d grabbed 41 rebounds (13, 15, 13), 13.7 rebounds per game. Carter now has nine double-digit rebounding games.

Poole-ing Your Three-sources: Solomon Poole found downtown Brooklyn very much to his liking. In the two games of the Barclays, he shot 7-for-14 from 3. He went off on Friday against Ole Miss, making 5-for-9 from 3 on his way to a career-high 24 points. The 3-PTFGAs, 3-PTFGMs also were career-bests. “Solo” had never scored more than eight points in a game. Poole has drained a team-high 13 3-pointers — the team has 37 and no Jacket has made more than six — and is shooting a team-best .371 from behind the arc.

90 Percent Positive: The Yellow Jackets know how close. Tech is 4-0 this season and 27-3 under Brian Gregory when leading with 5:00 to play. BG’s squad is pretty good when leading at the half as well, as Tech is 4-1 this season when leading at the intermission and is 23-10 under Gregory (.697).

The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech’s 5-3 mark in November gives them a 13-8 mark in three seasons under Brian Gregory in the first month, a .619 winning percentage…Georgia Tech has shot at least 33 percent from three in each of its last four games, shooting a collective .354 (23-for-65). Tech didn’t shoot higher than 28 percent in any of its first four games, shooting .245 (14-for-57)…Tech Trivia: The Yellow Jackets have not faced Purdue or Nebraska in the Challenge. They are 2-1 all time against Purdue and 1-0 against Nebraska. They have played all four games on neutral sites. The closest they’ve come to a home game against either school was the Cotton States Classic against Nebraska, played Dec. 28, 1983 in the Omni. Tech won, 66-49…Daniel Miller’s three-block game against St. John’s was his third of the season and 36th career game with at least three rejections….Trae Golden scored in double digits in each of his first seven games to start the season. That matched his career-high. He finished one point away from making it 8-for-8 and setting a career-high against St. John’s.

GEORGIA TECH LEADING SCORER: Trae Golden, 13.5 ppg
ILLINOIS LEADING SCORER: Rayvonte Rice, 17.1 ppg


GEORGIA TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Robert Carter, Jr., 9.5 rpg
ILLINOIS LEADING REBOUNDER: Joseph Bertrand, Nnanna Egwu, 6.6 rpg

GEORGIA TECH PPG: 73.4 ppg.
OPP. PPG: 67.0 ppg.

ILLINOIS PPG: 72.3 ppg.
OPP. PPG: 57.0 ppg.

ILLINOIS Player To Watch: Rayvonte Rice: At 6-4, 235, the redshirt junior transfer from Drake can and has been doing it all for the Illini. Rice, the sixth-leading scorer in the Big Ten, was named the conference’s Player of the Week last week after averaging 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals in two games, keeping Illinois unbeaten. He had a 25-point, 10-rebound double-double at UNLV, hitting the game-winning shot with 28 seconds left in the 61-59 victory. Three nights later he put in 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in a two-point home win over IPFW. He shot identical 45.5 percent from the field (15-for-33) and from three (5-for-11) in the two games. Rice redshirted last season and did not play in last year’s game against Georgia Tech.

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