Feb. 28, 2003
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech looks to end a four-game losing streak Saturday afternoon when it visits North Carolina for a 1 p.m. game at the Dean Smith Center. The Yellow Jackets have dropped their last four games to NC State, Florida State, Wake Forest and Duke by an average of 10 points. Tech is still looking for its first road win of the season, having lost all nine previous games on opponents’ home courts.
The game is being regionally televised by ABC, airing in Atlanta on WSB-TV, Ch. 2. The Georgia Tech-ISP Network provided the radio coverage, which can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WMGP-FM (98.1).
Tech is 12-12 overall and 5-8 in the ACC, tied with Clemson and Virginia for fifth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, three games behind fourth-place NC State. North Carolina is 14-13, 4-9 in the ACC, having dropped its last two games and eight of its last 11.
A win for Tech Saturday would give the Yellow Jackets their first sweep of North Carolina since the 1995-96 season. Tech won the teams’ earlier meeting this season, 88-68, in Atlanta on Jan. 29. Tech has swept the season series from the Tar Heels three times in its history, 1985, 1994 and 1996.
The matchup between Tech and North Carolina features several of the ACC’s top freshmen. The two teams lead the league in most starts by freshmen and sophomores (134 for North Carolina, 98 for Tech). In the first meeting between the two teams, Tech freshman Chris Bosh led the Yellow Jackets with 22 points and six rebounds, while fellow rookie Jarrett Jack scored 13 with eight assists. Tech, in turn, held the Tar Heels’ heralded freshmen, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton, to a combined 23 points, while sophomore Jawad Williams scored 24 to lead his team.
“It comes down to injuries for them,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “If they have Sean May all season, they’re a different team. [Head coach] Matt Doherty has done a very good job of attracting talented players, but he’s short on depth right now.
Our tempo was good (in the first game). We made good adjustments at halftime on Raymond Felton and Jawad Williams. We got [Felton] under control, and that led us to do a better job on Williams. We moved the ball, played with good tempo, and we made shots. When you make shots, everything is better.”
And that is the part of Tech’s game Hewitt is concerned about now. During its four-game losing streak, Tech has shot 38.1 percent from the floor, 31.3 percent from three-point range, and averaged 61.5 points per game, 13 points below its season average. The four opponents have shot a combined 49.3 percent against the Jackets, yet only one of those teams has managed to achieve its season scoring average against Tech (Florida State). Tech has held the four teams a combined 16 points under their collective averages for the season, and has given up just one point more per game (71.5) than its average yield for the season (70.1). Tech has trailed at halftime of all four games by an average of 11.5 points.
The Yellow Jackets’ starting lineup includes 6-3 freshman Jarrett Jack at the point, 6-4 junior Marvin Lewis and 6-4 sophomore B.J. Elder on the wings, and 6-8 sophomore Ed Nelson and 6-10 freshman Chris Bosh in the frontcourt. This lineup has started seven games together this season, including the last six.
Tech has three players ranked among the ACC’s top 16 in scoring, led by Elder, who ranks ninth in the conference 15.3 points a game overall. The Madison, Ga., native, who scored 19 points with four assists in the first meeting with North Carolina on Jan. 29, ranks sixth in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage at 40.3 percent, and seventh in overall field goal percentage at 46.5 percent.
Bosh, Tech’s ACC Rookie of the Year candidate, ranks 10th in the ACC in scoring at 15.3 points per game, leads the ACC in field goal percentage (55.3) and blocked shots (2.12 per game) and is second in rebounding (9.1). Bosh, who has 10 double-doubles this season, scored 22 points in the teams’ first meeting this season. Lewis, who scored 18 against the Tar Heels in January, ranks 16th in the ACC overall at 12.8 points per game and is second in three-point percentage (41.4).
Jack, Tech’s fourth-leading scorer at 9.5 points along with 6.0 assists (fourth in the ACC), has averaged 11.5 points and 6.0 assists against the ACC. Nelson, the ACC’s seventh-leading rebounder at 7.0 per game along with 8.3 points a game, scored a career-high 22 points Wednesday against Duke and has averaged 10.5 points a game since returning to the starting lineup on Feb. 5.
Tech gets reserve help in the post from Schenscher, averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds while hitting 48.0 percent of his shots. Isma’il Muhammad, a 6-6 sophomore forward averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Anthony McHenry, a 6-7 sophomore averaging 2.0 points and 1.5 rebounds, provide excellent defense on the wing.
TECH VS. NORTH CAROLINA
*North Carolina leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 53-16, and has won 12 of the last 15 meetings dating back to Feb. 10, 1996, when Tech posted a 92-83 victory at Chapel Hill.
*Tech has won the last two games, however, including an 88-68 win in Atlanta on Jan. 29. A win Saturday would give the Yellow Jackets their first sweep of the Tar Heels since 1996. Tech has swept the season series only three times in its history, 1985 (including an ACC Tournament win), 1994 and 1996.
*In Chapel Hill, Tech is 4-18 against North Carolina, including a 3-14 mark in the Dean E. Smith Center. Tech’s last win in the Tar Heels’ home arena was the above-mentioned 1996 win. Counting regular-season games in Greensboro, Tech is 4-21 on the road against UNC.
*Since Tech joined the ACC, it is 14-39 against the Tar Heels.
*Tech’s greatest success in its series with North Carolina occurred during the middle 1990s when the Jackets won five of seven meetings during one stretch. The string included three straight wins over No. 1-ranked Tar Heel teams, 77-75 on Mar. 14, 1993 in the ACC Tournament finals, 89-69 on Jan. 12, 1994 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, and 96-89 on Feb. 12, 1994 at the Dean Smith Center.
ROAD STILL UNKIND
The Yellow Jackets are still looking for their first road win this season. Tech is 0-9 on opponents’ home courts this year, including an 0-6 mark in the ACC. Tech’s only win away from home this season is a 67-53 decision against Marist at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7, and the Jackets lost their only other neutral court game to Tennessee on Dec. 15.
Statistically, at least, the problems for Tech have stemmed more from poor shooting than from poor play or poor execution. In its last three road games at Clemson, NC State and Florida State, Tech’s defense limited the two teams to to 42 percent shooting from the floor, but the Yellow Jackets connected on just 10-of-48 from three-point range and missed key shots in the final minutes.
Tech has also fallen behind early in each of those three losses, by as many at 13 points at Clemson, by as many as 12 at NC State and by 15 at halftime at Florida State. The Jackets recovered at Clemson to lead by four late in the second half, got within one point of NC State late in the second half with chances to tie or take the lead, and rallied to within four at FSU.
By the numbers: Tech has shot just 40 percent in its six ACC road games, including 22 percent from three-point range.
HEWITT’S TEAMS HAVE BEEN BETTER ON THE ROAD
Despite its current struggles, Tech has accomplished much away from home since Paul Hewitt became head coach, most notably wins over UCLA and Kentucky on neutral courts in his first season, along with snapping a 16-game ACC road losing streak at Virginia and winning at Clemson for the first time in eight years.
Tech has been a much better road team under Paul Hewitt, posting a 13-19 mark (including neutral games) in his first two seasons following a 7-29 mark away from home in its last two years under Bobby Cremins. The Jackets’ road losses this season have included No. 17 Minnesota, Syracuse (now ranked), No. 22 Maryland, No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 3 Duke.
Last season, Tech was 7-9 away from home (including a 4-6 mark on opponent’s home courts), and won at Clemson, Virginia and Florida State.
SCORING TECH’S BIGGEST PROBLEM
Georgia Tech’s biggest problem over its four-game losing streak has been scoring. The Yellow Jackets have averaged just 61.5 points per game over the stretch, 13 points under their seasonal average, and have shot 38.1 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from three-point range.
Wednesday night against Duke, Tech attempted just seven three-pointers, far under its average of 16.6 attempts for the season and its fewest in a single game since 1993, and connected on just two.
Another difference has been free throws. While Tech has averaged roughly the same number of field goal attempts and three-point attempts during the streak as it has all season, it has attempted just 15.3 free throws over the four-game period, compared to more than 22 for the season.
Meanwhile, despite permitting 49.3 percent shooting from the floor combined in four games, Tech has allowed only one of the four opponents to meet its season scoring average, and has limited them to 16 points less than their collective seasonal norms. Tech’s 71.5-point yield over the four games is only 1.4 points more than its season yield.
ELDER-BOSH-LEWIS TRIO FUEL TECH OFFENSE
When Georgia Tech has B.J. Elder, Chris Bosh and Marvin Lewis going at the same time, the Yellow Jackets have been hard to stop. The trio has accounted for 57.4 percent of the Yellow Jackets’ scoring this season, a total of 42.8 points a game, and have combined to make 48.4 percent of their field goal tries, 41.8 percent of their three-point tries, and 74.2 percent of their free throws.
In Tech’s 12 wins, their contributions are greater, as you might expect, though they account for a slightly lesser percentage of Tech’s points (57.1). In Tech’s victories, they have shot 52.8 percent from the floor, 47.3 percent from three-point range, and 77.0 percent from the free throw line.
They are the highest scoring trio for Tech since 1997-98, when Matt Harpring, Michael Maddox and Dion Glover combined to average 53.2 of Tech’s 76.3 points a game (69.7 percent).
All three players rank among the top 16 in the ACC in scoring average. Bosh and Elder rank first and seventh, respectively, in field goal percentage. Lewis and Elder rank second and sixth in three-point percentage (40.9 percent combined) and rank fourth and fifth in three-pointers made per game (4.29 combined). The last Tech player to lead the conference was Travis Best (45.7 in 1993).
Tech is 6-3 this season when all three score in double figures, and against only Marist (a 67-53 win) have two of the three failed to reach double figures.
THE FULL NELSON
Sophomore Ed Nelson is showing the warrior form that made him the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year, and he has earned his way back into Tech’s starting lineup. The 6-8 Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native scored a career high 22 points with nine rebounds in Tech’s loss to Duke Wednesday, continuing a re-emergence that began back on Jan. 19 at Wake Forest.
Since returning to the starting lineup at Clemson on Feb. 5, Nelson has averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds while hitting 44 percent of his field goal attempts. In 11 games from Jan. 19 on, he has averaged 9.0 points and 8.0 rebounds
Nelson scored 13 points at NC State. He grabbed 12 rebounds to go with nine points against No. 8 Maryland on Feb. 9. Nelson nabbed 11 boards with eight points at Wake Forest, 10 boards with 11 points against Elon and a season-high 13 caroms to go with six points against North Carolina.
Nelson is vastly improved from the free throw line this season, hitting 67.6 percent for the season, and has made 27 of 35 from the foul line (77.1 percent) in his last 11 games.