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Tech Faces Wake Forest in its 23rd ACC Tournament

March 6, 2002

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, the No. 6 seed, takes a five-game winning streak into its first-round Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game against No. 3-seeded Wake Forest, 9:30 p.m. Friday night at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C.

All games in the ACC Tournament will be televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot network (WATL, Ch. 36 in Atlanta). Local radio coverage will be on WQXI-AM (790) and WMAX-FM (98.1).

The Yellow Jackets (15-15, 7-9 ACC) finished their regular season with eight wins in their last 10 games to secure the sixth seed after beginning the conference schedule 0-7. Down the stretch, Tech has defeated NC State, Virginia, Wake Forest and Florida State.

The Demon Deacons (19-11, 9-7 ACC), after falling to Tech, 90-77, in Atlanta on Feb. 27, rebounded to defeat NC State Saturday, 83-71, to earn the third seed.

Tech is playing in its 23rd ACC Tournament, and has won three championships, in 1985, 1990 and 1993. The Yellow Jackets are 16-19 all-time in the tournament, and are 7-5 in tournament games played at the Charlotte Coliseum.

Should Tech get past the Demon Deacons Friday, it would advance to a 4 p.m. semifinal game Saturday against either Duke or North Carolina, who face each other at 7 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

A Quick Look at the Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech has continually improved over the course of the past month, defeating six teams that it had lost to in their first meeting of the season and losing only to Duke and Maryland. The Jackets, who ranked near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories early in the year, now rank toward the middle in many categories, including scoring offense and defense, and lead the ACC in three-point percentage.

Point guard Tony Akins, who made the all-ACC second team Monday, has played brilliantly down the stretch, averaging 22 points and 6.2 assists during Tech’s five-game winning streak. Tech’s only senior, from Lilburn, Ga., the 5-11 Akins ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring (16.9), fifth in assists (5.6), second in three-point percentage (.405) and second in three-point field goals per game (3.13).

Off-guard Marvin Lewis is Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures for the season and is the only other Jacket to start every game. The 6-4 sophomore from Germantown, Md., averages 11.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He actually leads Tech in three-point percentage (40.6) and would rank third in the ACC in free throw accuracy (87.5), but he does not have enough attempts to qualify for league rankings.

Tech’s starting lineup for the last 12 games has included 6-5 sophomore forward Clarence Moore (Norco, La.), along with a pair of ACC all-Freshman team members in 6-3 guard B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), and 6-7 center Ed Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

Moore averages 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 46.3 percent from three-point range and 47.5 percent overall vs. the ACC. Nelson has played very well of late, averaging 8.5 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds, including 17 points Saturday at Florida State. He tops ACC freshmen in rebounding, and averages 10.4 points and shoots 54.2 percent vs. the ACC. Elder, whose 25 points Feb. 27 against Wake Forest was a season high for a freshman in the ACC, averages 9.9 points overall and 10.9 against the league.

Tech goes five deep on the bench, which provides about 30 percent of the Jackets’ scoring: 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), who averages 6.7 points, 6-5 sophomore wingman Halston Lane (Oak Ridge, Tenn.), 6.2 points per game, 6-8 sophomore center Robert Brooks (Saginaw, Mich.), 3.4 points and 4.4 rebounds, and 6-5 guard Anthony McHenry (Fr., Birmingham, Ala.), 1.9 ppg. Seven-foot freshman center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), who is 10-for-10 in his last two games, averages 5.1 points and 3.2 rebounds and has shot 64.3 percent against the ACC.

Quoting Head Coach Paul Hewitt

“It has helped to have Luke Schenscher back, and Isma’il Muhammad completely healthy after his hip pointer. But the play of Tony Akins has been most important. He’s been consistent throughout the entire season, but he’s stepped it up in terms of his leadership.

“Our defense has improved, but having Luke in the middle to alter shots has made a major difference. As our halfcourt offense has improved, and we’ve given up fewer of those breakout baskets, where a turnover or bad shot led to an easy basket for the other team.

“We have a lot of confidence based on the second half of our season, but we also know Wake Forest of very good. They have two of the best players in our league in Darius Songaila and Josh Howard, and we’re going to have to play well. Are we capable? Yes, we’re capable of playing with Wake Forest. But it’s going to take a very, very good effort to win the game.

“I like the confidence we’re playing with, and also the togetherness we’re showing in the halfcourt offense.

“Obviously, we have to win this next game in order to get a post-season bid. But our philosophy has been, since we were 0-7, to get this next one and worry about the other games later. That’s carried over. This is all about getting the next one.

“For us, it’s like mid-January, and we feel like we have a lot more basketball left to play. It doesn’t feel like it’s the end of the season. We want to see how much we can accomplish. Friday’s game is very important, not only for this season, but for the psyche of the young players who have gotten us to this point.

“I still give a lot of the credit to Tony for not doing his own thing when we were 0-7, for continuing to do the things we asked him to do, for continuing to watch film and keep working on trying to improve himself.”

Tech’s ACC Tournament Facts

oGeorgia Tech is playing in the ACC Tournament for the 23rd time and has an all-time record of 16-19 in the event.

oTech has won three championships, in 1985 at the Omni in Atlanta, and in 1990 and 1993 at the Charlotte Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets have been the runner-up twice, in 1986 and 1996 in Greensboro.

oTech first played in the tournament in 1980, losing a 51-49, overtime decision to Maryland at the Greensboro Coliseum. Its first win occurred in 1983, a 64-58 decision over Maryland at the Omni in Atlanta.

oThe Jackets are 4-5 all-time as the No. 6 seed, and won the 1993 tournament championship from that position, defeating Duke (69-66), Clemson (69-61) and North Carolina (77-75) in Charlotte.

oTech is 7-5 all-time in ACC Tournament games at the Charlotte Coliseum, including a pair of titles in 1990 and 1993. In the other five times the tournament has been played in Charlotte since 1990, Tech has lost in the first round four times and the semifinals once.

At Stake This Weekend

oA Georgia Tech win Friday against Wake Forest would assure the Jackets of a .500 record exiting the tournament, and make Tech eligible for consideration for the NIT. Tech has made the post-season (NCAA or NIT) 16 times in the last 19 years.

oTech is attempting to win its sixth straight game. The Jackets have not won six games in a row since the 1995-96 season, when Tech won nine straight to close out the ACC regular-season title and advance to the tournament finals. Tech’s current five-game streak is the Jackets’ longest under Paul Hewitt.

Tech Series vs. Wake Forest

oGeorgia Tech and Wake Forest split their regular-season series this season for the ninth time in 12 years. Wake Forest leads the all-time series with Tech, 26-25.

oGeorgia Tech defeated the 24th-ranked Demon Deacons, 90-77, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 27. Wake Forest, then ranked 21st, defeated Georgia Tech, 87-74, in the team’s first meeting this year on Jan. 26 in Winston-Salem.

oIn the first meeting this year, Josh Howard led four Demon Deacons in double figures with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 7 steals. Wake shot 47.5 percent and outrebounded the Yellow Jackets, 38-32. Tony Akins scored 20 to lead Tech.

oIn the return game in Atlanta, B.J. Elder scored 25 points off the bench (23 in the second half) to lead the Jackets past the Deacons, overshadowing a 19-point, 8-assist game by Tony Akins on senior night.

oWake Forest has won both of its meetings with Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament, including a 75-74 triumph in the 1996 championship game in Greensboro. The other was a 74-49 debacle in the 1994 first round in Charlotte.

oThe home team has won 15 of the last 18 games in the series, the exceptions being a 77-76 thriller on Feb. 11, 1998, a 60-46 Wake victory at Tech on Feb. 27, 2000, and a 73-63 Wake win at Tech on Jan. 8, 1997.

oTech is 22-16 against Wake Forest since 1985, including 12 straight victories from 1985-91.

oThe closest game in the series’ last eight games was Tech’s six-point overtime win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum last year.

ACC Recap

Georgia Tech finished its ACC slate at 7-9 despite losing its first seven conference games. The Yellow Jackets started 0-7, but lost six of those games by an average of eight points. The other loss was a 25-point verdict at Duke.

The Jackets closed the first trip through the ACC with a 77-46 home-court rout of Florida State, which started Tech’s resurgence through the second half of the conference schedule. Since then, Tech has won six of its eight ACC tilts in February and March and added a 20-point road win at Saint Louis.

Tech has beaten every team in the ACC this season except Duke and Maryland, who handed the Jackets their only two losses since the end of January.

Akins Makes Second-Team All-ACC

Tony Akins, who will make his 117th career start in the first round of the ACC Tournament, is closing out an outstanding career in brilliant fashion with his play in the last month. He earned second-team all-ACC honors on Monday.

The 5-11 point guard has turned hot again, averaging 22 points and 6.2 assists in his last five games while hitting 18 of 40 three-point field goals (45 percent), shooting 48.4 percent (30-of-62) overall from the floor and 89.7 percent (32-of-35) from the free throw line.

Since Feb. 1, Akins has averaged 19.4 points per game. Similarly, Akins averaged 18.1 points per game from Feb. 1 forward last season as the Jackets made their push toward the NCAA Tournament.

More on Akins:

oAkins has been Tech’s most consistent offensive player all season, scoring in double digits in 27 of 30 games and scoring 20 or more 11 times. He leads the Jackets in scoring at 16.9 points per game (8th in the ACC) while averaging 5.6 assists (5th in the ACC). He ranks second in the the ACC in three-point field goals per game (3.13) and second in three-point percentage (40.5).

oAkins is shooting 84.3 percent from the free throw line, which ranks fourth in the ACC. He has made his last 24 attempts in a row dating back to Feb. 20 against NC State (8-for-9). Since then, he has gone 9-for-9 vs. Virginia, 5-for-5 vs. Wake Forest and 6-for-6 vs. Florida State. Earlier, he was 10-for-10 vs. North Carolina on Feb. 2.

oAkins is the only ACC player to rank in the top 10 in scoring and top 5 in assists. In ACC games, Akins has averaged 17.8 points and 5.9 assists per game.

oThe Lilburn, Ga., native is averaging career-bests in most offensive categories, including scoring, assists and shooting. His 5.6 assists per game are 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.

oAkins assist/turnover ratio in the last 10 games is 2.11-1.

Mr. February

Like last season, point guard Tony Akins has turned white hot for Georgia Tech’s stretch run, and it has earned him a spot on the all-ACC second team.

Since February began, Akins has averaged 19.4 points and 5.6 assists per game, and Tech has posted a 7-2 record in the process. He has shot 44.1 percent from the floor, 38.8 percent from three-point range and 89.5 percent from the free throw line.

The 5-11 guard did something similar last season, averaging 18.1 points from Feb. 1 on as Tech earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1996. He shot 48.8 percent from the floor, 46.6 percent from three-point range and 78.3 percent from the free throw line.

Tracking Milestones

oTony Akins has drained 94 three-point field goals this season, the fifth most in Georgia Tech history. He needs six to become just the second player to make 100 for a season. Dennis Scott holds season record with 137 in 1990, and also made 116 in 1989. Jon Barry scored 99 in 1992, and Scott had 98 in 1988.

oAkins has made 24 consecutive free throws dating back to Feb. 20 against NC State. Tech’s longest streaks on record are 33 straight by Drew Barry during the 1995-96 season, and 31 straight by Mark Price during the 1984-85 season.

oPaul Hewitt needs two wins to reach 100 for his career. The second-year Tech mentor won 66 games as the head coach at Siena, and is 32-28 at Tech.

oTech’s 253 three-point field goals are its fourth-most since the 3-point shot was instituted. Last year’s team and the 1989-90 team each made 260, and the 1995-96 squad set the Tech record with 296. The Yellow Jackets’ 38.0 three-point percentage is the fourth-best since the 19-foot, 9-inch line was instituted for the 1987-88 season.

Tech Rookies Get Noticed

Center Ed Nelson and swingman B.J. Elder both have earned spots on the Atlantic Coast Conference all-Freshman team. The ACC’s Rookie of the Year will be announced Monday, and Georgia Tech is hoping one of them will become the ninth Yellow Jacket so honored.

With B.J. Elder’s selection as ACC Rookie of the Week the last two weeks, three of Tech’s five freshmen have earned the honor this season. He joined Nelson (Feb. 11) and Luke Schenscher (Feb. 4) on the list of ACC Rookies named this season.

The 6-3 Elder is the ACC’s second-leading scorer among freshmen (9.9, tied for 29th overall) and is tied for third in steals. In ACC games, the Madison, Ga., native averages 10.9 points and is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.

The 6-7 Nelson, who has started 27 of Tech’s 30 games, tops ACC freshmen in rebound average (6.7) in all games and ranks 10th overall, and also ranks fourth among the ACC’s rookies in scoring average (8.5). In ACC games only, Nelson averages 10.4 points and 6.6 rebounds and is shooting 54.2 percent from the floor. He also ranks second among freshmen in minutes played.

Jackets Heat Up At The Line

Georgia Tech has burned the nets in the last four games from the free throw line, making 65 of 79 attempts (82.2 percent). That includes 37-of-43 (86 percent) in defeating Virginia and Wake Forest.

The Jackets were 10-of-10 in the second half against Virginia (15-of-17 for the game) and made its first 15 attempts of the game against Wake Forest before finishing 22-of-26.

In the process, Tech has improved its season mark to 69.7 percent, which ranks fourth in the ACC.

Georgia Tech has five players hitting over 70 percent from the stripe this season, two at 80 percent or better.

Marvin Lewis (87.5 percent), Tony Akins (84.3 percent) and B.J. Elder (78.7) are Tech’s top shooters from the stripe, but only Akins (4th place) has enough attempts to qualify for the ACC leaders. Halston Lane at (76.5) and Clarence Moore (70.7) also top the 70-percent mark.

More on free throws:

oTony Akins is Tech’s hottest free throw shooter, making his last 24 attempts over four games dating back to Tech’s Feb. 20 game with NC State.

oTech has been unable to take full advantage of its improved accuracy, however, having been to the line 116 times fewer than its opponents. That difference is more pronounced in ACC games, 95 fewer times. Only North Carolina and Florida State have been to the line fewer times than Tech this season.

oThe Jackets are 8-2 when attempting more free throws than their opponents this year, 6-13 when they attempt fewer. In only four conference games did Tech attempt more free throws than its opponent.

49th ACC TournamentMarch 7-10 o Charlotte Coliseum o Charlotte, N.C.Georgia Tech (15-15, 7-9) vs. Wake Forest (19-11, 9-7)First round: Friday, 9:30 p.m.

TV: Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 (in Atlanta, all games on WATL-TV, Ch. 36) Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1) Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com Tech Record: 15-15, 7-9 ACC (Home: 8-7, Away: 4-6, Neutral: 3-2) All-time record in ACC Tournament: 16-19 Championships: 1985 (Atlanta), 1990 (Charlotte), 1993 (Charlotte) All-time record in Charlotte: 7-5 Tech seed in ACC Tournament: 6th Tech as No. 6 seed (six times): 4-5 (1 title, 1993, Charlotte) Tech vs. Wake Forest: 1-1 this season, 25-26 all-time, 0-2 in the ACC Tournament (1994, 1996) This year’s meetings (1-1): Jan. 26, WF d. Tech, 84-71, in Winston-Salem, Feb. 27, Tech d. WF, 90-77, in Atlanta Head Coach Paul Hewitt: 98-55 (.641), 5th season overall, 32-28 (.533), 2nd season at Tech

Probable Starters F 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 9.9 ppg 2.1 rpg F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 9.1 ppg C 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 8.5 ppg 6.7 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 16.9 ppg 5.6 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 11.2 ppg 4.0 rpg

Top Reserves C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 3.4 ppg 4.4 rpg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 6.2 ppg 2.7 rpg F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 1.9 ppg 1.3 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 6.7 ppg 3.1 rpg C 12 Luke Schenscher 7-0 Fr. 5.1 ppg 3.2 rpg

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