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Tech Cagers Host NC State Sunday

Feb. 11, 2006

ATLANTA –

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With its longest losing streak since the 1980-81 season now at eight games, Georgia Tech returns home to face the team that began the slide, NC State, at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

The game is being regionally televised on the Raycom/JP Sports television network, and will air in Atlanta on WATL-TV (WB36). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard locally on WQXI-AM (790), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 191.

Tech (9-12 overall, 2-8 ACC this season) has not won since an 85-69 decision over Centenary on Jan. 10, which followed a 2-0 start in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets remain a game outside last place in the conference standings, a spot held by Wake Forest (1-9).

NC State (19-4, 8-2 ACC), ranked No. 16 in the AP poll, comes to Atlanta with its best start under head coach Herb Sendek, having won four straight games to solidify its hold on second place in the ACC race. The Wolfpack has won those four games by an average of six points, with two of those needing two overtimes each to decide.

The Yellow Jackets’ have fared better on the road than at home during their stretch, having lost the five road games by an average of 5.6 points, last three by a TOTAL of four points. It has been a different story at home, however, those three games having been decided by 13 points.

In the first meeting between Tech and NC State this year, the Yellow Jackets shot 51.6 percent from the floor, put five players in double figure scoring and committed a season-low 11 turnovers. But the Wolfpack buried 13 of 27 three-point attempts and placed six players in double figures. State scored eight straight points after Tech had taken a 61-60 lead at the 8:14 mark of the second half, and the Jackets never got closer than five points after that.

For the fourth time, Tech will attempt to win its 500th game all-time in Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets have a record of 499-170 (.747 winning percentage) in the building, which opened Nov. 30, 1956.

Georgia Tech’s eight straight losses have come in a variety of ways. Thursday’s loss to Florida State occurred after the Yellow Jackets held a 14-point lead (70-56) with 9:17 left. In five of the eight losses, Tech has led (four times) or been tied (Miami) at the half.

Tech continues to handicap itself on offense with turnovers (19.3 per game over the last eight, 26 at FSU, 27 vs. Clemson). Tech has endured long second-half scoring droughts in some of its losses (one field goal over an 11:35 stretch against Maryland, one over a 12:53 stretch against Clemson, scoreless over a five-minute stretch at Virginia Tech, one FG over a 9:27 stretch against Miami). Tech scored just 20 points in the second half of home-court losses to Clemson and Miami.

In an effort to reverse the trend, head coach Paul Hewitt inserted three different players in the starting lineup for the Florida State game, creating the Yellow Jackets’ sixth different starting lineup this season. Sophomore guard Anthony Morrow and sophomore center Ra’Sean Dickey remain in the lineup, and were joined by junior guard Mario West, senior forward Theodis Tarver and freshman guard Lewis Clinch.

The revamped lineup produced better aggressiveness and offensive punch, with the Jackets hitting 50.9 percent of their field goals, best since the NC State game on Jan. 14, and made 11-of-18 three-point shots, a 61.1-percent rate that was the best the Jackets have achieved in a game under Paul Hewitt. Tech scored 38 of its 79 points in the paint.

The brightest spot for Georgia Tech over the last several games has been the emergence of sophomore center Ra’Sean Dickey, who has averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds over his last nine games, shooting 66.3 percent and posting three double-doubles.

The 6-9 native of Clio, S.C., is averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for the season, ranking second in the ACC in field goal percentage (60.9 pct.). In conference games, he has made 63.1 percent, which leads the ACC.

Anthony Morrow, the ACC’s second-leading three-point shooter, has been the only player to start all 21 games this season, giving Dickey and Tech’s other post players room to operate inside. A 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., Morrow ranks 10th in the ACC in scoring at 16.8 points, and is second in the conference with a 43.9-percent success rate from three-point range. One of three Tech players averaging in double figures, Morrow has averaged 16.0 points and shoots 43.9 percent from three-point range in ACC games.

Mario West, a 6-4 junior from Douglasville, Ga., who is Tech’s best on-the-ball defender, is back in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 28. West, who shares point guard time with sophomore Zam Fredrick, averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and owns Tech’s best assist-turnover ratio.

Also in the starting five are Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 senior from Monroe, La., who started eight games earlier in the year, and Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 freshman from Cordele, Ga., who made his first college start Thursday at FSU. Tarver gives the Jackets a strong defensive presence in the post while averaging 3.7 points (54.7 FG pct.) and 3.0 rebounds. Clinch, the ACC’s fifth-leading freshman scorer (7.5 ppg) gives Tech an additional outside shooting threat (42.9 pct. in ACC games).

Off the bench in the post, Tech has Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas, who started Tech’s first 20 games this season and has posted eight double-doubles. Fully recovered from a dislocated kneecap that sidelined him for 17 games last year, Smith averages 12.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, second best in the ACC.

On the perimeter, Fredrick, a 6-0 sophomore from St. Matthews, S.C., has started 18 games this season, averaged 9.6 points a game and shot better than 42 percent from three-point range over his last 12 games. D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 wingman from Los Angeles, Calif., has started 11 games at a wing spot, averaging 4.2 points and 2.0 rebounds for the season.

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