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Tech Cagers Visit Virginia in Key ACC Contest

Feb. 21, 2002

ATLANTA – Having won five of its last seven games, resurgent Georgia Tech travels to Charlottesville, Va., to face No. 22/15 Virginia Saturday at University Hall in an important Atlantic Coast Conference game.

The game will be televised in the ACC region on the ACC Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot network (WATL-TV, Ch. 36 in Atlanta) and nationally on ESPN2. Local radio coverage can be heard on WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1) and WSNY-FM (100.1).

Tech (12-15, 4-9 ACC) maintained a sixth-place tie with Florida State in the ACC standings Wednesday with a 65-59 home-court win over NC State, the Jackets’ second straight win. Virginia (16-8, 6-7 ACC) is two games ahead of Tech and FSU in fifth after the Cavaliers dropped a 66-59 decision to the Seminoles in Tallahassee Wednesday night.

“I expect it will be a hard-fought game,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “Virginia has had some struggles. Both teams are in a situation where they need to win. Our new guys have picked up and begun to play with a lot more confidence, and I can’t say enough about Tony Akins’ leadership. It’s one of those games both teams have to have.

“When you’re 0-7, you just think about getting started. I remember saying we just need to get one, and we can get on a roll. We finally broke through against Florida State, and we got on that roll I anticipated we could have. This whole streak has been keyed by defense, and unselfish offensive play.”

Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets is point guard Tony Akins (Sr., Lilburn, Ga.), who ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring (16.1), fifth in assists (5.4), second in three-point percentage (.404) and first in three-point field goals per game (3.04). Off-guard Marvin Lewis (So., Germantown, Md.) is Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures for the season with 11.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He ranks second on the team in three-point percentage (40.2) and would rank third in the ACC in free throw accuracy (88.6) with enough attempts.

Tech’s starting lineup for the last eight games has included 6-5 sophomore Clarence Moore (Norco, La.) and 6-3 freshman B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.) at the forwards, and 6-7 freshman Ed Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

Moore averages 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, shooting 43.6 percent from three-point range and 45.5 percent overall vs. the ACC. Nelson has played very well of late (13 points and 10 rebounds vs. NC State), averaging 8.2 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds. He tops ACC freshmen in scoring (10.4), rebounding (6.9) and field goal percentage (52.6) in ACC games. Elder averages 9.0 points and has been one of Tech’s better free throw shooters at 73.5 percent.

Tech goes five deep on the bench, which provides about 30 percent of the Jackets’ scoring: 6-5 sophomore wingman Halston Lane (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), 6.7 points per game, 6-8 sophomore center Robert Brooks (Saginaw, Mich.), 3.8 points and 4.7 rebounds, 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), who averages 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds, and 6-5 guard Anthony McHenry (Fr., Birmingham, Ala.), 1.9 ppg. Seven-foot freshman center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), who missed 12 games during December and January with a broken foot, averages 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds and is shooting 53.1 percent from the floor.

Despite both teams’ desire to play full-court basketball, scoring has been low over the past four years of the series, on only one occasion in the last eight meetings has a team scored 80 points.

“It’s strange,” said Hewitt. “Because we’re so used to playing against that style in practice, stopping a lot of the transition baskets, you have a chance to slow the game down, and it becomes a half-court, slug-it-out game. I’m sure we’ll both go into Saturday’s game with the mindset that we want to run and get easy scores, and the team that gets more easy scores will probably win the game. We’ve got to rebound the basketball.”

Tech Series vs. Virginia

oGeorgia Tech snapped a four-game winning streak in its series with Virginia in a 69-65 loss to the Cavaliers at home on Jan. 22. The Jackets still lead the series 30-26, and hold a 28-25 advantage since joining the ACC.

oTech is 8-15 against Virginia at University Hall, including last year’s 73-68 victory which was the only loss the Cavaliers suffered at home during the season. In fact, Tech has won three of the last four meetings with Virginia in Charlottesville, with the Cavs’ win occurring on Jan. 8, 2000 (83-65).

oTech is 6-2 against Virginia teams coached by Pete Gillen.

oTech led 35-31 at the half of the Jan. 22 meeting this season, but Virginia shot 55.6 percent in the second half. The Jackets, led by 15 points each from Clarence Moore and Ed Nelson and 14 by B.J. Elder, led 63-62 at the 2:10 mark, but the Cavs outscored Tech 7-2 down the stretch.

oImprobably, the Yellow Jackets won all three of their meetings with the Cavaliers last season, and each time the Cavs were ranked in the top 10. Virginia is still ranked 15th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll this week, 22nd by the Associated Press.

oTech snapped a 16-game road losing streak in the ACC with its 73-68 victory over Virginia in Charlottesville on Jan. 9, then also defeated the Cavaliers on its home court, 62-56, on Feb. 11. The Jackets completed the sweep by eliminating Virginia in the first round of the ACC Tournament, 74-69, on Mar. 9 at the Georgia Dome.

Last Time Out

Georgia Tech won its fifth game in the last seven, defeating previously-ranked NC State, 65-59, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum Wednesday night. The Yellow Jackets rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit, taking the lead for good, 54-53, on a pair of free throws by Tony Akins with 6:17 left in the game.

Akins led Tech with 19 points, 17 of them in the second half on eight of nine free throws and three three-point field goals. Clarence Moore (14 points) and Ed Nelson (13 points, 10 rebounds) combined to hit 11 of 16 shots and grab 15 rebounds.

Tech held NC State to one field goal and a pair of free throws (the Wolfpack’s only free throws of the second half) in the final 4:21, while holding the ‘Pack to 36.4 percent from the floor in the game.

Akins Takin’ the Lead

Tony Akins, who made his 113th career start vs. NC State, has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player all season, scoring in double digits in 24 of 27 games and scoring 20 or more nine times.

“He has continued to grow and grow, even as a senior,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “If he doesn’t make first, second or third-team all-ACC this year, I don’t know what he’s got to do. He has had a good career, and it’s time he was recognized.”

The 5-11 senior leads the Jackets in scoring at 16.1 points per game (8th in the ACC) while averaging 5.4 assists (5th in the ACC). He broke a 1-for-11 slump by hitting 6-of-11 three-pointers in Tech’s last two games, and he still ranks first in the the ACC in three-point field goals per game (3.04) and second in three-point percentage (.404). He is shooting 80.5 percent from the free throw line, which would rank 5th in the ACC with enough attempts.

Akins is the only ACC player to rank in the top 10 in scoring and top 5 in assists. In 13 ACC games, Akins has averaged 16.5 points and 5.4 assists per game.

Akins is averaging career-bests in most offensive categories, including scoring, assists and shooting. His 5.4 assists per game are almost a full assist better than his career-best rate of 4.5 as a freshman. He has had three double-digit assist games this year after never posting one his first three seasons.

More Hewitt on Tony Akins

“He doesn’t get fazed when he doesn’t score. The second half (of Tech’s 65-59 victory over NC State Wednesday), he ran our offense to perfection. We ran more halfcourt sets than we’ve run in a long time. He executed the right pass, the right plays, and took the right shots.

“Tony’s game has evolved to the point where whether shots are falling or not falling doesn’t affect his floor game. The last 10-12 games, he’s been almost flawless in his floor game. He’s heard a lot of comparisons (to Tech’s previous point guards), but he’s a pretty good point guard in his own right.”

Akins’ Career Numbers

oTony Akins has moved past all-America Mark Price into fifth place on the all-time Tech list for assists with 529. He needs 10 to pass Brian Oliver (538 from 1987-90) for fourth place.

oAkins also ranks seventh in career steals with 162, and needs 7 to pass Kenny Anderson (168, 1990-91) for sixth place.

oHe has 1,566 career points, jumping to 14th place in Tech history after beginning the year in 28th. He needs 22 points to pass John Salley (1,587 from 1983-86) and catch Bruce Dalrymple (1,588 from 1984-87).

oWith his 113th start against NC State, Akins is tied for 10th in career starts with Brian Oliver (1987-90). Unless Tech advances in the ACC Tournament, he will remain 10th, because Alvin Jones is in ninth place with 118 starts.

oAkins ranks 12th at Tech in career minutes played (3,818).

oAkins 4.4-assist average ranks 7th in Tech history.

The Full Nelson

Freshman Ed Nelson has steadily grown more comfortable as the season has progressed, giving the Yellow Jackets some inside scoring presence and solid defense, almost always against taller players.

Beginning with Tech’s first meeting with Duke on Jan. 10, the 6-7 rookie has averaged 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in Tech’s last 12 games. Though he has posted just two double-digit rebound games since Nov. 19 (11 vs. North Carolina, 10 vs. NC State), he has been consistent on the glass.

Nelson scored 17 points last to lead Tech against Duke, and had 18 (6-9 FG, 6-10 FT) in the first meeting between Tech and Maryland. Wednesday night, he posted his second double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) of the year against NC State.

He has made 49 of 96 field goal tries (51.0 percent) and scored in double figures seven times in the last 12 games. In his first 15 games, he had just three double-digit scoring games. He has also gotten to the free throw line for 50 attempts, making 32 for 64.0 percent, a vast improvement over his first 15 games (46.5 percent).

Nelson Tops Among ACC Freshmen

Ed Nelson tops ACC freshmen in rebound average (6.9) in all games and ranks 10th overall. In ACC games only, Nelson tops the league’s freshmen in scoring (10.4), rebounding (6.9) and field goal percentage (52.6).

Tech Trends and Anomalies

oTech has won five of its last seven games, four of the wins coming against teams that had defeated the Jackets earlier in the season – North Carolina, Clemson, Saint Louis and NC State.

oIn the five wins, Tech has allowed an average of 53.8 points and 35.0 percent shooting from the floor. Tech has permitted just 52 field goal attempts per game over those five wins.

oSince Jan. 10, Tech’s losses have come to teams ranked, in order: #1, #4, unranked, #21, #1, #3. The unranked team was NC State, who rose to No. 24 in the AP poll the week prior Tech’s win against the Wolfpack.

oTech’s last seven opponents have shot a combined 31.6 percent from three-point range (48-of-152). Duke and North Carolina combined to make 27 of 55 attempts (49.1) percent, the other five shot 21.6 percent.

oAfter averaging nearly 80 points a game over a 17-game stretch from Dec. 1 to Feb. 6, Tech has averaged just 63.3 points (65 maximum) over its last four games.

oTech has won three times this season when shooting less than 40 percent from the floor – Eastern Illinois, Davidson and the second meeting with Saint Louis.

oTech has held 10 opponents under 40 percent shooting this season, winning all of those games. Florida State, North Carolina (second meeting), Clemson (second meeting) and NC State (second meeting) are Tech’s only ACC opponents this season to finish under 40 percent.

oTech has held four opponents under 60 points in the last seven games (Florida State 46, Clemson 50, Saint Louis 40, NC State 59). The Jackets had not permitted fewer than 61 in any game prior to that.

oTech is 11-1 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The only loss: the first meeting with NC State. Tech is 1-14 when the opponent shoots a higher percentage.

oTech has attempted more field goals than 9 of 13 ACC opponents thus far. Overall, Tech has tried as many or more field goals than 22 of its 27 opponents this season.

oConversely, Tech has attempted more free throws than its opponent in only 10 games, and has won eight of those.

oTech has not reached 50 percent from the floor in 32 of its last 33 games. Before shooting 51.9 percent at Clemson, Tech went 28 straight games without hitting 50 percent in a game dating back to last Feb. 17 (50 percent vs. NC State).

oTech has collected 10 or more steals in 11 games this season (including five of the last seven games), and is averaging 8.93 steals per game (second in the ACC), compared with 7.9 per game a year ago.

oAt its present pace for steals, which is the best average in its history, Tech will finish with 277 steals for the season, which would be the second best total in its history. Tech averages 9.4 steals in ACC games.

oIn all 12 of Tech’s victories this season, the Yellow Jackets have outscored their opponent in the second half. Tech is 12-2 when doing so, losing only to Duke and Maryland.

oTech has outscored the average yield of each of its ACC opponents in nine of 13 games.

oTech has committed the same number or fewer turnovers than its opponent 17 times this season, but has won just nine of those games.

Lineup Shift Pays Off

Tech has settled on Tony Akins, Marvin Lewis, Clarence Moore, Ed Nelson and B.J. Elder for its starting lineup in each of the last nine games, going 5-4. Its two losses to No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Maryland aside, Tech has outscored the other seven teams on average, 72-61.

After allowing its first five ACC opponents in January to shoot a combined 49.3 percent, Tech has limited the last seven opponents to an average 40.0 percent. Not coincidentally, 7-foot freshman Luke Schenscher returned from injury at the same time and has made a difference defensively in those games.

Facing a roster with five new scholarship players, head coach Paul Hewitt has used six different starting lineups this season, tinkering to find that right combination or match up better against its opponent. Akins and Lewis are the only players to have started every game this season.

Nine different players have started games this season, and seven have started an ACC game.

Despite who starts the game, however, Hewitt is still using a 10-man rotation with each member averaging 10 minutes a game or more.

What Goes Around

An excellent measure of the improvement Georgia Tech has undergone since December can be found in four return engagements against Saint Louis, North Carolina, Clemson and NC State.

Those teams all defeated the Yellow Jackets the first time the teams met, but Tech turned the tables and squared the season series against each by an average of 15.5 points. In each case, Tech used a different starting lineup in the second meeting than it did in the first, and 7-foot freshman Luke Schenscher did not play in either of the first meetings but had returned from his injury in the second meeting.

Here is a statistical comparison:

        Result  FG%     Opp. FG%        3FG%    Opp 3FG%        FT      Opp FT  Reb.UNC     L, 77-83        .456    .509    .409    .500    6-9     18-33   +5        W, 86-74        .444    .375    .462    .452    18-25   18-22   +2

Clemson L, 76-83 .385 .508 .276 .318 18-22 16-30 -8 W, 74-50 .519 .340 .473 .190 7-9 12-24 +2

SLU L, 54-67 .339 .500 .294 .182 11-16 13-18 +10 W, 60-40 .389 .311 .467 .176 11-17 9-15 +11

NC State L, 71-84 .467 .456 .458 .360 12-19 23-30 -4 W, 65-59 .407 .364 .278 .409 16-20 10-11 +5

Like an Elder

He is only a freshman, but he’s beginning to play more like an Elder, B.J. Elder, that is. The 6-3 rookie from Madison, Ga., has been in the starting lineup for the last nine games, averaging 8.8 points (12-of-29 on threes).

Head coach Paul Hewitt first inserted Elder into the starting lineup for Tech’s Jan. 10 game at Duke, and Elder responded with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with two assists before fouling out. He has scored in double figures nine times in Georgia Tech’s last 17 games, including 31 points in 34 minutes of play in Tech wins over North Carolina and Clemson.

Elder played just 16 minutes at Clemson before fouling out, but led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor (3-of-5 from three-point range) with three assists. Elder has scored more points per minute than any other Tech player (0.46) except Tony Akins.

Strong at the Line, But Not at the Line Enough

Georgia Tech has five players hitting over 70 percent from the stripe this season. Marvin Lewis (88.6 percent) and Tony Akins (80.5 percent) are Tech’s top shooters from the stripe, but neither has enough attempts to qualify for the ACC leaders. Halston Lane at 76.5 percent, B.J. Elder at 73.5 percent, and Clarence Moore at 71.2 also top the 70-percent mark.

Tech has been unable to take full advantage of its improved accuracy, however, having been to the line 110 times fewer than its opponents (4.1 per game). That difference is more pronounced in ACC games, 89 fewer times in 13 games (6.8 per game). The Jackets have been to the free throw line fewer times than every ACC team save Florida State and NC State (second meeting).

The Jackets are 8-2 when attempting more free throws than their opponents this year, 4-13 when they attempt fewer. Only Maryland (1st game), Florida State, North Carolina (2nd game) and NC State (2nd game) attempted fewer free throws than Tech among ACC foes.

Akins For Three

Tony Akins has made his mark as one of the top three-point shooters in Georgia Tech history. Only Dennis Scott (351-for-831) ranks ahead of Akins on Tech’s career lists for three-point field goals made and attempted.

Akins, who is 285-for-772 in his career (36.9 percent), has risen to 7th place on the all-time ACC list for three-point field goals made.

The 5-11 senior has already shot 203 three-point attempts this season, an average of 7.5 per game which is well above his career average of 6.2 attempts per game. But with an increase in frequency has come an improvement in accuracy. He has made 40.4 percent of his attempts this season, compared with 35.7 percent for his first three years combined.

Georgia Tech (12-15, 4-9) vs. #22/15 Virginia (16-8, 6-7)February 23, 2002 o 4 p.m. ET o University Hall o Charlottesville, Va.

TV: Raycom/JP Sports (WATL-TV in Atlanta), ESPN2, Steve Martin, pbp, Gil McGregor, color Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1), WSNY-FM (100.1), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com Tech Record: 12-15, 4-9 ACC (H: 7-7, A: 2-6, N: 3-2) Series vs. Virginia: Tech leads, 30-26 Vs. Virginia at U-Hall: UVA leads, 15-8 Vs. UVA since joining ACC: Tech leads, 28-25 Last meeting: Jan. 22, Virginia d. Tech, 69-65, in Atlanta Head Coach Paul Hewitt: 95-55 (.633), 5th season overall, 29-28 (.509), 2nd season at Tech Last game: Feb. 20, Tech d. NC State, 65-59, in Atlanta Next game: Feb. 27, Wake Forest (ESPN2), 7:30 p.m., in Atlanta

Probable Starters F 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 9.0 ppg 2.0 rpg F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 9.1 ppg 5.4 rpg C 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 8.2 ppg 6.9 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 16.1 ppg 5.4 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 11.4 ppg 4.0 rpg

Top Reserves C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 3.8 ppg 4.7 rpg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 6.7 ppg 3.0 rpg F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 1.9 ppg 1.3 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 7.0 ppg 3.2 rpg C 12 Luke Schenscher 7-0 Fr. 4.4 ppg 3.2 rpg

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