Georgia Tech continues a tough pre-Christmas stretch Monday and Tuesday in the Stanford Invitational, hoping this trip to California is as successful as its last one.
Tech (5-2), which has faced Iowa, UCLA, Georgia and Kentucky in its last four games, scored big triumphs over UCLA in Anaheim, 72-67 on Dec. 2, and Kentucky, 86-84 last Saturday at Philips Arena. Both teams began the season in both national polls, and Iowa has climbed into the top 25 since defeating the Jackets, 85-67, on Nov. 28.
The Yellow Jackets have had a week off for final exams since the victory over Kentucky. Tech opens the four-team event with Idaho State, and if it gets by the Bengals, could meet the No. 3 Cardinal in the championship game. That would be the first team Tech has faced that was nationally-ranked at the time of the game.
The Jackets meet Idaho State (2-4) at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday night. Stanford (6-0) faces Sacred Heart at 9:30 p.m. The winners meet at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday night. The Tech games are available only on radio in Atlanta (WGST, 640 AM).
Four Tech players are averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-3 guard Shaun Fein at 15.7 points per game, 6-11 center Alvin Jones at 15.4 (with 9.1 rebounds per game), 5-11 guard Tony Akins at 13.9 (with 5.3 assists) and 6-3 swingman Marvin Lewis at 10.9. Jon Babul, a 6-7 forward, is the fifth Tech starter, averaging 4.6 points.
Georgia Tech vs. Invitational Teams
Georgia Tech is meeting Idaho State for the first time. If the Yellow Jackets meet Sacred Heart on Tuesday, that also would be the first meeting between those schools.
Tech’s appearance in the Stanford Invitational is in return for the Cardinal coming to Atlanta to play the Yellow Jackets in last year’s Delta Classic for Kids double-header at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Stanford survived the game, 64-61, in overtime. The Jackets won the only other meeting between the two schools, 67-65, on Nov. 28, 1986 in the Central Fidelity Classic in Richmond, Va.
Last Year vs. Stanford
Stanford, ranked no. 3 at the time as it is now, needed overtime to get by Georgia Tech, 64-61, at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Dec. 11 last season.
Mike McDonald sealed the Cardinal win with a pair of free throws at the 32-second mark of overtime. Tony Akins, who tied the game with a three-point basket at the end of regulation, had a driving layup rim out with six seconds left.
Both teams shot the ball poorly, 30.8 percent for Stanford, 34.4 percent for Tech, with a combined 7-for-36 from three-point range. Akins scored 16 points for the Jackets, while Alvin Jones added 10 points and 15 rebounds. Jason Collier and Jason Floyd, both graduated, contributed 17 and 11. Four of the Cardinal players reached double figures, led by Casey Jacobsen with 15, David Moseley with 13, Jarron Collins with 11 and Jason Collins with 10.
Georgia Tech in California
This is Georgia Tech’s second trip to California in the space of two weeks. The Yellow Jackets scored a big 72-67 victory over UCLA on Dec. 2 in the John Wooden Classic in Anaheim.
Tech’s last venture to a holiday tournament in the state was not so productive. The Jackets played in the 1995 Cable Car Classic in San Jose, losing to Bradley, 84-82, and to Santa Clara, 71-66. The losses dropped Tech to 6-7, but the Yellow Jackets went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season race at 13-3, advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 24-12. That team was led by freshman Stephon Marbury in his only season at Tech.
In previous California events, Tech played in the 1984 Casaba Club Classic in Stockton (2-0), and the 1966 and 1969 Bruin Classics at Pauley Pavilion at UCLA (1-4).
Bittersweet Week for Hewitt
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt will always remember the early portion of his first season on the Flats, because it included victories over storied programs in UCLA and Kentucky. Those wins were sandwiched around a 75-70 loss at home to Georgia in his first crack at the Jackets’ arch-rival.
The 72-67 win over the Bruins was Hewitt’s 70th career victory, while the 86-84 win over Kentucky came in his 100th game as a head coach.
After the game, when asked about the importance of defeating the Wildcats and Bruins within an eight-day period, Hewitt said, those people wearing gold out there will tell you the middle of the week wasn’t so great.
A Lid on the Other Basket
Dating back to last season’s regular season finale against Clemson, Georgia Tech has held six of nine opponents under 40 percent shooting from the floor.
Only Iowa (47.3-percent), Georgia (46 percent) and Kentucky (45.2), have shot better than 36.7 percent against the Jackets this season, two of them resulting in losses. UCLA managed just 28.6 percent in Tech’s 72-67 win, the second time this season that Tech has held an opponent under 30 percent.
In the season opener, Tech held Wofford to 25.5-percent shooting from the floor and only 14 field goals made. It was the eighth-lowest percentage Tech has allowed and included just 3-for-16 from three-point range. Charleston Southern didn’t fare much better, shooting 32 percent overall and 4-of-17 from three-point range, and Davidson managed 36.7 percent overall. UCLA hit just 4-of-18 from three-point range.
For the season, Tech has allowed opponents just 37.1 percent from the floor, which ranks third in the ACC, and 33.3 percent from three-point range.
Where Did He Come From?
The Kentucky Wildcats were left scratching their heads after Saturday’s 86-84 Georgia Tech victory after freshman Halston Lane blindsided them with a career-high 23 points.
The 6-4 first-year player from Oak Ridge, Tenn., had scored just 28 points in Tech’s first six games, though he helped the Jackets win at UCLA by canning three shots from behind the three-point arc. Going into the game, Lane had averaged just 4.7 points and played less than 15 minutes a game off the bench.
Against Kentucky, Lane was 9-of-13 from the floor and 4-of-7 from three-point range in 17 minutes. For the effort, he was named ACC Rookie of the Week, the third time a Tech player has gotten the honor this season.
He became only the fifth player since the 1989-90 season to come off the bench to lead Tech in scoring. The only four others to do that since the 1989-90 season were Tony Akins (16 vs. Maryland last Feb. 16), Alvin Jones (16 vs. NC State on Feb. 2, 1999), and James Forrest (27 vs. Duke on Mar. 12, 1993 and 25 vs. Clemson on Feb. 5, 1992).
Fein is Fine Again
Senior guard Shaun Fein, who managed just 14 points in games against Davidson and Iowa, has bounced back with three excellent games, averaging 17.7 points against UCLA, Georgia and Kentucky.
The 6-3 senior scored 13 against the Bruins, 22 against Georgia and 18 against Kentucky, including the game-winning field goal against the Wildcats from the left baseline with 1.3 seconds left. Fein was 19-of-40 from the floor in the three games, 9-of-24 from three-point land.
He has reclaimed the Tech lead in scoring at 15.7 points per game and is shooting an even 50 percent from the floor. One of Tech’s better ballhandlers, Fein has just nine turnovers in seven games.
Akins Much Improved
Tony Akins may be the most improved player on the floor for Georgia Tech. The 5-11 junior point guard has been very consistent so far in all phases of his game, averaging 13.9 points and 5.3 assists per game (fourth in the ACC) with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and penetrate the defense.
Akins has led Tech in scoring only once, with a season-high 28 points against UCLA, but has been in double digits in every game but one and has scored at least 15 four times.
Against UCLA, he alone kept the Jackets close in the first half. With Tech shooting just 23.5 percent, Akins hit 5-of-8 field goals and scored 16 points as the Jackets went into the locker room down 28-22. He had all five of his assists in the second half and only one turnover as Tech came back.
For the season, Akins has a 2.64-to-1 assist-turnover ratio (sixth in the ACC), and ranks 10th in three-point percentage (42.5) and sixth in three-point field goals per game (2.43). He also has 11 steals, two off the team lead.
The Four-Point Play
Tony Akins has managed to pull off the four-point play, making a three-point field goal while getting fouled and hitting the free throw, once in each of Georgia Tech’s last two victories over UCLA and Kentucky.
Against Kentucky, his four-point play erased a 63-60 deficit in the second half and ignited a 23-7 Tech run. He also pulled off the trick late in the first half against UCLA, erasing a 20-16 deficit.
Jackets Rely on Good Shooting
Head coach Paul Hewitt’s team has met his expectations in shooting. Except for Tech’s loss to Georgia, its first poor-shooting game this season (34.7 percent), Tech has been fairly consistent, hitting 44.2 percent from the floor overall and 39.7 percent from three-point range. Tech rebounded from the Georgia game to shoot 51.3 percent in the first half against Kentucky.
Tech leads the ACC in three-point field goals per game (9.86 per game) and ranks third in three-point percentage (39.7).
Alvin Jones continues to pace the Jackets at 58.7 percent, while Shaun Fein is at an even 50 percent overall (38.0 from three-point range).
From three-point range, Tony Akins has hit 42.5 percent, Marvin Lewis has hit 45.2 percent and Halston Lane has hit 45.5 percent, all ranking among the ACC’s top 10.
Different Guy Every Night
Tech has had five different players lead the team in scoring in seven games, another design of the Yellow Jackets’ style of play. Halston Lane became the fifth different player to lead the Jackets with his 23-point effort off the bench against Kentucky.