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Starting Five: Georgia Tech vs. Cornell

Nov. 13, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Georgia Tech opens its 101st season and fifth in the Brian Gregory Era Friday night when they host the Big Red of Cornell University. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. and follows the Georgia Tech Women’s opener against Loyola Chicago.

The Yellow Jackets look to take the first step in a major leap forward following last year’s 12-19 season, 3-15 in ACC play. While their three wins were the fewest under Gregory (55-71, 19-51), the Jackets easily could have fared much better as 13 of their 16 ACC losses came by a total of 47 points, an average of 3.6 points.

This year’s team returns three starters and nine letterwinners and six of its top eight scorers, including leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt, who is back healthy after a foot injury in the final regular season game, top rebounder Charles Mitchell, and both starting points, Travis Jorgenson and Josh Heath. The Jackets also reinforced their front line adding fifth-year senior Nick Jacobs and grad student James White, and upgraded their perimeter game by adding former Virginia Tech sharp-shooter Adam Smith.

The Big Red will try to once again defy the experts, having been picked to finish eighth in the Ivy League for the second consecutive season. Last year they finished fifth, going 13-17 (5-9), an 11-game improvement over the previous season. To do so sixth-year coach Bill Courtney (50-95, 24-46) must replace three of his top four scorers and leading rebounder. They’re a solid defensive team, leading the Ivy League in field goal percentage defense (38.9 percent, 18th in the nation) and blocked shots (4.8 bpg). Last season was the first time in 51 years that they held opponents under 40 percent shooting for a season.

Tonight will be the fourth meeting between the schools and the first since 2003. The Yellow Jackets have won all three previous meetings by an average of 21.7 points.

The game can be seen online on ESPN3 with Richard Musterer and Jon Babul calling the action and can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, 680 The Fan in Atlanta (680 AM/93.7 FM), with Brandon Gaudin and Randy Waters on the call. Tech fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and on the GT Gameday App.

And now, the Starting Five for Friday night’s game.

The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech ruined Cornell’s home opener with a 90-69 victory on Nov. 23, 2003, in a game actually much closer than the final score indicated. The Jackets led 42-38 at the break and were up by only one with 13 minutes to play before going on a decisive 14-2 run. Jarrett Jack scored a career-high-tying 21 points, leading five double-figure scorers, with six rebounds and game-highs with eight assists and four steals. Marvin Lewis contributed 18, six rebounds and seven assists, and B.J. Elder added a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double. Tech limited the Big Red to 30 percent shooting (8.3 percent from three, 1-for-12) over the final 20 minutes, while shooting 51.3 percent, and forcing 21 turnovers. The Jackets raised their record to 4-0 on their way to the NCAA Championship game.

Welcome Back, Marcus!: Senior guard Marcus Georges-Hunt’s right foot is fixed and he’s fixed his sights on a big final season. Georges-Hunt, who had played in all 93 games since arriving on campus before having to miss the Jackets’ ACC Tournament game last season, was Tech’s leading scorer last season (13.6 ppg — 17th in the ACC — and has scored in double-figures in 63 of his 93 games, including a streak of 11 straight double-digit-scoring games prior to the injury. MGH also became the 43rd Yellow Jacket player so reach 1,000 points and begins 2015-16 with 1,127 points (35th all-time). He is nine points away from tying Jim Nolan (1946-49) for 34 place, and, for those looking way ahead, is 607 points away from tying legendary forward Malcolm Mackey for 10th place in school history.

Tech Trivia: Forward Quinton Stephens led Georgia Tech in scoring with 22 points in last season’s opener, an 80-73 victory over Georgia and has a chance to make it two straight tonight. Who was the last player to lead Georgia Tech in scoring in back-to-back season-openers?

All On Board: Georgia Tech was among the best teams in the country last season in rebounding margin (plus-7.3, third in the ACC and 12th-best in the country), and offensive rebounding (14.3, tops in the conference and 11th-best in the nation). They plan on being even better this season, as they return Mitchell, who was second in the ACC and 20th in the nation, averaging 3.52 ORBs. (3.52, 20th nationally). The addition of bigs James White (2.3 ORB/G) and Nick Jacobs (1.41) will add size and experience in the middle and should help Georgia Tech increase last year’s average of 12.7 second-chance points

Been There, Done That: Georgia Tech will certainly not be lacking on-court experience this season, as the Jackets bring back eight players who boast 178 starts and made at least three last season. That doesn’t even include in the additions of transfers Adam Smith, who has 59 starts, James White (51) and Nick Jacobs (29). That leaves freshman Sylvester Ogbonda as the only player who has not seen the court in a college setting. They also add firepower as Smith averaged 13.4 ppg and led the ACC in three-point shooting (43.8), while White added 11.9 ppg and averaged 6.6 boards and Jacobs had career averages of 7.3 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Last year’s team started with three true freshmen (Abdoulaye Gueye, Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers) and a redshirt freshman (Jorgenson).

The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech looks to continue its trend of good starts. The Yellow Jackets are 31-4 since joining the ACC and haven’t lost a season-opener since 2007-08, an 83-74 loss to UNC Greensboro at Alexander Memorial Coliseum…Tech will have a rugged non-conference slate, as opponents include Georgia, Arkansas and Stanford or Villanova. The Bulldogs, Razorbacks and Wildcats all made the NCAA Tournament, and while the Cardinal did not make the Big Dance, they ended up winning the NIT… Trivia Answer: Matt Harpring led Georgia Tech in scoring in back-to-back seasons, doing so in the ‘96-97 and ‘97-98 openers. Harpring scored 28 points on Nov. 22, 1996 in the 74-49 rout of Wofford then, the following year, led Tech with 25 in the 95-65 victory of Winthrop on Nov. 24, 1997. Harpring also led the Jackets in rebounding both seasons, with 13 and 12…The arrival of Smith should make Tech a better perimeter team. Under Gregory, the Jackets are 26-18 when making more threes than their opponent but 28-43 when opponents shoot better from three…Georgia Tech is 8-6 all-time against the Ivy League, with three of those wins coming at the expense of Cornell.

STAT CATEGORY  GEORGIA TECH  CORNELL
Top Returning Scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt, 13.6 PPG Robert Hatter, 11.3 PPG
Top Returning Rebounder Charles Mitchell, 7.0 RPG David Onuorah, 3.5 RPG
Top Returning Assists Leader Travis Jorgenson, 3.3 APG Darryl Smith & Robert Hatter, 0.7 APG
2014-2015 Team PPG 63.3 62.3
2014-15 Opponent PPG 64.6 61.3

CORNELL Player To Watch: Robert Hatter: The 6-2, 175-pound junior guard from Houston, Texas, is a solid, two-way player, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (11.3 ppg, 10th in the Ivy League) and the team’s top three-point shooter (46 3PTFGMs). Hatter also is not shy about hitting the glass (2.7 rpg, ninth in the Ivy), and can be a stout defender (1.2 spg, third), as he showed last season by shutting out Columbia’s Maodo Lo, the Ivy League’s leading scorer. Hatter also made a tremendous improvement at the foul line hitting 83.3 percent, up 37 percent from his freshman season.

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