Jan. 8, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
Georgia Tech will play just its second road game of the season tonight at No. 20 NC State, and there may be good and bad in that.
The good: the last time the Yellow Jackets (10-3, 0-1 ACC) played in Raleigh, they beat the Wolfpack (12-2, 1-0) last season. That was probably the high point of head coach Brian Gregory’s first season with the Jackets.
The bad: NC State is pretty darned good, arguably better than Illinois, which is the only other place this season the Jackets have played other than in McCamish Pavilion and at a neutral site.
“We’ve got a great challenge in front of us,” Gregory said. “NC State was picked to win the league.”
NC State has considerable talent back in seniors Richard Howell of Marietta’s Wheeler High and Scott Wood, and juniors Lorenzo Brown (of Roswell) and C.J. Leslie. Add freshmen T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, and you have a balanced team.
The Wolfpack have led the nation or been near the lead in shooting percentage most of the season (53.1 percent presently), and they score every way.
“They’re super explosive,” Gregory said. “They’ve got great veterans that have been through a lot, and last year went to the Sweet 16. They can hurt you a lot of different ways.”
Forwards Leslie (15.4 points per game) and Warren (13.4) lead the way on offense, although guard Brown (12.5, 6.4 assists) has a lot to do with making the Wolfpack go, and Wood is as deadly a 3-point shooter as can be found (43.2 percent on 81 attempts). Howell is averaging 13.2 points and 9.7 rebounds.
“There are not many guys in the open court faster than Brown,” Gregory said. “Their transition is so explosive . . . the freshman [Warren] can really finish. That’s a pretty formidable perimeter.”
In splitting with NC State last season, the Jackets showed signs in both games of what Gregory wants. The key is bringing it more often.
“We did a lot of good things both times that we played them. It’s a new season,” he said. “We’re a better team, but it’s how well you perform during those 40 minutes. We weren’t aggressive enough on offense Saturday. We need to aggressively take what the defense gives us. The better word is you can’t be impatient . . . you can’t take wild shots.”