Dec. 15, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech returns to the court for the first time in nine days following finals week and will try to match its longest winning streak of the season when it hosts the Rams of VCU. Tip-off at McCamish Pavilion is scheduled for Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. ET. The game will be part of a double-header with the women’s team, which takes on Prairie View A&M at 6 p.m.
Prior to the break, the Yellow Jackets made it two straight wins and three in four last Saturday, topping the Green Wave of Tulane, 76-68, at Devlin Fieldhouse. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored a game-high 19 to lead four double-digit scorers and Charles Mitchell continued his streak of double-doubles with 14 points and 14 rebounds. In its first true road game of the season, Georgia Tech led 39-38 at the half courtesy of a Nick Jacobs’ lay-up with 46 seconds remaining. The half saw five ties and seven lead-changes. Tech extended the lead to10 midway through the second half. The Green Wave cut the lead to three with 3:30 to go, but Georges-Hunt and Mitchell combined to score six straight points to push the lead to nine and the lead never fell below six. Jacobs and Adam Smith each added 13 for the Jackets.
The Rams, who also were off for finals, hung tough their last time out but eventually dropped a 76-71 decision to Florida State last Sunday in a game played at Philips Arena. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak, their second such streak of the young season. VCU got a career-high 36 points from guard Melvin Johnson and overcame a 14-point first-half deficit, using a 29-11 run to take the lead with 6:01 remaining. But Florida State regained the lead, with an 11-3 run then held off the Rams. Johnson scored the team’s final 14 points, including a three-pointer that cut the lead to 72-71 with 52 seconds remaining before the Seminoles put the game away at the foul line. VCU outscored Florida State, 30-15 from three-point range but was outscored 42-30 in the paint, 13-4 on second-chance points and 27-17 off the break.
Tuesday’s game will be the third meeting between the schools, with Georgia Tech having won the first two. The Jackets, ranked No. 3 in the country, beat VCU, 86-65, on Dec. 29, 2003 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum then topped them 73-60 on Nov. 18, 2011, Coach Brian Gregory’s debut season with the Jackets, in that year’s Charleston Classic.
The game can be seen on ESPN2 with Anish Shroff and Cory Alexander calling the action. It also and 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 Channel 81 and XM Channel 81. Tech fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and the GT Gameday App.
And now, the Starting Five for Tuesday’s game.
The Last Time We Met: Glen Rice scored a game-high 19 points, 15 of them in the second half, and Georgia Tech overcame a 13-point first-half deficit in taking a 73-60 win over the Rams on Nov. 18, 2011 at TD Arena in Charleston. Tech shot 61.3 percent in the second half (19-for-31), including hitting 4-of-8 from three in outscoring VCU 50-29 in the second half to take over the game. Trailing 38-31 5:30 into the second half, the Jackets went on a 13-0 run to take the lead for good. Kammeon Holsey, who had 10, started the run with a pair of free throws. Rice then scored eight straight points, including hitting a pair of three-point field goals. Guard Mfon Udofia closed the run with a three of his own. The Jackets dominated the boards, 45-28, and had a 30-16 edge in points in the paint. In the second half they turned around points off turnovers, winning the second half 11-5 after losing the first 20, 10-2.
Cashing In — Georgia Tech is making opponents pay the price for turning the ball over. The Yellow Jackets have outscored opponents off turnovers in three of their past four games and in five of their first eight. The five games are one fewer than last season’s total over 12 non-conference games. More important, the Jackets are winning those games. They’re 5-0 when outscoring opponents off turnovers. Last year in non-conference play they were 6-5-1. In Tech’s last game the Jackets doubled up Tulane, 20-10, off giveaways. The 20 points matched a season-high (vs. Green Bay on Nov. 19) and marked the fourth time this season that Tech cashed in at least 17 points off opponent’s miscues. They hit 17 points off turnovers four times in non-conference play last season. The Jackets’ 14.4 points off turnovers is up almost a point and a half over last season (13.0).
The Dimes They Are A’Changin’ — Not only are the Yellow Jackets helping themselves on opponents’ mistakes they’re cashing in on their end. Heading into the game with VCU, Tech is plus-37 on assists (116) vs. turnovers (79). Last season they were minus-13 in non-conference play (144 assists vs. 157 turnovers). The Jackets are handing out 14.5 assists vs. 9.9 turnovers, plus-4.6 per game. In their 12 non-conference games last season they were minus-1.1, 12.0 assists vs. 13.1 turnovers. The Jackets have a 1.37-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio, sparked by their tandem at the point of Josh Heath and Travis Jorgenson, who combine for a 3.6-1 (54 assists vs. 15 turnovers).
Tech Trivia: Josh Heath is currently fifth in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio at 3.3. Who was the last Yellow Jacket to lead the conference in that category?
Marcus Being Marcus — When we last saw senior guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, he was in form, lighting up Tulane for 19 points. Actually, he was back in form, as the 19 points snapped a skid of back-to-back single-digit-scoring games (against Villanova on Nov. 27 and Wofford on Dec. 1). Those games were his first single-digit-scoring games of the season, his first in 19 games — that does not include the regular-season finale against North Carolina, when he left after only three minutes due to injury — and marked only the second such streak over the last two seasons (the other came when he had consecutive eight-point games at Northwestern (Dec. 3) then three days later against USC Upstate. Georges-Hunt, who has 69 career double-digit scoring games, has never gone longer than three straight games in his Georgia Tech career without scoring in double digits.
The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech is 4-0 under Brian Gregory in games coming off Finals Week…Adam Smith is hitting a sizzling 43.4 percent from three-point range (23-for-53), taking 6.6 attempts per game. Anthony Morrow is the last Jacket to hit at least 43.0 percent from three (minimum 5.0 attempts), hitting 44.8 percent (81-for-181 in 32 games, 5.7 attempts per game during the 2005-06 season…Trivia Answer: Travis Best, who led the ACC in 1994 with a 2.42 (167 assists vs. 69 turnovers)…Point guard Travis Jorgenson has been “Mr. Clean Sheet” for the Yellow Jackets. Jorgenson already has four games this season without a turnover. That’s one fewer than the total number he had in 34 career games coming into the season. The redshirt sophomore guard has five turnovers on the season…Following his eight points in 10 minutes against Tulane, junior forward Quinton Stephens is averaging 19.8 points per 40 minutes. That’s good for third on the team.
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 14.6 ppg
VCU SCORING LEADER: Melvin Johnson, 19.9 ppg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Charles Mitchell, 13.0 rpg
VCU REBOUNDING LEADER: Justin Tillman, 5.8 rpg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Josh Heath, 4.1 apg
VCU ASSISTS LEADER: JeQuan Lewis, 4.4 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG: 81.0 ppg
OPP. 2014-15 PPG: 70.6 ppg
VCU PPG: 74.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 65.0 ppg
VCU Player To Watch: Melvin Johnson: The 6-4, 190-pound senior guard is an explosive scorer from anywhere, but especially on the perimeter. A preseason All-Atlantic-10 third-teamer, Johnson is the A-10’s leading three-point shooter (4.1 three-point field goals per game), fourth-leading scorer (19.9 ppg) and is in the midsts of a career-best season. He is connecting on 47.8 percent of his three-point attempts (sixth in the A-10), which is 83 points higher than his previous best year (2013-14) and up 115 points on last year, and he’s hit at least one in 14 straight games dating back to last year. His last time out, Johnson scored a career-best 36 points at Florida State on 14-for-24 shooting, 8-for-14 from three-point range. The 36 points were the most by a VCU player in more than a decade, while the eight 3PTFGMs matched his career-best set back on Dec. 21, 2013, against another ACC school, Virginia Tech. Johnson became the sixth Ram to hit 200 three-point field goals and is within range of the all-time record of 269.