Feb. 8, 2007
Winners of its last two games, Georgia Tech plays its final non-conference game of the season Sunday when it hosts Connecticut at 1 p.m. in a CBS national telecast at the Georgia Dome. It is the Yellow Jackets’ first game at the Dome since the 2001 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Sunday’s game can be seen locally on WGCL-TV (Ch. 46). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network and heard locally on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1). A broadcast of the game can also be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 193.
Tickets for the game can be purchased through Ticketmaster (404-249-6400). Proceeds from the game will go to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Twin Lakes.
Tech is 15-8 overall, 4-6 in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are in eighth place in the conference standings following Tuesday’s 74-65 victory over NC State, one game out of fifth place. Tuesday’s win improved Tech’s record at home to 13-1, 4-1 in ACC games.
Sunday’s game, in the NCAA’s view for RPI purposes, is a home game for the Jackets despite not being played on Tech’s campus. Tech is on the road for its next two games (Tuesday at Florida State, Sunday at Duke).
The Yellow Jackets are 4-3 this year against conference foes ahead of them in the ACC standings, 1-3 against teams below them. Five of Tech’s remaining six ACC games are against teams ahead of it in the current standings, including single games against the two teams tied for first, Virginia (Feb. 24) and Boston College (Mar. 4).
Connecticut, like Tech, is 15-8 overall and 4-6 in the Big East, and comes to Atlanta riding a two-game winning streak, including a 67-60 triumph over Syracuse in its last outing on Monday.
Series vs. Connecticut
Georgia Tech’s only previous two meetings with Connecticut occurred during the 2003-04 season and represented two of the most significant moments in the Yellow Jackets’ basketball history.
The first meeting was a stunning 77-61 win over the Huskies, ranked No. 1 at the time, in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Yellow Jackets went on to win the tournament two nights later with an 85-65 victory over No. 25 Texas Tech.
The second meeting occurred five months later in the National Championship game in San Antonio, which the Huskies won by a score of 82-73.
> Georgia Tech is 27-16 all-time against members of the Big East Conference.
Why Connecticut, and Why Now?
Sunday’s game is a dress rehearsal of sorts for the upcoming NCAA Men’s Final Four, which will be held Mar. 31 and April 2, for the Georgia Dome, CBS and Georgia Tech, the host institution, all of whom have a part in conducting college basketball’s premier event. Several members of the NCAA men’s basketball committee and tournament staff will be in attendance as part of their monthly meetings with the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee and local tournament operations staff.
CBS will be back to televise the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game Mar. 11.
Also, a portion of the proceeds from Sunday’s game will go to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Twin Lakes, two local charities that have been involved in past Georgia Tech games in the annual holiday doubleheader that formerly was held each year in December.
“I think it’s great, especially this game. It’s a game for two very worthy charities in the Atlanta area,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “It’s a great opportunity for our program. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to play against a quality team. We have played this game earlier in the year, usually in December, but the turnout wasn’t quite what we thought it should be, especially considering the cause.”
Tech at the Georgia Dome
Georgia Tech is playing in the Georgia Dome for the first time since the 2001 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, in which the Yellow Jackets defeated Virginia in the first round before falling to North Carolina in the semifinals. The ACC Tournament comes back to the Georgia Dome in 2009.
The Yellow Jackets, who defeated Louisville in the first college basketball game in the facility back on Dec. 19, 1992, are 7-4 all-time in the facility. Among Tech’s victories are three over the Cardinals (1992, 1995 and 1997) and wins over Manhattan and Oklahoma in the first two rounds of the 1995 Preseason NIT, which took place while Alexander Memorial Coliseum was undergoing its most recent renovation.
Georgia Tech has been the host institution for seven NCAA Championship events in the Dome since 1996, including the 2002 Men’s Final Four and the 2003 Women’s Final Four. The Georgia Dome also has been the venue for seven SEC Championships and one ACC Championship.
Market Up for Jackets
In a season that has seen several twists and turns, Georgia Tech is currently on an upswing, having won its last two games following a four-game losing streak. As they play their final non-conference game of the year, the Yellow Jackets are eighth in the ACC standings with six games remaining in conference play, five of which come against teams ahead of them in the standings. Only two of those teams (North Carolina and Duke) are ranked in the AP top 25.
The Yellow Jackets began the season with five straight wins, including wins over Purdue and No. 11 Memphis in the first two rounds of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Then came three losses in the next four games to UCLA (Maui championshi game), Miami and Vanderbilt as Tech approached fall semester final exams.
Coming out of finals, Tech won seven of its next eight games, including homecourt wins over state-rival Georgia, 11th-ranked Duke and Florida State, playing with renewed vigor on the defensive end of the floor.
Quick Look at Tech
Georgia Tech has a solid nucleus of veteran players, but the Yellow Jackets have started three freshmen in 15 of their 23 games this season, including forward Thaddeus Young and point guard Javaris Crittenton, who have been the Yellow Jackets’ offensive leaders.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, is the trigger man, averaging 14.0 points (46.5 pct. FG) as well as 5.6 assists per game (third in the ACC). Crittenton has made 42 percent of his three-point tries overall this season, has averaged a team-high 15.4 points in Tech’s ACC games, and has played an average of 34.9 minutes in those games.
Young, a 6-8 small forward, has been around the team lead in scoring all season, currently at a team-best 14.4 points per game (17th in the ACC). The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 14.6 points in Tech’s ACC games in 2007, and has made 50 percent of his shots from the floor in conference play.
Tech’s inside game is carried by two veterans in Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C., and Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas. Smith, the only Tech player to start every game this season, gives Tech some muscle inside on defense and on the boards, averaging 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (61.5 percent) and has 11 double-digit scoring efforts.
Since returning to the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Dickey has posted eight double-figure efforts and has made 63 percent of his field goal attempts in ACC games (57.9 percent overall), but played only three minutes against NC State Tuesday night. Dickey averages 8.3 points and 5.7 rebounds overall this season.
Anthony Morrow, a 6-5 junior who has reached double figures in nine of Tech’s last 11 games, has started the last two against Clemson and NC State. The Charlotte, N.C., native has averaged 10.2 points in ACC games, third-best on the team, and 9.1 points per game for the season.
Off the bench, Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard from Douglasville, Ga. (4.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.8 steals), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard, and came through on the offensive end against Florida State with a career-high 18 points. Tech has gotten a big lift in its last two games from 6-10 post player Alade Aminu, a sophomore from Stone Mountain, who scored 10 points in each game after not having appeared in any of Tech’s first eight ACC games.
Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye, a 6-10 forward from Dakar, Senegal, who has started eight games, has averaged 5.0 points and 3.5 rebounds this season, but his biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations. Also averaging double-digit minutes is 6-8 freshman Zach Peacock of Miami, who started the first nine games of the season and averages 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds (50.5 pct. FG) as Tech’s backup center and power forward, and 6-5 sophomore D’Andre Bell of Los Angeles, who gave Tech a spark against NC State with seven points and good defense against Engin Atsur.
Pack Punch List
> Tuesday’s NC State game was only the second time this year Georgia Tech won a game it trailed at halftime. It was the second time this season Tech has come back from a deficit of 15 or more points to win (Tech trailed Memphis by 18 in the first half).
> It was the first time in ACC play this year that Georgia Tech placed five players in double figure scoring, and first time overall since Jan. 3 vs. Winston-Salem State.
> Tech improved to 10-0 this year when holding an opponent under 70 points.
> Tech won despite two starters (Dickey, Morrow) and a top reserve (West) not scoring a point.
> Tech shot 50 percent from the floor (53.8 pct. actually) for the first time since Jan. 13 against Florida State.
> Alade Aminu had 10 points, his career high, for the second straight game after not playing in an ACC game this season before last Saturday’s win over Clemson. He has hit 10-of-15 shots in the two games, scoring 20 points after totaling 26 points for the first 21 games of the season
> D’Andre Bell scored his first points in an ACC game with seven points against NC State. He had scored a total of 13 points all season before that game.
> Javaris Crittenton has 47 points and 10 steals in Tech’s back-to-back wins over Clemson and NC State. That includes a career-high 26 points against Clemson with seven steals.
> Zach Peacock (11 points) posted his first double-digit scoring effort since Nov. 22 against UCLA out in Maui, this after getting career and season highs in rebounds (7) and assists (4) against Clemson.
Ball Movement, Big Men Tell the Tale
Before its last two games, Georgia Tech found life difficult on the offensive end, averaging just 66.5 points in four straight losses losses to North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Tech has reversed that trend against Clemson and NC State, getting 84 points in the paint and 59 from its post players in the two victories. Alade Aminu provided the spark with 10 points off the bench in each game in his first ACC action of the season. Jeremis Smith scored 20 points with 13 rebounds in the two games, while Zach Peacock tossed in 11 against NC State.
The Jackets assisted on 33 of their 57 field goals in the two games, and the improved play of Tech’s bigs opened up things for point guard Javaris Crittenton (47 points, 16-of-26 FG) and forward Thaddeus Young (29 points, 12-of-22 FG).
“Quite honestly, our big guys have got to bring it every night,” said head coach Paul Hewitt after the Clemson game. “I don’t want to call anybody out, but those are the facts.
Youth Being Served
Georgia Tech’s freshmen have combined to score 38.5 points per game this season, ninth highest in ACC history and the second highest figure in Tech history behind the 1982-83 group which included Mark Price and John Salley (44.8). In the last two games, Tech’s freshmen have scored a total of 90 points (out of 154).
Thaddeus Young (14.4) and Javaris Crittenton (14.0 per game) rank third and fourth among the ACC’s freshmen in scoring, while Crittenton ranks second among first-year players in assist average (5.6), and Young is sixth in rebounds (5.0).