Jan. 26, 2005
Georgia Tech, ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press and No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings this week, attempts to end a three-game losing streak at 8 p.m. Thursday night when it entertains Wake Forest, the nation’s No. 5-ranked team, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
The game will be regionally televised over the ACC’s Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot network, and will air in Atlanta on WATL-TV (WB36). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and will air in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1). The Tech broadcast also is available on XM Satellite Radio (Ch. 180).
Tech (11-5, 2-3 ACC) won its first two ACC games with homecourt victories over Miami (80-69) and Virginia (92-69), but has followed with three straight losses, at North Carolina (91-69) and NC State (76-68) and at home to Virginia Tech (70-69). Saturday’s loss to the Hokies was Tech’s first at home this season. After Thursday’s game, the Yellow Jackets play three of their next four and six of their next nine games on the road.
Wake Forest (16-2, 4-1 ACC) bounced back from a mid-week loss at Florida State (91-83, ot) to take a road win at No. 20 Cincinnati (74-70) Saturday. The Demon Deacons’ only other loss occurred Dec. 1 at No. 1 Illinois, and they are 5-1 vs. top-25 teams. Wake Forest is second in the ACC in scoring average (84.8 ppg) and field goal percentage (49.0 overall, 40.7 from three) and is among the national leaders in all three categories.
Tech leads the nation in field goal percentage defense (35.9 pct.), and still leads or is close to the lead in the ACC in several other defensive categories, including points allowed (second, 62.0 ppg), three-point defense (first, .294), rebounding (second, 41.1 per game) and defensive rebounds (first, 29.0 per game). The Yellow Jackets’ struggles during their three-game losing streak stem primarily from turnovers (31 in the first half of those games) which put them behind early, and poor perimeter shooting (9-of-45 from three) which hampered their comeback efforts.
The Yellow Jackets are still without leading scorer B.J. Elder (13.2 ppg), who strained his left hamstring in the first half of the game at Kansas. Tech also has had to deal with injuries to backup center Ra’Sean Dickey (hyperextended right knee against Virginia, missed one game), Will Bynum and Anthony McHenry (concussions), Isma’il Muhammad (knee tendinitis) and Jeremis Smith (dislocated kneecap), which have forced Tech to be further shorthanded in games and practice.
Tech began the season with its highest national ranking (No. 3) since the 1985-86 squad held the top spot in the preseason AP poll. Tech has been nationally ranked for 29 consecutive weeks dating back to last Dec. 1, when the Jackets were No. 13 following their Preseason NIT championship.
Georgia Tech has played its last five-and-a-half games without 6-4 senior guard and leading scorer B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), who was averaging 13.2 points a game until he strained his left hamstring muscle in the first half of the Yellow Jackets’ loss at No. 2 Kansas on New Year’s Day. A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, Elder was shooting 43.2 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three-point range.
In his absence, Tech has gone with a starting lineup led by 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), who tops Tech in most every offensive category and has become Tech’s primary scorer. Also a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 14th in the ACC in scoring (15.5 ppg), sixth in assists (4.38 per game), fourth in field goal percentage (53.7), second in three-point percentage (45.8) and third in free throw percentage (88.7).
He is joined in the lineup by a quartet of seniors in 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 12.0 points and 3.0 assists.
Schenscher, who ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.31 per game), is hitting 53.4 percent of his shots from the floor and has averaged 9.4 points in league games thus far. Bynum led Tech with 28 points against Virginia Tech (9-14 FG), and has averaged 14.2 points and 3.1 assists in conference games. Muhammad, who had 14 points and nine rebounds against Virginia Tech, has made 50.4 percent of his field goals and ranks 16th in the conference in rebounding.
Jack and Schenscher have started every game, while Muhammad, McHenry and Bynum have taken turns coming off the bench. Elder had started every game until sustaining his injury.
Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, has played more and more since December, with 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) giving the Yellow Jackets a huge lift since mid-December.
Morrow scored 11 points against Miami and 13 against Virginia (in just 14 minutes), hitting 6-of-12 three-point field goals and 7-of-14 shots overall in the two wins, helping him earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. He has shot 38.2 percent from behind the arc this season and is averaging 7.4 points vs. the ACC so far.
Dickey, who has shot 62.7 percent from the floor to lead the team this season, has entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center behind Luke Schenscher. He is 12-for-18 from the floor in the four ACC games he has played, including his top game of 13 points (5-5 FG) with five rebounds in just 13 minutes against Virginia.
Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior who has logged more minutes at the power forward position while Jeremis Smith has been out. He played his best game of the season against Virginia with six points and five rebounds. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively on the perimeter. He had the best offensive game of his career against the Cavaliers with seven points, and has averaged more than 12 minutes in Tech’s last four games.
QUOTING COACH Paul Hewitt
On the loss to Virginia Tech – “Despite Saturday’s loss, after I reviewed the tape, I saw some very positive things from our team. We’ve obviously got to get some better play from different guys. Some of our veteran guys have to play more consistent. After the game I was pretty down, but after watching the tape, I started to see some signs of things starting to come around. Certainly we’ve got to make even more progress as we get ready to play one of the better teams in the country Thursday.”
On Tech’s outside shooting in Elder’s absence – “It improved somewhat, percentage-wise, the other day because I thought we took better shots. Jarrett is getting an awful lot of attention. People are certainly giving him a lot more attention, making an effort to get up on him and play him more physically. We’re trying to get him to go the basketball more and get to the foul line more. If we move the ball well, we have guys who are capable of making shots. Morrow had an off-day Saturday, but he’s capable of better.”
What are you missing most without B.J.? – “B.J. practiced Thursday, and we thought he was well on his way back, but he had a relapse. Certainly not as significant as what he suffered on Jan. 1 against Kansas, but it was enough that we felt like we had to shut him down and give him a chance to come back completely healthy. He was averaging 18 points a game earlier in the year. But as I’ve said, we have enough personnel to win some of the games we’ve lost. Again, I saw in the Virginia Tech game after reviewing the film that we made some progress there. We missed some makeable shots, but that will happen.
On Elder’s status – “I don’t want to put a number on it. He’s going to be out indefinitely, and whenever our medical staff tells me he can get out on the practice floor, that’s when you’ll see him again.”
On the difficulty of matching up with Wake Forest – “Those three guys average something like 45 points between them – Williams, Gray and Paul. So, yes, that does create some problems there with a guys inside and two guys outside who can score like they can.”
On Tech’s confidence – “Certainly when you go through a three-game losing streak, confidence can be an issue. But I’ve always tried to be honest with my team, tell them when they’re doing things well and when they’re not doing things well. Again, the result is not what we want, but there were some positive things that we can take away from that game.”
Are you satisfied that Luke Schenscher has continued to improve? – “He’s capable of better. There’s no question Luke is a capable of better. An awful lot of his success is dependent on him getting the ball in low-post position and being able to get the ball deep. It’s a constant battle you fight. What do you have to do to get it to him deep, and what does the defense do to keep him from getting it deep.”
On what it takes for Will Bynum to play consistently like he did against Virginia Tech – “I told Will last week just to take some time off. He didn’t practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, didn’t do any individuals. Will has been working extremely hard. He spent a lot of time this summer in the weight room. In the fall, he was always in the gym getting extra shooting. I just thought he had some tired legs, especially with B.J. Elder, trying to shoulder more of the burden. I told him he needed to get away from it some and re-energize his body. He did that, and he came out with his normal level of energy. It’s a matter of him managing his body. When he plays with energy, you get more performances like he had Saturday.”
SERIES NOTES WITH WAKE FOREST
> Wake Forest leads the overall series with Georgia Tech, 30-26, having won four of the last five meetings and nine of the last 12. Of the three Tech victories, two have occurred at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
> Last season: Tech and Wake split their regular-season meetings, each winning on the other team’s home court. Tech won 73-66 on Jan. 20 in Winston-Salem, snapping the Demon Deacons’ homecourt winning streak at 24 straight games. Will Bynum led the Jackets off the bench with 20 points, and Marvin Lewis went 4-for-4 from three-point range and scored 14. The Demon Deacons returned the favor on Feb. 22 in Atlanta by a score of 80-76 behind Justin Gray’s 26 points. B.J. Elder scored 27 for Tech.
> Tech is 17-9 in games played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Demon Deacons have won the last two meetings in Atlanta and three of the last five.
> The home team has won 17 of the last 24 regular-season games in the series, with Wake Forest winning four times at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in that span, and Tech winning three times in Winston-Salem.
> Tech is 23-19 against Wake Forest since 1985, including 12 straight victories from 1985-91.
> Tech is 3-6 against Wake Forest under head coach Paul Hewitt. The Jackets are 2-5 against Skip Prosser-coached Wake Forest teams.
> Tech is 10-8 vs. Wake Forest when the Yellow Jackets are in the Top 25, and 2-5 when both teams are ranked. This is the highest-ranked Wake team Tech has faced since the 1996-97 season.
> Tech has averaged 76.6 points per game against Wake Forest in four seasons under Hewitt, shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 34.5 percent from three-point range. The Demon Deacons have averaged 80 points in the nine games, with a low of 66 in last year’s meeting in Winston-Salem.
JACK, BYNUM PICKING UP THE LOAD
Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum have increased their scoring load for the Yellow Jackets in the absence of B.J. Elder. In Tech’s last six games, including the Kansas game in which Elder sustained his hamstring injury, Jack has averaged 19.5 points a game and Bynum 13.0.
Jack has shot 50.7 percent from the floor, 54.2 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line in 40 attempts over that stretch. He scored a season-high 26 in that Kansas game, making 10 of 12 shots from the floor, and also added 22 against Virginia (5-7 from three) and 24 at North Carolina (10-of-10 from the foul line).
Bynum has not shot the ball as well (39.4 percent overall, 70.4 from the foul line) over that stretch, but has contributed 21 points against Miami (8-15 FG, seven assists, no turnovers) and matched his career high of 28 against Virginia Tech (9-14 FG, 7-8 FT).
As a team, Tech has averaged 74.3 points in his absence (three off the season norm), shot 44.4 percent from the floor (three percent off) and 31.3 percent from three-point range (also three percent off).
JACK GOES OVER 1,000
Jarrett Jack became the 36th player in Georgia Tech history to reach 1,000 career points on Jan. 16 at NC State. The 6-3 junior currently has 1,016 points, which ranks 35th in Tech history and 10th among active ACC players.
B.J. Elder reached the 1,000-point career milestone on Jan. 20 with his first point of the game at Wake Forest last season. The 6-4 senior currently has 1,471 career points, which ranks 16th on Tech’s career chart and third among active ACC players. He needs 27 points to surpass Kenny Anderson (1,497 from 1990-91).
TECH STOCK TIPS
> Tech has lost three straight games for the first time since late in the 2002-03 season, when the Yellow Jackets lost five in a row. That also was the last time Tech was held under 70 points in three straight games, as they have been the last three. Tech was 4-2 last year when scoring less than 70, but all four of those wins occurred in March and only one was a regular-season game.
> Tech has lost all three games it has played against Top-25 teams (Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina).
> Tech has made just 9-of-45 three-point shots in its last three games (all losses) and has shot 31.3 percent from that distance in its last six games dating back to Jan. 1 vs. Kansas. Tech also began the season that way, going 9-for-42 in the first two games. In between the Yellow Jackets shot 39.6 percent from behind the arc.
> Tech has a minus-3 rebounding deficit against the ACC and has outrebounded only Virginia and Virginia Tech. That said, the Yellow Jackets’ rebounding average is up more than 4 per game from last year, and its rebound margin for the season is also up 4 per game.
> Owing to Tech’s efforts to be balanced on offense, three players are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, but none of them have enough field goals to make the ACC rankings. Jarrett Jack’s 15.5 points a game leads Tech, but ranks only 14th in the ACC.
> Tech has turned the ball over 14.8 times per game against the ACC, fewer than its overall season norm. An average of nine of those have come in the first half, including 10 against Virginia Tech (13 overall), 11 against NC State (17 overall) and 10 against North Carolina (19 overall).
> In five conference games so far, Tech’s opponents have been to the free throw line 140 times to Tech’s 128. That includes a 30-14 Yellow Jacket advantage against Virginia Tech. In the two road games, the opponents have shot 72 free throws to Tech’s 53.
> Only three Tech players have fouled out of a game this year (20 fouled out last year), and only one of those has occurred in a conference game.
> In its losses this season, Tech has shot just 41.5 percent from the floor overall and 28.0 percent of its three-point attempts. Conversely, Tech has allowed the five opponents to shoot 41.7 percent from three-point range. Tech has been outrebounded in all but one of those games.
> At home this season, Tech has outshot its opponents 49.3 percent to 34.3. From three-point range, Tech has shot 38.2 percent to its opponents’ 24.7 percent.
> Tech has just 38 points from its bench in the last three games, one fewer than its total against Virginia.
> Tech has played only four games closer than 10 points, a 60-59 victory at Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 22, a 70-68 loss at Kansas, a 76-68 loss at NC State and a 70-69 loss to Virginia Tech. Tech has shot 65.5 percent from the free throw line in those games, almost identical to its seasonal average (65.8).
> Tech has not shot the three well in its last six games, nor has it defended it well. Four of Tech’s last six opponents have exceeded 40 percent from beyond the arc. Yet the Jackets still lead the ACC in three-point defense.
PLAYER QUICK HITS
> Jarrett Jack has been to the free throw line 40 times in Tech’s last six games (he made 36), compared to 31 in Tech’s first nine games. Away from Atlanta this season, Jack is 24-of-25 (96.0 percent) from the charity stripe.
> Jack’s 53.7 percent shooting from the floor leads all ACC guards. He has made at least one three-point field goal in 10 straight games and has made 52.4 percent in ACC games.
> Isma’il Muhammad has reached double figures in three straight games, averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 15-for-22 from the floor against North Carolina, NC State and Virginia Tech.
> Ra’Sean Dickey is 12-for-18 from the floor in ACC games, including 11-for-13 in his first three conference games (he did not play at North Carolina due to injury).
> Mario West has played double digit minutes in each of his last four games and has also scored in four straight games.
> Will Bynum broke an 0-for-8 drought from three-point range when he went 3-for-6 against Virginia Tech. He is also 14-for-19 from the line in his last three games.
> Anthony Morrow has gone just 1-for-12 from three-point range and 4-for-17 from the floor overall in Tech’s last three games.
> Anthony McHenry has averaged 5.3 rebounds in his last seven games, more than one per game above his season norm.