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Tech Hosts Top-Ranked North Carolina

Jan. 14, 2008

ATLANTA – Following a pair of road losses, Georgia Tech returns to Atlanta for the firs of two home games this week, beginning with a 9 p.m. nationally-televised game Wednesday against top-ranked North Carolina at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. It is Tech’s fourth game against a team ranked in the Associated Press top 25, the first three of which came on the road.

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The Yellow Jackets are 7-8 for the season and 0-2 in the ACC, having dropped its first two ACC games to Florida State on Dec. 30 and No. 25 Miami on Saturday. Four of the Yellow Jackets’ losses this year have come to teams in the current top 25 (No. 3 Kansas, No. 13 Indiana, No. 13 Vanderbilt, No. 25 Miami), three of those on the road. The Jackets are 3-3 at home this year.

North Carolina, 17-0 overall, defeated Clemson in overtime on the road (90-88) and NC State last Saturday (93-62) to forge a 2-0 start in conference play. The Tar Heels, who lead the ACC and rank second nationally in scoring offense and scoring margin, are 6-0 in road games this year.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN. Radio coverage of the game is provided on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). Tech’s broadcast also can be heard on XM Radio Ch. 192.

The game is sold out save for a small number of “single” tickets that will be put on sale at the gates beginning at 7:30 p.m. Purchasers must pay in cash.

Tech has played a strong schedule thus far, posting a schedule strength rank of 27 according to last week’s RPI released by the NCAA. The teams Tech has lost to have a combined record of 99-26, including the aforementioned top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 60-3.

At 7-8, Tech is below .500 through 15 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season, and is 0-2 in the ACC for the first time since then. The Yellow Jackets were 7-8 through 15 games that year and fell to 7-13 before rallying to a 15-16 final mark.

Tech vs. No. 1-Ranked Teams

Georgia Tech is playing a No. 1-ranked team for the first time since Feb. 22, 2006 (Duke), and the Yellow Jackets have an all-time record of 8-33 against top-ranked teams.

> Of Tech’s eight wins against No. 1 teams, four came in succession during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. The Jackets defeated Duke, 80-79, on Jan. 10, 1993, then scored three consecutive wins over North Carolina, which was No. 1 each time. The first came on Mar. 14, 1993 (77-75) in the championship game of the ACC Tournament. Tech swept the regular-season series against the Tar Heels in 1993-94, winning 89-69 in Atlanta and 96-89 in Chapel Hill.

> Tech’s only win against a No. 1 team since then was a 77-61 triumph over Connecticut in the semi-finals of the 2003 Pre-Season NIT in New York.

> North Carolina is the 14th top-ranked team to visit Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets are 4-9 against No. 1 teams at home.

> Tonight is the 13th time Tech has faced a No. 1-ranked North Carolina team, and the Jackets are 3-9 in the previous 12. Among the top-ranked teams Tech has faced, Kentucky (12 times, all before 1965) and Duke (12 times) are the next most frequent.

Series vs. North Carolina

> North Carolina has an overwhelming 58-20 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, and a 44-18 advantage since Tech joined the ACC. The Tar Heels have won 17 of the last 24 meetings.

> The teams have played 32 times in the city of Atlanta, but only 20 times at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the Tar Heels hold an 11-9 lead. Tech has won the last four meetings in the Thrillerdome, however, and is 4-1 against UNC in the Coliseum under Paul Hewitt.

> Between 1982 and 1996, the Yellow Jackets played eight of their home games with the Tar Heels at the old Omni arena in downtown Atlanta (2-6 record).

> Tech won two of the three meetings between the two teams in 2003-04, the only time the Yellow Jackets won the season series with the Tar Heels since 1996, including an 83-82 victory in the ACC Tournament. Counting ACC and SIC Tournament games played in the city, Tech is 12-20 vs. North Carolina in Atlanta.

> Tech is 6-9 against UNC under Paul Hewitt, but 6-2 in games played away from Chapel Hill, including a pair of ACC Tournament wins. The Jackets are 4-4 against the Tar Heels under Roy Williams, and 4-5 against Williams all-time.

> Tech’s greatest success in its series with North Carolina occurred during the middle 1990s when the Jackets won five of seven meetings, including three straight wins over No. 1-ranked Tar Heel teams during the 1993 and 1994 campaigns.

Quick Look at Tech

Head coach Paul Hewitt shuffled his lineup for Georgia Tech’s trip to Miami, re-inserting freshman Moe Miller at point guard (third start) for Matt Causey and junior D’Andre Bell (fifth start) at one wing for Lewis Clinch. Miller had started Tech’s first two games before injuring his back in the Virgin Islands, and Bell has started four games at point guard in his absence.

Seniors Anthony Morrow (wing) and Jeremis Smith (big forward) have started all 15 games for the Yellow Jackets, while freshman Gani Lawal has started the last eight games at center.

Tech has used three different starting point guards this season, beginning with Miller in the first two games, then Causey for one game and D’Andre Bell for four after Miller was injured in a practice just before the Paradise Jam. Causey returned to the starting lineup for Tech’s Dec. 5 at Georgia State and started seven games.

Regardless of which player starts, Miller and Causey both play significant minutes at the point, combining to average 10.9 points and 6.4 assists per game. Despite playing only 17 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks ninth in the ACC in assists and sixth in assist-turnover ratio. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., who averaged 10 points in the five games prior to Miami, has accumulated 17 assists and five turnovers in the last six games.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 10th in the ACC with 15.0 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 213 for his career, Morrow has hit 46.8 percent of his three-point attempts this season.

Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 12 of the 15 games this year, including 11 at Georgia and 13 at Miami in his last two games. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game (18th in the ACC), and has hit 39.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Bell, a 6-5 junior, provides good physical defense on the perimeter and can score at times (15 points vs. Florida State). He averages 5.6 points for the season and shoots 48.2 percent from the floor.

Smith, the team captain and a 6-8 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, is third-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game and its leading rebounder at 7.2 per game (11th in the ACC), Smith has seven double-figure rebound games this season and three double-doubles, including a 21-point, 10-rebound effort at Miami.

Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., has started the last eight games, averaging 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds, but has been held scoreless in each of Tech’s last two games. He remains the Jackets’ field goal percentage leader at 61.9 percent.

Backcourt reserves — Six-foot-4 freshman Lance Storrs of Decatur, Ga., averaging 1.9 points per game, had his best game of the season against Centenary (8 pts.), but has not played in either ACC game.

Frontcourt reserves — Hewitt can go to 6-8 sophomore Zack Peacock of Miami, Fla., and 6-10 junior Alade Aminu of Stone Mountain, Ga. Peacock is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer (8.4) and rebounder (3.5). Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games, has averaged 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds while hitting 56 percent of his shots from the floor. Tech also has 6-11 red-shirt freshman Brad Sheehan of Latham, N.Y., who has not played since Dec. 27.

Last Time Out — No. 25 Miami 78, Georgia Tech 68

Georgia Tech played its best defense of the season in the first 12 minutes of the game, surging to a 12-point lead at 22-10 with 8:05 to go. But the Hurricanes scored the next 10 points and finished the half on a 23-9 run and never looked back in a 78-68 victory in their first ACC game of the season. Miami, the ACC’s leading three-point shooting team, led by as many as 12 points in the second half, and won easily despite making just 2-of-19 three-point tries in the game.

Jeremis Smith recorded his third double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Anthony Morrow (17 points) and Lewis Clinch (13) also reached double figures.

James Dews paced the Hurricanes with 20 points, 16 of them in the second half, and three other Miami players reached double digits. Tech held Jack McClinton to 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor and forced him into six turnovers.

Quoting Coach Hewitt

On what it will take to defeat North Carolina

“They are an outstanding team. Lawson and Hansbrough, obviously, are the two guys that you have to try to figure out and try to slow down and contain, and then after that you have to stop them in transition. There are a lot of things you have to do well to beat that team. They are the number one in the country right now, they are undefeated, but our guys are excited enough for the challenge.

“Anytime that you play them you have to stop them in transition. If you can stop the transition and easy baskets, then you have a chance, and we have been able to do that over the last few years at home. In the Smith Center, we have had a hard time stopping them in transition, but at our place and in neutral-type situations, we have been able to slow them.”

On Moe Miller and Tech’s point guard play

“Moe got off to a good start this season, then got hurt the day before we played our first game down in the Virgin Islands and missed three games. That kind of set him back. Now Matt Causey has done a nice job for us, but we need Moe to take on more of the load at the point guard position. And beyond that I think we need the other four guys on the court help out until our point guards get their feet completely under them.”

On making up for the early loss of players like Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young

“I think more than Javaris and Thaddeus, which I think everyone recognized that there was a possibility those guys could have left, other things happened like Ra’Sean Dickey being injured. We had another player who just didn’t pan out the way we thought he would pan out. I think that what you have to do you always have to try to build your depth to try to work with your players to help them improve and that is where you offset an unexpected departure.”

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