Nov. 28, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech will be defending the name of the ACC when it takes on Northwestern in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge tonight at 7:15 p.m. The game marks the ’11-12 Philips Arena debut for the Yellow Jackets.
Tech raised its record to 3-0 at the Arena at Gwinnett its last time out, pounding an under-manned Siena squad, 72-44, on Wednesday. Glen Rice, Jr. led the Jackets with 23 points, while Kammeon Holsey chipped in 14, as Tech limited Siena to 30.0 shooting for the game. It was revenge for the Jackets, who lost to the Saints, 62-57, last year in Albany, N.Y.
The Jackets will be looking to exact similar revenge against Northwestern, who beat them 91-71 in last year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This will be the second-ever meeting between the schools.
The Wildcats enter the game at 5-0. Senior John Shurna had a game-high 20 and freshman Dave Sobolewski added 16, as the Wildcats dumped Stony Brook, 63-58, in their the ‘Cats’ last outing. The win was NU’s 15th in its last 16 November games, and put them at 5-0 for the second straight season. The Wildcats recently won the Charleston Classic, but never met the Yellow Jackets.
Tonight’s game can be seen on ESPNU with Rob Stone calling the play-by-play and former Yellow Jacket Drew Barry providing color analysis. As always, the game can be heard on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network’s flagship stations WQXI-AM (790 the Zone) and WYAY (106.7 FM). Wes Durham and Randy Waters call the action. Fans also can follow the game and get live stats on Ramblinwreck.com.
Here now, the starting five for tonight’s game.
Reversal of Fortune: Georgia Tech would like to reverse recent trends in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Jackets have lost their last three meetings in the series and four of their last five, including last year’s loss at Northwestern. Tech has an overall 4-7 mark in the series. Tonight also marks Tech’s second home game in the Challenge at Philips Arena. The first was an 80-77 loss to Michigan in 1999, the first year of the event. Should Tech win tonight, it would not only reverse those curses, but also snap Northwestern’s streak of three straight wins in the Challenge.
Big Dan: Center Daniel Miller was expected to contribute on the boards and he has. But he has been coming up big offensively as well. Miller hit for 10 points 10 days ago versus VCU, his third double-digit game of the season. He had three all last year. Miller, who is fourth on the team with 9.3 points per game, is seven points away from 200 for his career. By the way, defensively, he has been huge. He’s seventh in the ACC with 8.2 rpg, and leads the conference with 3.0 blocks. He’s blocked a shot in 12 straight games and has at least one swat in 33 of his 37 collegiate games. He is three away from catching James Forrest for 12th place all-time.
Bench Mark: Glen Rice has taken well to coming off the bench. Against Siena, Rice came out sizzling, scoring a season-high 23 points, while shooting 10-for-12, 2-for-4 from three. In three games, Rice hasn’t shot below 50 percent, and is shooting .667 (22-for-33). He’s also been hot from behind the arc, converting 42.9 percent of his tries (6-for-14). The Jackets are 2-1 since his return.
The Royal Wheeee!: Freshman forward Julian Royal played 14 minutes against Siena, that was his high since the season opener against Florida A&M. He made the most of his time, scoring six points on 2-for-4 shooting and making both of this free throw attempts (he’s now 7-for-8 from the stripe on the season), pulling down three rebounds and blocking his fourth shot of the season. He’s recorded a block in four of the six games he’s played.
Defending the Three: In last season’s game against Northwestern, Georgia Tech was taken out of the game in the first half, when they allowed the Wildcats to shoot 10-for-12 from three on their way to an opponents’ season-high 12 three-pointers made. Thus far, the Jackets have done a better job defending the three-point line. Opponents have shot .345 from behind the arc — last year they shot .379. Although they struggled in Charleston, allowing 26 threes in 60 attempts (.433) in their last game, the Jackets held Siena to 3-for-15 from long range.
The Sixth Man: Tech has had good success overall at Philips Arena, winning four of its last five games there. All four wins came in the Chick-fil-A Classic for Kids, beating Kentucky, 86-84, on Dec. 9, 2000, Syracuse, 96-80, on Dec. 16, 2001, Saint Louis, 75-62, on Dec. 13, 2003 and Air Force, 64-42, on Dec. 11, 2004. The one loss in that stretch came on Dec. 15, 2002, 70-69, against Tennessee. This is Tech’s first November game at Philips Arena.
TECH LEADING SCORER: Glen Rice, 23.0 ppg
NORTHWESTERN LEADING SCORER: John Shurna, 21.2 ppg
TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Daniel Miller, 9.0 rpg
NORTHWESTERN LEADING REBOUNDER: John Shurna, Drew Crawford, 6.2 rpg.
TECH PPG: 78.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 51.7 ppg.
NORTHWESTERN PPG: 72.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 62.8 ppg.
NORTHWESTERN Player to Watch: John Shurna: The Yellow Jackets got to see plenty of the senior forward last season, as he lit up Tech with a game-high 21 points in the 91-71 loss. This season, the All-America Candidate is leading the Big Ten at 21.2 ppg and also is in the top 10 in rebounding, with 6.2 boards per game. Shurna, who is ninth all-time in school career scoring, sixth in three-point field goals, ninth in three-point field goal percentage and fifth in blocked shots, hit for his career-high 37 against LSU in the Charleston Classic.