Dec. 26, 2004
Ninth-ranked Georgia Tech plays its final non-conference home game of the 2004-05 season Tuesday night when it hosts Lafayette at 7 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It is the Yellow Jackets’ final game before their highly-anticipated New Year’s Day trip to No. 2 Kansas.
Tuesday’s game will not be televised, but can be heard on radio over the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, including flagship station WQXI-AM (790) and Tech student station WREK-FM (91.1) in Atlanta.
Tech (8-1) bounced back from its first loss of the season (85-73 to No. 22 Gonzaga in Las Vegas) by whipping Charleston Southern, 90-48, on Dec. 22, its biggest victory of the season in terms of scoring margin. The Jackets have an average scoring margin this season of plus-23.2 points, with only one of their games having been decided by less than 12 points. Lafayette (3-6) defeated Moravian, 73-56, in its most recent game last Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackets had been sluggish offensively since the end of fall semester exams, averaging just 69.7 points in games against Air Force, James Madison and Gonzaga, but shot 60.8 percent in the victory over Charleston Southern, the best floor shooting percentage in four-plus seasons under head coach Paul Hewitt. Tech remains the ACC leader in several defensive categories, including points allowed (54.3), field goal percentage defense (.344), three-point defense (.262) and rebound average (41.1).
“It’s always good to get a win going into the Christmas break,” said head coach Paul Hewitt after the Charleston Southern victory. “I thought we played much better in the second half. That might be the best half of basketball we’ve played since the first half of the Air Force game. We’d better start putting some good halves together because it’s going to get hot and heavy here pretty soon.
“There were a lot of lessons from that (Gonzaga) game. Tonight you saw us start the game by getting the ball inside to Luke (Schenscher). I thought we did a very poor job of that against Gonzaga. We made a point in our film sessions to establish him.”
Tech is led by its five-man senior class – 6-4 guard B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), Tech’s leading scorer who is currently averaging 15.2 points per game, eighth-best in the ACC; 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 11.6 points and 2.8 assists.
They are joined by one of the nation’s best point guards, 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), averaging 13.2 points and 4.9 assists per game while also hitting 57.7 percent of his field goal attempts and 88.9 percent of his free throws.
From those six have come Tech’s starting five in each game so far. Jack, Elder and Schenscher have started every game, while the other three have taken turns coming off the bench.
Elder, a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards, has taken on a greater share of Tech’s scoring load this season, and has elevated all his statistical numbers, including significant increases in shooting percentages (45.5 overall, 40.0 from three). Elder shot 69 percent (22-of-32) over a three-game stretch against Michigan, Georgia and Air Force, but has cooled off the last three games (9-for-28 overall, 4-for-13 from three).
Jack, making a case for himself as one of the nation’s top point guards, had his best two games against Michigan (16 points and dished out a season-high 11 assists without committing a turnover in 30 minutes) and Georgia (7-for-7 with three threes for 18 points), and has given the Yellow Jackets another outside shooting threat (43.3 percent from three). Schenscher has averaged 10.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last six games while making 62.8 percent of his shots from the floor.
Bynum led Tech with a career-high 28 points in its loss to Gonzaga, and has reached double figures in three straight games, while Muhammad topped the Jackets with 16 against Charleston southern and has made 52.4 percent of his field goals.
Help off the bench comes from 6-9 junior Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), who has shown no ill effects from the dislocated knee that kept him out of 13 games last season. Tarver has averaged 2.8 rebounds and has blocked 10 shots while averaging just under 12 minutes. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively, and has averaged 2.3 rebounds in just under six minutes per game, but has missed most of the last three games with a hip pointer.
Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, is coming along slowly but will provide needed help in various roles. The trio of Ra’Sean Dickey, Anthony Morrow and Zam Fredrick all played career-high minutes and combined for 26 points against Charleston Southern.
“You’re going to see those guys play a little more because the one thing they can do is score,” said Hewitt. “I’ve just got to find a way to get them into the lineup, Anthony (Morrow) in particular. With his size and length, if he defends better, he’s going to get more minutes. My thought process coming into the game tonight was to try to get him in position where he could kind of get himself going. He came up with 11 points and played better defense in the second half. I thought his defense was poor in the first half, but he did a much better job in the second half.”
Dickey, a 6-9 forward-center from Clio (pronounced KLY-oh), S.C., combines with Schenscher and Tarver to give the Jackets good size and strength at the center position. He has shot 70 percent from the floor this season and has averaged 5.2 points. Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., and Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., can supply added scoring punch from the perimeter. Morrow scored a career-high 11 points against the Buccaneers.
“For us to be good this year, we’re going to have to have some depth,” added Hewitt. “I look at the other night against Gonzaga, and I relied on too few guys to score. Anthony should have played more. That was a huge mistake on my part to play him only three minutes. Zam (Fredrick), Ra’Sean (Dickey), same thing. Those guys can score. I’ve got to find a way to get them to be able to defend at the level that we want and also feel comfortable enough on the court that they can be aggressive offensively and make good decisions.”
TECH VS. LAFAYETTE
> Tech leads the overall series, 2-0, and both meetings have occurred at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The first was a 112-84 Tech win in December of 1994, and the most recent was a 75-64 Yellow Jacket victory on Jan. 2, 2000.
> Fran O’Hanlon has been the Lafayette coach for both prior encounters. Bobby Cremins coached Georgia Tech in both games. Current Tech coach Paul Hewitt has never faced Lafayette as a head coach.
> Tech director of basketball operations John O’Connor was an assistant coach on the staff of Lafayette for the last three seasons (2001-04) before accepting an invitation to join Hewitt’s staff at Tech.
> Tech is 5-2 all-time against members of the Patriot League, and its last encounter with a member of the league was the 2000 win over Lafayette.
TECH STOCK TIPS
> After making a season-low 40.3 percent from the floor against Gonzaga, Tech shot 60.8 percent against Charleston Southern, a high for the Yellow Jackets under Paul Hewitt.
> In the last five games, Tech has been to the free throw line 27.6 times on average, compared with 17.3 times over the first four games. The Jackets made 76.7 percent (23-30) against Charleston Southern, a season high.
> Since going 0-for-2 from three-point range against Air Force, breaking a 546-game streak with at least one three, Tech is 21-for-64 in the last three games.
> Tech’s three freshmen are averaging 9.8 points a game combined.
> Tech’s top five scorers are all shooting better than 45 percent from the floor, three at 50 percent or higher. But all of them fall short of the NCAA minimum of five field goals made per game to be ranked among the conference or national leaders. Luke Schenscher leads at 61.7 percent, followed by Jarrett Jack at 57.7 percent and Isma’il Muhammad at 52.4 percent.
> Tech leads the ACC in several key defensive categories, scoring yield (54.3), field goal percentage defense (34.4), three-point percentage yield (26.2), rebound average (41.1) and rebound margin (plus-8.1).
TECH IN THE THRILLERDOME
Georgia Tech is playing its 49th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center, and the Jackets have a record of 484-163 (.747) in the building, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke. Since the 1981-82 season, Tech is 246-62 (.797) in its on-campus home.
The Yellow Jackets were 12-3 at home last season, and have won 32 of their last 37 games in the Thrillerdome dating back to the final two home games of 2001-02.
Tech is 140-8 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, including 20 straight wins against such teams. From 1981 through last season, the only non-ACC teams to win at the Thrillerdome were Penn, Tulane and IUPUI (all in the 2001-02 season), Georgia (2000), Penn State (1998), College of Charleston (1993), Louisville (1989), and Richmond (1987).