Dec. 13, 2002
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s basketball team returns to Atlanta after two road games to face Tennessee at 4 p.m. Sunday at Philips Arena in the nightcap of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Holiday Classic for Kids.
The Yellow Jackets are 4-1 following a 67-53 win over Marist last Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The Volunteers, who have not played since Dec. 4, are 2-1. The Tech-Tennessee meeting, the first between the schools in basketball since the 1968-69 season, is the nightcap of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl event, which opens with Gonzaga facing Georgia at 1:30 p.m. Proceeds from the doubleheader benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Twin Lakes.
Tickets are $35 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster (404-249-6400).
Both games of the double-header will be televised throughout the Southeast on Fox Sports Net South. Tech’s game can be heard on the Georgia Tech-ISP Radio Network, and in Atlanta on flagship station WQXI-AM (790), as well as WMGP-FM (98.1) and WSNY-FM (100.1).
Tech is playing its third consecutive game away from home and its fifth in six games during the month of December. Tech has been off since Dec. 7 due to fall semester final exams. With a win over Tennessee, Tech would be 5-1 for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
“Tennessee is a very strong team inside,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “Ron Slay is an outstanding veteran player. He’s got strength, he’s got size and he’s got skill. They have a sophomore, Brandon Crump, who has put on about 35 pounds this last year and has been very impressive on tape in their first three games. Like us, they are starting a freshman point guard. Like Jarrett [Jack], he’s had ups and downs, but you can tell he is a very talented player. They’re a scary team because of their size.”
Georgia Tech’s playing rotation includes two juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. In the Yellow Jackets last two games, however, the starting lineup was comprised of three sophomores and two freshmen. Hewitt hinted he may tinker with the lineup for Sunday.
“We have struggled a little bit offensively, but again our defense has been very good,” said Hewitt, whose team has limited opponents to 39 percent from the floor. “We’re going to have to cut down on our turnovers. In consecutive games now, we’ve had over 20 turnovers, and that concerns me.
After averaging more than 90 points in its first three games, Tech has averaged just 65 points in its last two and has turned the ball over 43 times. The Jackets shot just 38 percent in a loss at Minnesota before hitting nearly 50 percent against Marist. For the season, Tech is shooting 44.4 percent, an improvement from a year ago, but the Jackets are hitting just 32.5 percent from three-point range.
“In regards to shooting, it’ll come because we work on it consistently. It’s similar to last season when we got off to a rocky start shooting the ball. But we started shooting well towards the end of the season when guys other than Tony [Akins] and Marvin [Lewis] stepped up and started making shots. I’m more concerned about our turnovers, and glad to see that defense has been our strong point.”
Tech has helped itself tremendously with strong rebounding in the early going. The Jackets lead the ACC at 48.4 rebounds per game, outrebounding their opponents by 14 per game. It has helped give the team a 76-53 advantage in second-chance points.
“We have good size, so we have the mindset every game, not only with our big guys, but our guards, that we have to go in there and rebound,” said Hewitt. “Because I am concerned about our shooting, I’ve said from day one that we’ve got to make sure we limit other people’s opportunities, not only by forcing turnovers, but holding them to one shot. Once the shot is on the glass, we need to go up there with an attitude to get the ball.”
Freshmen Chris Bosh, a 6-10 forward/center, and Jarrett Jack, a 6-3 point guard, have started all five games along with 6-6 sophomore forward Isma’il Muhammad. Bosh, named ACC Rookie of the Week each of the past two weeks, leads Tech in scoring (17.2), rebounding (11.8) and field goal percentage (56.9), recording a double-double in all five games so far. Jack has played well at the point, averaging an even 10 points and 6.4 assists per game while leading the team in steals (9) and hitting 53.6 percent of his shots from the floor. Muhammad, noted more for his defense, averages 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds.
B.J. Elder, a 6-4 sophomore guard, and 7-1 sophomore center Luke Schenscher have started the last two games for Tech. Elder is Tech’s second leading scorer at 14.3 points per game and has made 43.5 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. Schenscher averages 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds and shoots 51.7 percent from the floor.
Off the bench, Tech has Marvin Lewis, a 6-4 junior guard who averages 11.0 points and 3.6 assists, and 6-8 sophomore forward Ed Nelson, who averages 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Both players started Tech’s first three games, but have been Tech’s first subs off the bench against Minnesota and Marist. Nelson, in particular, has responded well to the change with his best two games of the season, averaging 15.5 points (14-of-26 from the floor) and 8.0 rebounds.
“Ed’s a competitor,” said Hewitt. “I thought we had to remind him of who he was. He’s a guy who needs to go in there and bang around, play good defense, get rebounds and score around the basket. I’m also pleased to see that he’s starting to shoot the ball the way he is capable of.”
Tech also gets help off the bench from 6-7 sophomore Anthony McHenry, an excellent defensive player averaging 1.6 point and 2.4 rebounds. Robert Brooks, a 6-8 junior averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, and 6-9 freshman Theodis Tarver (3.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg) add depth in the frontcourt.
TECH IN PHILIPS ARENA
Sunday’s game with Tennessee will be Georgia Tech’s fifth in Philips Arena, which opened in 1999. Tech is 2-2 in the building and played the first collegiate game in the arena, an 80-77 loss to Michigan on Dec. 1, 1999, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The Jackets also lost to Stanford later that month (64-61 in OT) before winning its last two games in Philips, an 86-84 win over Kentucky in the 2000 and a 96-80 win over Syracuse in 2001, which also are Techs last three games in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic for Kids.
TECH IN THE CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL CLASSIC
Georgia Tech has an 8-4 record in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic for Kids, which has been staged as a one-day, double-header event since 1990 with Tech and Georgia each hosting one end of the twinbill. The first two doubleheaders (1990 and 1991) were played at The Omni, and the 1992 through 1998 events were held in the Georgia Dome before it moved into Philips Arena in 1999.
Prior to 1990, the event was a two-day tournament, alternately hosted by Tech and Georgia at The Omni. Tech was a perfect 8-0, winning the tournament all four times in which it participated.
SERIES VS. TENNESSEE (Vols lead 41-26)
Georgia Tech and Tennessee are meeting for the first time since the 1968-69 season and for just the eighth time since the Yellow Jackets left the Southeastern Conference in 1964. The Volunteers have won all seven encounters since then, including a 72-59 win in Knoxville in the teams last game on Dec. 17, 1968.
Tech is 19-14 against Tennessee all-time in the city of Atlanta, including a 19-13 mark on the Yellow Jackets various home courts, but the Yellow Jackets are 0-4 against the Volunteers on neutral courts.
Tech is 47-78 against members of the Southeastern Conference since leaving the league after the 1963-64 season, and 19-46 against SEC teams other than Georgia.