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Tech Closes Regular Season at Clemson

March 2, 2006

ATLANTA –

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With its Atlantic Coast Conference tournament seed possibilities narrowed to No. 10 or 11, Georgia Tech’s basketball team concludes its regular season Saturday with a 2 p.m. regionally-televised ACC game against Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Saturday’s game will be televised on the ACC’s Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot network, airing in Atlanta on WATL-TV (WB36). A complete list of stations in the ACC region carrying the game appears at the end of this release.

Radio coverage for the game is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and will air in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790). The game can be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 193.

Tech (11-15 overall, 4-11 ACC this season), which defeated Wake Forest, 76-61, last Saturday, can get the No. 10 seed (and a 7 p.m. tip against the No. 7 seed Thursday) for next week’s tournament with a win over Clemson and a Virginia Tech loss to Boston College Saturday. A loss to Clemson will give the Yellow Jackets the No. 11 seed and a 9:30 tip time against the No. 6 seed next Thursday.

If Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (also 4-11 in the ACC) both win or both lose Saturday, the Hokies will earn the No. 10 seed in a tiebreaker because of their 63-62 win over the Jackets on Jan. 31.

The Yellow Jackets finished their home schedule at 4-4, but are still looking for their first road win in the conference. Tech has been in position to win each of its last three road games, leading Florida State by 14 in the final 10 minutes before falling 80-79, leading North Carolina by 20 in the first half before falling 82-75, and taking Maryland to overtime before dropping that one, 87-84.

Clemson (17-11 overall, 6-9 ACC) clinched at least the No. 9 seed with their 86-81 win at Virginia Tech Wednesday night.

The first-round opponents for both teams are still very much in the air — Florida State holds the No. 5 position at 8-7, while Maryland, Virginia and Miami are all tied at 7-8. FSU visits Miami, and Maryland visits Virginia, both on Sunday.

Tech has won four of its last five games against Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum, including a 70-62 win last season and a 79-60 triumph during the Final Four season of 2004. The only loss during that stretch was a 69-67 squeaker in 2003.

Another Strong Finish?

Georgia Tech has won two of its last three games following an eight-game losing streak, perhaps signaling a staple of the Yellow Jackets under Paul Hewitt — a strong finish.

Tech’s record in the month of March under Hewitt is 18-10, percentage-wise the Yellow Jackets’ best month outside of November and December.

Worth noting: Tech has won the final regular-season meeting with Clemson in each of Hewitt’s five years at Tech. In each case, the win spurred or was part of a strong late-season run (ACC Tournament semifinals and an NCAA bid in 2001; won nine of last 10 regular season games in 2002; won four of five to reach NIT quarterfinals in 2003; nine wins in 10 games that carried Tech to the national championship game in 2004; four wins in five games to get to the championship game of the ACC Tournament and the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season).

Lineup Shuffle Injects Energy

Following a 70-53 homecourt loss to Miami on Feb. 4, 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 remained in the lineup, and were joined by junior guard Mario West, senior forward Theodis Tarver and freshman guard Lewis Clinch.

The revamped lineup, which sophomore Jeremis Smith rejoined for the one game against Duke, has produced better aggressiveness and offensive punch, and the Jackets have produced five 50-percent shooting efforts in six games since. Three of those came in consecutive games (FSU, NC State, North Carolina), the first time Tech has accomplished that against three straight ACC foes since the last three regular-season games of the 1995-96 season (Clemson, NC State, Maryland).

Tech has collectively posted a 49.4 percent effort over that stretch. The Yellow Jackets have shot 46.1 percent from three-point range, including 11-for-18 at Florida State, a high for the Paul Hewitt era. Tech has assisted on 100 of 167 baskets, a 59.8-percent rate that exceeds the Jackets’ season rate (56.5 percent).

Another sign that Tech has improved significantly over this stretch is that, though they haven’t been able to close out those games, the Yellow Jackets have held significant second-half leads in three of the four losses — 14 points at Florida State, 13 points at North Carolina and 11 points over Duke — and led in overtime of the other.

Quick Look at Tech

Tech continues to benefit from the emergence over the past month of sophomore center Ra’Sean Dickey, who has averaged 16.2 points and shot 63.1 percent from the floor over his last 11 games.

The 6-9 native of Clio, S.C., is averaging 13.0 points and 6.3 rebounds for the season, ranking second in the ACC in field goal percentage (60.4 pct.). In conference games, he has made 61.3 percent, which leads the ACC.

Dickey’s improvement has helped Anthony Morrow, the ACC’s second-leading three-point shooter (41.8 pct.) and the only Tech player to start every game this season, get more good looks from the outside. A 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., Morrow ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring at 16.0 points. One of four Tech players averaging in double figures, Morrow has averaged 14.9 points and shoots 40.2 percent from three-point range in ACC games.

Mario West, a 6-4 junior from Douglasville, Ga., Tech’s best on-the-ball defender, has started Tech’s last six games. West, who shares point guard time with sophomore Zam Fredrick, has averaged 4.8 points and shot 52.2 percent from the floor over his last six games, and averages 5.3 points and 2.7 assists for the season.

Also in the starting five are Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 freshman from Cordele, Ga., who made his first college start at FSU, and Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 senior from Monroe, La. Clinch, the ACC’s third-leading freshman scorer (8.5 ppg) gives Tech an additional outside shooting threat (50.0 pct. from three-point range in ACC games). Tarver, who has started 13 games this season, has shot 50 percent from the floor and blocked 34 shots while averaging 3.4 points and 3.2 rebounds

Off the bench, Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 sophomore from St. Matthews, S.C., has given Tech a big lift offensively in the last six games, averaging 15.3 points while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor (10-of-19 on threes). Fredrick averages 10.6 points a game for the season and has shot 38.3 percent from three-point range in ACC games. D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 wingman from Los Angeles, Calif., averages 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds.

In the post, Tech has Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas, who is the ACC’s No. 2 rebounder at 8.7 per game and averages 11.6 points.

Comments from head coach Paul Hewitt

[On Lewis Clinch] — “He seems to be settled in and playing his best basketball. He had his best game on Saturday, scoring 20 points, more importantly, defensively, he had three steals. He’s started using his athleticism and quickness on the defensive end of the floor, and is becoming a more complete player. He is a bright spot among a bunch of them that I’ve seen in our progress recently.”

[On what you look for in a point guard] – “Leadership, court awareness, ability to pass, quickness, ballhandling. I tend to look for point guards that have a little more size, in terms of height. The ones I’ve had more success with as a coach are the 6-4 or 6-5 guys, going back to Alvin Williams at Villanova, a couple that we had at Siena, and Jarrett Jack here.”

[On the most difficult thing for a young point guard to learn in the ACC] – “Speaking for us, just how much responsibility they have to make sure guys know where they’re supposed to be on the court, what their jobs are. It took Jarrett Jack about 15 games, the middle of January, before he got it. From the middle of his freshman year on, he was one of the best point guards in the country.”

[On teams across the ACC adjusting to having new point guards] – “One of the things that I’m more aware of and that is a problem for teams is not only losing a talented point guard, but some of the surrounding players. If you put a new point guard out on the floor, not only is he trying to learn, but he’s trying to teach other guys as well, where they’re supposed to be. With Wake Forest, everybody points to the loss of Chris Paul, but I’m looking as the loss of Danelius, Downey, Levy, experienced guys who knew how to win and what Skip (Prosser) wanted them to do. That’s a big problem, more than one guy. Greg Paulus is doing very well, but he also has three players – Redick, Dockery and Williams – who are experienced and know how to win, and is doesn’t fall on Paulus.”

[On the advantage of being a top-four seed instead of one of the bottom eight] – “The extra day’s rest can be an advantage. But one of the things I’ve noticed is that, if you don’t play that first day, and all the other teams have had a chance to play, there is that point in the first half where the team that had the day off is a little rusty and trying to find their legs. As the game goes on, however, fatigue does become a factor, because the games are so hotly contested and so intense.”

[On taking the blame for the team’s struggles this season] – “I feel that this team is a talented group, but there have been times in games where I feel I’ve had guys in the wrong spots. From that standpoint, it’s been a learning experience. I’ve examined a lot of the things I’ve done. I know we’re doing a lot of good things, but there are things in practice that I’ve changed, my approach has changed. In the past we scrimmaged a lot, but this year I’ve found myself doing more drilling, especially in the middle of the year when we had that rut. We’ve played very good basketball since, but there have been games where we haven’t closed out. I think there has been a lot of progress in an awful lot of areas.”

[Is taking the blame taking pressure off the players?] – “We always try to evaluate objectively. It’s not about being disingenuous. What I say to you guys in the press conferences is what I say to them in the film sessions. We’re always trying to correct and improve. I’m not sugar-coating anything to them, believe me.”

[On a previous statement that Tech would not repeat a year like this one] – “I’m not going to say we’ll never have a season like this again. But there are some things that I could have done differently, and I’ve learned a lot from this experience. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to go through these experiences to know or recognize the warning signs as you see them developing, both from a recruiting standpoint going back a couple of year to why you’re going through it during the season. Anything can happen in sports, you can have injuries, or there are a lot of things that can cause a team to have a more difficult time being consistent in terms of winning. There’s no question in my mind that after going through this, I’m much more prepared for recognizing the things that cause a year like this.”

TV Station Clearance for Georgia Tech-Clemson

NORTH CAROLINA:Charlotte: WBTV (CBS)Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville: WLFL (WB)Greensboro / W-S / High Pt.: WUPN (UPN)Greenville/New Bern/Wash.: WCTI (UPN)Wilmington: WSFX (FOX)

SOUTH CAROLINA: Greenville/ Spartanburg/ Ash: WLOS (ABC) Columbia: WOLO (ABC) Florence / Myrtle Beach: WWMB (UPN) Charleston: WCSC (CBS)

VIRGINIA: Norfolk / Portsmouth: WTVZ (WB) Richmond / Petersburg: WTVR (CBS) Roanoke/ Lynchburg: WDBJ (CBS) Charlottesville: WVIR (NBC) Tri-Cities: WAPK (UPN)

DC / MARYLAND: Washington, DC: WDCA (UPN) Baltimore: WNUV (WB) Salisbury: UPN-21 (UPN) Hagerstown: WHAG (NBC)

NEW ENGLAND: Boston: WSBK (UPN) Springfield / Holyoke: WSBK (UPN-Boston)

GEORGIA: Atlanta: WATL (WB) Savannah: WGSA (UPN) Augusta: WBEK (IND) Columbus: WLTZ (NBC) Albany: WSWG (UPN) Dalton: WDNN (IND)

FLORIDA: Pensacola / Mobile, AL: WFGX (IND) Tallahassee: ECTV (UPN) Panama City: WBIF (UPN) Gainesville: WYPN (UPN) Miami/Ft. Lauderdale: WBFS (UPN) Orlando/Daytona Bch/Mel.: WRBW (UPN) West Palm Beach / Ft. Pierce: WTVX (UPN)

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