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Tech Faces Maryland in Key ACC Matchup

Jan. 31, 2008

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech returns home from a two-game road swing to host Maryland in a 12 noon nationally-televised game Saturday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It is Tech’s only home game in a nearly month-long stretch for the Yellow Jackets, who visit Wake Forest, Connecticut and Clemson in succession over the next week-and-a-half.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Radio coverage of the game is provided on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Channel 190. A national ISP broadcast of the game can be heard on XM channel 191.

The Yellow Jackets are 10-9 for the season and 3-3 in the ACC, having won three straight games against Virginia (92-82), NC State (77-74) and Virginia Tech (81-70) following an 0-3 conference start. Tech has jumped from last place in the ACC standings to a four-way tie for fifth following Wednesday’s action. The Jackets are 4-4 at home this season, 1-2 in ACC games.

A win Saturday would give Tech four straight conference wins for the first time since the end of the 2001-02 season. A win Saturday also would be the 1,200th in the history of Georgia Tech basketball (1,199-1,046 all-time currently).

Maryland, 13-8 overall and 3-3 in the ACC, has won three of its last four games following an 85-75 win over Virginia Wednesday night. The Terrapins also have beaten North Carolina and Wake Forest, while losing to Boston College, Virginia Tech and Duke in conference play.

Tech has played a strong schedule thus far, posting a schedule strength rank of No. 7 according to this week’s RPI rankings. The teams Tech lost to have a combined record of 138-42 (through Wednesday’s games), including four losses to top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 88-14. The Jackets also have surged from outside the top 100 to No. 57 in RPI ranking.

Series vs. Maryland

> Maryland has won the last five games in the series to pull even all-time with Georgia Tech, 33-33. Up until now, the Terrapins were one of four ACC teams against whom Tech had an all-time winning record (Boston College, Clemson and Virginia are the others). Maryland has won 10 of the last 15.

> Tech’s 33-29 record against Maryland since 1979-80 is its best mark against any ACC team since the Jackets joined the league.

> Tech has won three of the last five home games with Maryland, but the Terps won the last meeting at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, 86-74, in 2006. Tech is 17-8 all-time against Maryland at the Thrillerdome.

> Tech is 4-9 against Maryland under head coach Paul Hewitt, 1-6 at College Park. Tech is 16-21 vs. Gary Williams-coached Maryland teams.

> Seven of the 13 games between Tech and Maryland since Paul Hewitt became the head coach have been decided by 10 points or fewer.

> Maryland won the first nine games of the series, but Tech turned the tables under head coach Bobby Cremins, winning 28 of 35 meetings (including 10 in a row at one point) through the 1995-96 season. The Terps won the next seven in a row before Cremins’ last Tech Jacket team won 69-68 at home on Jan. 15, 2000.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech’s starting lineup for the last five games has included freshman Moe Miller at point guard and junior D’Andre Bell at one wing. Miller, who replaced Matt Causey in the lineup, had started Tech’s first two games before injuring his back in the Virgin Islands, and Bell, who replaced Lewis Clinch, has started four games at point guard earlier in the season.

Seniors Anthony Morrow (wing) and Jeremis Smith (big forward) have started all 19 games for the Yellow Jackets, while freshman Gani Lawal has started the last 12 games at center.

Regardless of which player starts, Miller and Causey both play significant minutes at the point, combining to average 13.8 points and 6.8 assists per game. Despite playing roughly 18 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks eighth in the ACC in assists and seventh in assist-turnover ratio. He has been Tech’s top scorer the last three games, averaging 22.0 points over that stretch. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., has accumulated 32 assists and 13 turnovers in the last 10 games, and scored 11 points with four assists at Virginia.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 13th in the ACC with 14.3 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 221 for his career, Morrow has hit 45.4 percent from that distance this season, and has averaged 13.3 points in Tech’s ACC games.

Bell, a 6-5 junior, provides good physical defense on the perimeter and can score when needed (15 points vs. Florida State, 13 at NC State). He averages 5.8 points for the season, 7.5 vs. the ACC, and has shot 49.4 percent from the floor. Bell started four games at point guard in Miller’s absence early in the year and now is playing more on the wing as Miller and Causey have developed into more of a tandem.

Smith, the team captain and a 6-8 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, is Tech’s third-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game and its leading rebounder at 7.1 per game (12th in the ACC). Smith has averaged 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in ACC games thus far, including two double-doubles.

Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., averages 7.7 points and 4.1 rebounds while leading the Jackets in field goal percentage at 62.8. Lawal has averaged 12.3 points in Tech’s last four games.

Backcourt reserves — Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 13 games this year, including 13 points Sunday at Virginia (4-of-6 from three). He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game, but has struggled in ACC games (7.3 ppg, 36.8 pct. FG). Six-foot-4 freshman Lance Storrs of Decatur, Ga., averaging 1.9 points per game, saw his most significant playing time in ACC play with 12 minutes Saturday at Virginia.

Frontcourt reserves — Hewitt can go to 6-8 sophomore Zack Peacock of Miami, Fla., and 6-10 junior Alade Aminu of Stone Mountain, Ga. Peacock is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer (8.1) and rebounder (4.1), and has a pair of double-digit scoring games in ACC play. Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games, has averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds while hitting 54.4 percent of his shots from the floor. Tech also has 6-11 red-shirt freshman Brad Sheehan of Latham, N.Y., who has not played since Dec. 27.

Perimeter Defense Continues Progress

Georgia Tech ranked dead last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in most defensive categories entering conference play, but has significantly improved over the last two weeks.

While Tech remains low in conference rankings for all games, in ACC games only, it ranks third in scoring defense (75.5 ppg), fifth in field goal percentage defense (44.0 pct.) and second in three-point field goal defense (26.9 pct.).

Presbyterian and Georgia combined to make 22-of-36 three-point shots against Tech, but the Yellow Jackets’ last five foes have combined for only 25.8 percent from bonus distance (Miami 2-19, North Carolina 2-10, Virginia Tech 4-15, NC State 5-17). Virginia went 12-for-36 on threes Sunday, but only 3-for-18 after halftime.

Tech also ranks fifth in steals (6th in all games) and sixth in blocked shots (11th in all games) against the conference.

Worth noting: In the last five minutes of ACC games, Tech’s opponents are 2-for-20 from three-point range. In all games, last five minutes, opponents are 11-of-51 (21.6 percent).

Also worth noting: In the last 10 game, Georgia Tech has averaged 10.0 steals and 4.1 blocked shots per game. In the first nine games of this season, Tech averaged 6.8 steals and 1.8 blocks.

The Bell Tolls

Part of the reason for the improvement in Georgia Tech’s perimeter defense is the insertion of D’Andre Bell back into the starting lineup. Bell has averaged 30 minutes in the last five games and is the Yellow Jackets’ top perimeter defender. He was a large part of a Tech defensive effort that held UVA’s Sean Singletary to 11 points (5-of-19 FG, 0-6 on threes) in 41 minutes.

Over the last five games, Tech has held four of the ACC’s top seven scorers, all perimeter players, below their averages. Singletary (18.3 ppg), Wayne Ellington (16.8), Jack McClinton (16.1) and A.D. Vassallo (16.0) combined to score 39 points against the Jackets, and neither scored more than 11. They combined to shoot 11-for-50 from the floor, 2-for-20 from three-point range.

The Close-Out

Some numbers to support Georgia Tech’s improvement in closing out games of late…

> In the last five minutes of all games this season, Tech is outscoring its opponents 14.1 to 10.6 points per game, outshooting them 52.0 to 38.9 percent, outshooting them from three-point range 37.0 to 21.6 percent, outshooting them from the free throw line 72.8 to 67.6 percent, and outrebounding them 5.3 to 4.5 per game. Tech also has 26 turnovers during the final five minutes of its games, compared to 40 for its opponents.

> In the last five minutes of ACC games, Tech has outshot opponents 55.8 to 35.8 from the floor overall and held its opponents to 2-for-20 from three-point range. Tech also has shot more free throws (44-39) in those situations, and made a higher percentage (72.7 to 66.7).

> In Tech’s last two games, the Jackets have turned the ball over only five times total after halftime. Tech has fewer turnovers in the last five minutes of conference games (9 to 10) and in the last five minutes of its last four games (5 to 8). The turnover trend also holds true in the second half of the last four games (25 to 36).

Cause(y) and Effect

Is Matt Causey currently enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, or will it last longer?

Georgia Tech’s senior guard has been a big catalyst off the bench in the Yellow Jackets’ last three games, wins over Virginia Tech, NC state and Virginia. He has led the Jackets in scoring in all three games, but in completely different ways.

Just 6-feet tall officially, Causey took advantage of Virginia Tech’s defensive focus on wing guard Anthony Morrow and Lewis Clinch to pour in 30 points against the Hokies. It was the third-highest scoring game by a non-starter on record in ACC history. Causey went 7-of-12 from three-point range in the game, 9-of-14 overall, and made 5-of-7 free throws.

At NC State, Causey took just one three-point shot (he made it) and went 7-for-10 overall on a variety of drives to the hoop for layups and short shots to score 18 points. He also had five assists, four steals and just one turnover. He scored 12 of his 18 in the second half.

At Virginia, he went scoreless in the first half, scored six in the second and 12 in overtime to lead the Jackets back from a 10-point deficit at intermission. All 12 of his points came in succession for Tech, including a pair of threes, a short jumper and four free throws.

Prior to these two games, his biggest splash was an 11-point performance in a win against Notre Dame in the Paradise Jam (Nov. 19). In that game, he knocked down a trio of three-point baskets in the final 5:11, including the game-winner with less than two seconds left.

The Gainesville, Ga., native, who has no cartilage in his left knee, has overcome a dislocated kneecap, a dislocated shoulder and a dislocated jaw this year and has yet to miss a game.

Quoting Coach Hewitt

On preparing for a physical game with Maryland — “Our guys respect the competition in this league, and they realize no matter what, they are going to get a hard fought game. We need these couple of days, we have a couple of guys dinged up, so we do need these days to rest. But I did put it in their heads to be ready for some guys that are going to come in here and play hard and know basketball on Saturday.”

On the high number of close games in the ACC this season — “It has been like that ever since I have been here. In all the years there are a lot of parity, lots of good coaches, lots of good players. So maybe this year there seems to be more games being close on the scoreboard, but I have always felt the games were hard fought.”

On Tech’s improvement in closing out games — “I think the difference in the Carolina game in the last four minutes is that we made our free throws and we did not turn the ball over. I think it really showed those guys that if we would have taken care of the ball those last four minutes, but we can’t go back and do anything about those losses, we just should have done better. I think that in the last four minutes the level of concentration has gone up. I will even go back to the Miami game, we started out really well, we played well down the stretch but we did not get the win. I think if anything it put into focus how important taking care of the basketball and doing simple things are in the last four or five minutes.”

On Tech’s improving perimeter defense — “We think we have a little thing going here with D’Andre Bell. One of the reasons why I think we are playing better basketball is that we’ve been better defending the perimeter, especially with D’Andre out there. What we have to do is get Lewis [Clinch] up to speed coming off the bench. I feel like we just lose too much if we don’t have D’Andre out there on the floor for 25 or 30 minutes.”

On Matt Causey’s role off the bench — “He plays with a lot of energy when he comes in the game, which is usually after the initial excitement, and guys have settled down. Here he comes with a burst of energy. I think he is ideally suited for that role, because we want to play up tempo. When he comes in, not only is there no drop off there, but there actually might be a pickup in the tempo of the game.”

On Causey’s reaction to being taken out of the starting lineup — “The first day when I made the change, the way he practiced made me sure that he is just about winning as many basketball games as he can for the team. That day, he came out and played with as much energy and enthusiasm as he has all year even though he had been taken out of the starting line up. That was going into the Miami game, and that was an important practice for us.”

On Causey’s recent scoring spree — “In terms of a point production, no, but I certainly envisioned him being effective and playing with a lot of enthusiasm. I think the point production comes from the fact that the kid is fearless. He doesn’t mind taking and making the big shots, and it was really something that was lacking with our team earlier in the year. Last year, we had Javaris Crittenton who would create a play and make a play when the shot clock wound down and did not mind stepping up taking a big shot. Matt has kind of evolved into that role. He is kind of doing a lot of the same thing, like Javaris, late in the game and late in shot clock situations for us.”

On Jeremis Smith’s value to the team — “Priceless. You can’t begin to quantify the value that he brings to the team in terms of rebounding and taking charges, setting physical screens and establishing a physical presence around the basket. In this league, especially playing in so many hard core games, a loose ball here or a rebound there can make a difference. It’s going to take a great effort to get the ball away from him when it is a key rebound.”

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