ATLANTA – Hoping to close out its regular season on a winning note, Georgia Tech visits Florida State in a non-televised game at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.
Tech, 16-10 overall and 8-7 in ACC games, comes into the game in fifth place, a game and a half ahead of Wake Forest, with whom the Yellow Jackets have split their regular season series. A half-game ahead of the Jackets at 8-6 are Maryland and Virginia, against whom Tech is 3-1 this year. Tech is guaranteed at least a .500 finish in the conference for the first time since 1995-96, when Tech finished first at 13-3.
Tech has won six of its last nine games, including wins over Maryland, ranked No. 13 at the time, and No. 6 Virginia. The Yellow Jackets defeated Clemson their last time out, 85-64 Sunday in Atlanta. FSU is 7-20 overall and 2-12 in the ACC following a 71-46 loss to NC State Sunday.
Junior guard Tony Akins, 5-11, is on a hot streak for Tech offensively, averaging 18.7 points in his last seven games while shooting 47.3 percent from three-point range. Tech continues to get strong inside play from 6-11 senior center Alvin Jones, who is averaging 13.2 points and 10.7 rebounds in ACC games and has posted double-doubles in five of his last eight games.
Akins leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game along with 4.1 assists. Senior guard Shaun Fein, 6-3, scored 22 points against Clemson and averages 14.0 for the season. Jones averages 13.7 points per game and leads the ACC in rebounding with an average of 10.1 per game. Freshman 6-3 forward Marvin Lewis (9.2 points per game) and 6-7 senior forward Jon Babul, 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, complete the regular starting lineup.
Head Coach Paul Hewitt Says …
“They’ve [Florida State] been tough at home. They’ve played everybody tough at home except their early games against Duke and Maryland. Since then, they’ve been within 10 points of everybody, including a game where Virginia had to make a shot at the buzzer to win. We know it’s a dangerous game, and our guys have a lot of respect for them. It was a one-point game here with less than six minutes to go. We’ve got to play a little smarter, a little cleaner game than we did [Sunday].
“We have to get Alvin the ball in better position. People have scouted us well and taken away some of the things we had success with going to him early in the year.
“They rebound the ball very, very well. They have a group of guys that get after it on the glass, and that’s been our main weakness all year.
“They know (what’s at stake in this game). That’s been our goal all season. But they also know that in order to reach that goal, we’ve got to play well. If we play well, everything takes care of itself.”
Georgia Tech vs. Florida State Series Notes
Georgia Tech won the first meeting between the two schools thisseason, 77-68, on Jan. 27, in Atlanta. The win cut Florida State’slead in the all-time series to 25-19. Tech has won nine of the last14 meetings between the two schools, a run that started with fivestraight victories from 1995 to 1997. The Seminoles won 64-54 lastyear in Tallahassee, but the Yellow Jackets won four of the fivemeetings before that, including a 111-108 double-overtime thrilleron Feb. 11, 1999. Tech is 9-11 against Florida State since theSeminoles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992. FSU won thefirst six meetings, but the Jackets have gone 9-5 since. Of the 20games the teams have played since 1992, 10 of them were decided byless than five points. The first meeting between the two teamsoccurred on Jan. 19, 1963, a 70-55 Tech win at Alexander MemorialColiseum. Both teams were members of the old Metro Conference from1976-78, and FSU won three of the four meetings during that time.Tech coach Paul Hewitt is 1-0 against Florida State. FSU coachSteve Robinson is 4-4 against Tech.
Georgia Tech, whose 4-4 record at the midpoint of the ACC schedule was cause for celebration, has done even better in the second half with a 4-3 mark.
Tech’s four wins in the first half, over Virginia, Wake Forest, Clemson and Florida State, came by an average margin of 5.8 points. Its four wins in the second half have come by an average of 13 points, including three double-digit wins.
Middle of the PackTeam vs. GT Md. Va. WF Other 3Georgia Tech - 1-1 2-0 1-1 4-2Maryland 1-1 - 0-1 2-0 3-2Virginia 0-2 1-0 - 1-1 2-3Wake Forest 1-1 0-2 1-1 - 2-4
Last Time Out
Georgia Tech responded its biggest loss in 29 years at No. 4 Dukeby burying Clemson at home, 85-64, for its largest victory marginover an ACC team this year.
The win capped a successful Senior Day celebration for Tech, in which the Yellow Jackets started all five seniors and got 47 points from them, including 22 from Shaun Fein and 12 from T.J. Vines. Jon Babul put together another solid effort with nine points and a season-high eight rebounds.
The Yellow Jackets ran away with the game in the second half by shooting 59 percent from the floor and outscoring the Tigers, 49-33. Tony Akins and Marvin Lewis, normally starters who came off the bench in deference to the seniors, each contributed 14 points and combined to make 10 of 15 shots from the floor.
Tech shot well from the perimeter for the third straight game, hitting 38.5 percent from three-point range (10-of-26).
A Look at Tech’s Record
Tech has four wins over ranked teams in conference play -Virginia twice, Maryland and Wake Forest. Three of those wins camewhen the teams were ranked in the Top 10 (both vs. Virginia, firstmeeting vs. Wake Forest). Tech is tied with Wake Forest at 8-7 inthe ACC and are within a half-game of third-place Maryland (8-6)and Virginia (8-6). Tech is 3-1 head-to-head against those teams.Tech is 6-2 at home in conference play, 2-5 on the road (wins vs.Virginia and Clemson). Tech is the only team to win at Virginia,which has a 13-1 home record this year. Tech’s 2-7 overall on theroad this season includes losses at Iowa, Stanford, Maryland, NCState, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke. All but Iowa and NCState are currently in the top 25, and Iowa has spent several weeksthere. Tech has exceeded its total win and conference win totalsfrom last season, and has its most conference wins since 1996. Techis guaranteed a winning season for the first time since 1998(19-14, third round of the NIT). Five of Tech’s 10 losses thisseason have come against teams who have held the No. 1 ranking atsome point during this season – Stanford, North Carolina (twice)and Duke (twice). All three teams currently occupy three of the topfour spots in the AP and coaches polls, as well as the RPI andSagarin rankings. Tech has played 13 games against teams currentlyrated in the Top 30 of the Sagarin index – more than any otherDivision I team – including non-conference games against Stanford,Kentucky and UCLA – and has won six of them. Tech is 5-8 againstteams currently in the top 30 of the CollegeRPI.com report.
Hewitt Can Tie Mundorf With Win
A win for Georgia Tech Wednesday night at Florida State would give Paul Hewitt 17 wins in his first season on the Flats, tying him with Roy Mundorf for the most wins ever by a first-year coach at Tech. Mundorf led the Yellow Jackets to a 17-10 mark in 1926-27.
He already is guaranteed of being the fourth Tech coach to enjoy a winning season in his first year, joining Mundorf, Dwight Keith (14-4 in 1943-44) and Roy McArthur (12-11 in 1946-47).
Road Jinx Ends
After losing 16 straight road games over three seasons, Georgia Tech is 2-5 in ACC play this season, including its first win at Clemson in eight years on Jan. 24 (111-108). Tech also is the only team this year to win at Virginia, which has a 13-1 record at University Hall.
With a 73-68 win at No. 10 Virginia on Jan. 9, Georgia Tech ended a 16-game losing streak in games on opponents’ home courts that dated back to Feb. 11, 1999, when Tech defeated Florida State, 111-108, in double-OT in Tallahassee. The string included 11 ACC games.
The Yellow Jackets are now 2-7 overall on the road this season with losses coming at Iowa, Stanford, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke. All but Iowa and NC State are currently in the top 25.
Following its two wins over No. 10 Virginia and No. 6 Wake Forest in January, Georgia Tech zoomed as high as No. 20 in the Sagarin NCAA Basketball Rankings. Tech is currently No. 28, and its strength of schedule is rated 7th in the Sagarin rankings.
Tech has 10 games out of 16 conference contests against Top 20 teams, including Duke (1st in Sagarin), North Carolina (4th), Virginia (10th), Wake Forest (13th) and Maryland (15th).
College RPI.com, which is supposed to mirror the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index but is produced independently without NCAA input, has Tech ranked 32nd and its strength of schedule 12th as of Monday.
Hewitt Among Naismith Nominees
Tech head coach Paul Hewitt has been added to the list of finalists nominated for the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award, the Atlanta Tip-Off club announced Thursday.
Hewitt has guided a Yellow Jacket team picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference to a 16-10 overall record and a 8-7 conference record, fifth place currently.
Hewitt joins North Carolina’s Matt Doherty and Virginia’s Pete Gillen as ACC coaches on the list of 20 nominees.
Shooting Touch Coming Back
Georgia Tech has shaken off a February shooting slump with three solid games in a row. The Yellow Jackets have made 10 three-point field goals in each of the last two games and are 26 of 66 (39.3 percent) in the last three games.
Tech had struggled with its perimeter shooting after knocking down a school-record 17 three-pointers and shooting 54.8 percent from behind the arc in its first meeting against Clemson.
Having depended on its capable three-point shooters this season, Georgia Tech remains second in the ACC and 24th nationally in three-point percentage (38.9 overall, 37.7 in ACC games). The Jackets rank 2nd in the ACC and 11th nationally in three-point field goals per game (8.85).
Two Tech players rank officially among the ACC’s top 10 in three-point field goal percentage, led by Shaun Fein (3rd, 42.7), followed by Tony Akins (5th, 41.1). Fein has made 43.0 percent in ACC games, fourth-best in the conference. Freshmen Marvin Lewis (39.6 percent from three) and Halston Lane (41.0) have shot well but do not have enough attempts to make the league rankings.
Shooting and Defense
Georgia Tech is 5-1 this season when it has topped the 50-percent mark from the field, is 6-0 when scoring 90 points or more and 9-1 when scoring 80 or more.
At the same time, the key to Tech’s ability to win this year has been defense. So far this year, Tech is 12-0 when holding opponents under 70 points, and 9-0 when holding them under 40 percent on field goals. The Jackets held NC State to 31.7 percent on Feb. 17, and Virginia to under 40 in both meetings, all three wins for Tech. Tech is 7-10 when its opponent has shot 40 percent or higher.
Tech ranks third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (40.6) and third in three-point defense (32.4).
Shaun Fein made his final home game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum one to remember with 22 points against Clemson. After missing his first six shots, he went 7-for-10 after that, including three treys, and went 5-for-5 at the free throw line for his highest scoring game since Tech’s first meeting with Clemson (23 points).
He punctuated the performance with his first career dunk on a breakaway with 1:54 left.
The senior guard has posted 20-point games against three ACC opponents, vs. Virginia (25) and both Clemson games. All were Tech wins. He has reached double figures in 19 of 26 games this season, and Tech is 13-6 in those games, 6-4 in the ACC.
Fein ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring at 14.0 points per game. He also ranks 11th in the league in overall field goal percentage (46.3), 3rd in three-point percentage (42.7) and 4th in three-pointers per game (2.58).
He has shot 43.0 percent from three-point land in ACC games, which is the fourth-best mark in the conference currently. That includes a 7-of-9 performance at Clemson, which tied a career high for threes in an ACC game.
One of Tech’s best ballhandlers, Fein has just 36 turnovers in 26 games and has played without committing a turnover six times this season. He has one turnover for every 19.6 minutes played overall.
Fein made the all-tournament team in the Stanford Invitational by averaging 18.5 points, making 14 of 18 field goal attempts and 7 of 9 from three-point range. He scored 24 in the championship game against Stanford, making 6 of 8 from three-point range and 9 of 13 overall.
Akins Ain’t Achin’
Tony Akins continues to enjoy a hot February for Georgia Tech, averaging 18.7 points in seven games. He led Tech in scoring for six of those.
The 5-11 junior point guard has shot 54.2 percent from the floor, 47.3 percent from three-point range and 79.3 percent from the free throw line.
Akins has scored in double figures in eight straight games since going scoreless against Clemson on Jan. 24, the first scoreless game of his career. He owns Tech’s top scoring average against ACC teams at 15.1.
For the season, Akins averages 14.1 points and 4.1 assists, and is shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 41.1 from three-point range. All except his assist average are career bests. He ranks 5th in the ACC in three-point percentage, and 5th in three-point field goals per game (2.38).
The Lilburn, Ga., native enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season in Tech’s second meeting with Maryland, matching his season high with 28 points (8-of-11 FG, 3-of-3 3FG, 9-of-12 FT) with four assists and four rebounds. Against Virginia, he snuffed out the Cavaliers’ Donald Hand, who went 0-for-9 from the floor, scored just 2 points and had 6 turnovers.
Babul is the Rock
Jon Babul has been called “the glue” and “the rock” of Georgia Tech’s team by Wake Forest coach Dave Odom.
The 6-7 senior has stepped forward in conference play this season, averaging 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds and getting almost 40 percent of his points at the free throw line (37 of 49, 75.5 percent). He has committed just 23 turnovers, a team low which translates into one every 22.8 minutes.
In his last 10 games, Babul has averaged 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds, hitting 25 of 34 free throws and dishing out 13 assists. Left open on many occasions against Virginia, Babul scored nine points, including a critical second-half three-pointer. He hit two more treys against Duke, and has five for the season.
Undersized for a power forward, Babul turned in the best game of his career against an ACC team at Clemson, scoring 14 points in Georgia Tech’s 111-108 victory. Babul went 5-of-7 from the floor, including a three-pointer, and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. He also matched a season high with six rebounds and dished three assists before fouling out.
Jones Joins Select ACC Company
Alvin Jones is only the fourth player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to surpass 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 400 blocked shots in a career. The first three were Clemson’s Tree Rollins, Virginia’s Ralph Sampson and Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan.
The 6-11 senior has risen to 21st all-time among ACC players in rebounds at 1,026, and needs 2 to pass North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison for 20th place.
Alvin Jones is enjoying his finest season as a Yellow Jacket, and currently is enjoying the finest stretch of his career.
The 6-11 senior has taken over the ACC lead in rebounding at 10.1 per game (10.7 in ACC games). He had reached double digits in rebounds in seven straight games before getting nine Sunday against Clemson, and is averaging 13.0 over than stretch. That includes an 18-board effort at North Carolina, the most by any ACC player this year.
Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski following Tech’s game last Wednesday night: “He’s having a first-team all-ACC season.”
Jones has led the Jackets in scoring seven times this season, and is third on tech’s squad and 15th in the ACC with a 13.7 points per game average (13.2 in ACC games).
He is one of only three ACC players (Joseph Forte of North Carolina and Delvon Arrington of Florida State are the others) to have led their teams in scoring, rebounding and assists in a single game this season. Jones turned the trick at Clemson with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Lane Comes Up Big in Wins
Freshman Halston Lane continues to come up big in big games for Georgia Tech. In Tech’s last three ACC wins, the 6-4 rookie has come off the bench to score 15 points against No. 6 Virginia, 13 against NC State and 8 against Clemson.
The Oak Ridge, Tenn., native has averaged 11.2 points and shot 58.0 percent (29-of-50) in Tech’s eight ACC wins this season.
On Feb. 17 against NC State, Lane scored five of his 13 points in a key second-half stretch in which the Yellow Jackets came from a 35-32 deficit to lead 42-35. Lane’s layup and free throw tied the game at 35-35, and he added a pair of foul shots to put the Jackets ahead, 37-35, and assisted on a subsequent basket by Alvin Jones for a 39-35 lead. He hit 4-of-6 field goals and 4-of-6 free throws in the game.
Lane hit 6-of-10 field goals to help Georgia Tech to a 62-56 win over the No. 6 Cavaliers. He scored 7 of his points in the final five minutes of the game while the Jackets were holding the Cavaliers to just four points during that stretch.
All of Lane’s biggest games this season have come in key wins against important opponents, starting with 9 against UCLA on Dec. 2. He scored 23 vs. Kentucky, 10 in the first meeting at Virginia, 21 in a win over Wake Forest, 17 at Clemson and 15 in the second meeting with Virginia. Only two of his eight double figure scoring efforts have come in Tech losses (11 vs. North Carolina on Jan. 2 and 12 vs. Duke on Feb. 21).
A Case for the Defense
Georgia Tech has held 30 of its last 32 opponents under 50 percent. Only Clemson (51.7 percent on Jan. 24) and Wake Forest (50 percent on Feb. 14) have managed to hit the mark against the Jackets in that stretch.
Dating back to last season’s regular season finale against Clemson, Georgia Tech has held 11 opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor, including both meetings with Virginia this season (35.1 and 38.6) and NC State (31.7 percent) on Feb. 17.
Tech has twice held opponents under 30 percent this season: UCLA managed just 28.6 percent in Tech’s 72-67 win, and Wofford with 25.5 percent in the season opener, and came close to that with Idaho State (30.6) and Harvard (30.1).
Tech has defended the perimeter well. Eleven opponents have managed no better than 30 percent from three-point range, including Stanford (6-of-20), North Carolina (4-of-14), Maryland (3-of-13), Virginia (6-of-25 and 3-of-18), Wake Forest (4-of-19), NC State (4-of-18) and Clemson (5-of-19).
For the season, Tech has allowed opponents just 40.6 percent from the floor, 3rd in the ACC, and 32.4 percent from three-point range, 2nd in the ACC.
Toeing the Line
Georgia Tech averaged 27.4 free throw attempts in its first 10 conference games this season, but has been to the line an average of 16.2 times in its last five games, making 57 of 82 for 65.6 percent.
Still, only Duke (388 FTA) has been to the line more than Tech (355) has in conference games. That includes 25-of-37 vs. Wake Forest, 28-of-34 vs. Duke, 26-of-39 vs. Clemson, 25-of-36 vs. Florida State and 21-of-32 vs. Maryland.
Tech is shooting 69.6 percent for the season. The last Tech team to shoot 70 percent for a season was the 1995-96 edition that finished the ACC regular season in first place and reached the NCAA round of 16. One of the hallmarks of Paul Hewitt’s teams at Siena was excellent free throw shooting. The Saints shot 77.8 percent from the charity stripe in his three seasons, and led the nation twice.
Alvin Jones (61.2 percent overall, 61.8 percent in ACC games), Jon Babul (80.8, 75.5), Tony Akins (75.6, 76.3) and Shaun Fein (70.0, 74.1) are all at career-high levels from the free throw line. Freshman Marvin Lewis has outshot all of them at 87.8 percent overall and 88.9 percent in conference games. Only Akins has enough attempts to be ranked among the ACC leaders (13th).
Bench a Necessary Component for Tech
Playing with a 10-man rotation this year, Georgia Tech has come to rely more on its bench for scoring. Tech is getting 20.4 points per game from its reserves this season, roughly 25 percent of its total scoring output.
The Yellow Jackets got 35 and 38 from the bench in their two games with Clemson, the team’s best efforts of the season behind a 39-point night in Tech’s 86-84 win over Kentucky in December.
When the Jackets win, the bench average is 23.0. In losses, the bench has averaged 15.2. Tech is 10-3 this season when its bench outscores the opposition’s reserves, 6-7 when it does not.
Different Guy Every Night
Tech has had six different players lead the team in scoring this season, another design of the Yellow Jackets’ style of play.
Tony Akins has topped Tech in 10 games, including a streak of six in a row snapped Sunday against Clemson. Alvin Jones has led Tech seven times, including four straight games against NC State, Duke, Clemson and Florida State.
Shaun Fein has led Tech on six occasions, including his 22-point effort Sunday which was the first time since Jan. 9 at Virginia. Jon Babul is the only starter who has not led Tech in scoring in a game this season.
Three times this season, Tech has been led in scoring by a reserve, and the Jackets won each time. Halston Lane came off the bench to score 21 points in Tech’s first meeting against Wake Forest and had 23 against Kentucky. Darryl LaBarrie led the Jackets with 13 points against Idaho State.
Vines Solid off the Bench
T.J. Vines matched a career high against an ACC team Sunday with 12 points against Clemson, hitting 5 of 8 shots (2-of-4 from three). Vines has averaged 6.0 points and shot 10-for-19 from the floor (4-for-10 from three) in his last four games after going 0-for-11 in the four games prior to that.
Against NC State, he hit 2-of-4 from the floor, both field goals coming on layups in the final minute of the first half to give Tech a 31-29 lead at halftime over NC State. Vines also scored 8 at Wake Forest, 9 at Clemson and has a 10-point game against Duke to his credit.
But the 5-10 senior isn’t counted on for scoring normally, but he provides lots of intangibles to help Georgia Tech. In fact, Vines has been scoreless in eight games this season, but had 22 assists and nine steals in those games.
The Woodstock, Ga., native has averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 assists this season. He is also the most tenacious defender Tech has on the perimeter, and leads the team with 37 steals.
Georgia Tech’s roster includes six seniors, including scholarship players Alvin Jones, Shaun Fein, Jon Babul, T.J. Vines and Darryl LaBarrie, as well as walk-on Winston Neal. That represents Tech’s largest senior class since the 1975-76 season, when the roster included seven seniors.
Tech also has the most senior starters in the ACC, with three on the lineup for a total of 77 starts. Duke has the next most with 56.
Lewis Shows Poise Beyond Years
Freshman Marvin Lewis has grabbed a starting role and made the most of it, averaging 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds while making 39.6 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.
The 6-3 freshman, playing small forward for the Jackets, helped lift the Jackets over Clemson Sunday with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor. It was his highest scoring game since getting 15 in a Tech win over Wake Forest on Jan. 13.
Among his top games this year have been 13 and 11 in wins over Clemson and Florida State in January, and 12 against No. 13 Maryland on Feb. 6. He went scoreless against NC State for the first time this year, but did an excellent defensive job on Damian Wilkins, helping hold the Wolfpack’s second-leading scorer to just 2 points.
Named ACC Rookie of the Week four times, he is second among conference freshmen in scoring, and third in rebounding and assists. Lewis would rank 5th in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage and 2nd in free throw percentage (87.8) among all players, but falls just below the ACC minimums to be listed. He has made 88.9 percent of his free throws (24 of 27) in ACC games.
He has reached double figures in 14 games overall this season, with a season high of 22 against Davidson (6-of-7 from three-point range). Despite a height disadvantage, Lewis has reached double figures in rebounds three, recording 10 each against Wofford, UCLA and Duke, and has led the Jackets in five games.
Lewis came to Tech from Montrose Christian School in Germantown, Md., where he was coached by Stu Vetter, who was the high school coach of former Tech great Dennis Scott, Tech’s all-time three-point field goal leader.
Rookies of the Year
Georgia Tech has gotten solid contributions from its freshmen this season, with Marvin Lewis grabbing a starting role and forwards Robert Brooks and Halston Lane making contributions off the bench.
The ACC’s Rookie of the Week honor has gone to a Tech freshman seven times this season. Lewis earned the recognition four times, most recently on Jan. 29, and Lane garnered the honor for the third time on Feb. 13. No one else has received the honor more than twice.
Brooks, a 6-9 native of Saginaw, Mich., has given the Jackets much-needed help on the front line, averaging 3.1 rebounds with 11 blocks and 15 steals while shooting 51.5 percent from the floor. Having gained 20 pounds to 215 since his arrival at Tech, Brooks is averaging 15.0 minutes off the bench.
Lane, a 6-4 native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., leads the Tech reserves in scoring (fifth overall) with 7.3 points per game, has shot 41.0 percent from three-point range and 73.7 percent from the free throw line.