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Tech Looking for First ACC Win at NC State

Jan. 17, 2002

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech continues to search for its first Atlantic Coast Conference win Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Yellow Jackets visit NC State at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

The game will be regionally televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot Sports Network and air in Atlanta on WATL-TV (Ch. 36). Radio coverage is on the ISP Sports Network, WQXI-AM (790) and WMAX-FM (91.1) in Atlanta.

Tech (7-10, 0-4) has not played since Sunday, when it fell at home, 92-87, to No. 4 Maryland, The Jackets have lost three of its four ACC games by a total of 18 points. The Wolfpack (13-4, 3-2 ACC) is coming off an 80-79 victory at Clemson Tuesday night.

“The days off have come at a good time,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “We are actually playing some good ball now, playing with confidence. We need to get on the winning side. It also gives us a chance to work on some things we haven’t been able to work on because we’re preparing for other teams.

“NC State is playing very, very well. Anthony Grundy has done a great job leading that team, and Josh Powell, a local kid, has gotten off to a great start. The win they had against Syracuse early really helped their confidence. They’ve started out in good shape in the ACC.”

Led by the backcourt tandem of 5-11 Tony Akins (Sr., Lilburn, Ga.) and 6-4 Marvin Lewis (So., Germantown, Md.), Tech has been balanced offensively and averages 78.2 points a game (79.8 in four ACC games), leading the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (37.1) and ranking third in three-pointers per game (8.06). The Jackets have struggled defensively, however, allowing 80 points a game.

Akins, Tech’s point guard, ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring (16.5 points per game), fifth in assists (5.8 per game) and first in three-point shooting (43.5 percent). Lewis, Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures with 13.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, ranks third in the ACC in free throw percentage (86.4). He has made 43.6 percent of his three-point attempts, but falls short of the ACC minimum for being ranked.

Head coach Paul Hewitt has used six different starting lineups this season, but the one he has used most frequently of last includes 6-5 sophomore Clarence Moore (Norco, La.) and 6-7 freshman Ed Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at the forwards, and 6-8 sophomore Robert Brooks (Saginaw, Mich.) at center.

Moore, who has averaged 11.5 points over his last four games, averages 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds for the season. Nelson, who had two of his best performances of the season against Duke and Maryland, averages 7.3 points and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds, which also tops all ACC freshmen. Brooks, who has started 11 of the last 12 games, averages 5.3 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Freshman B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), a 6-3 guard, and 6-5 wingman Halston Lane (So., Oak Ridge., Tenn.) are Tech’s top scorers off the bench at 9.1 and 8.5 points per game, respectively. Also coming off the bench are 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), who averages 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds, and 6-5 guard Anthony McHenry (Fr., Birmingham, Ala.), 2.2 ppg.

Hewitt hopes to continue to build on Tech’s solid play in the Maryland loss.

“Our intensity level was great all the way through, and we did a good job moving and sharing the basketball,” Hewitt said. “One of the things we’ve talked a lot about was making the extra pass and finding open guys. We did a much better job of that in the Maryland game. Slowly, but surely, as the season has progressed, I’ve seen good things happen, and we’re starting to do some positive things consistently.”

Tech Series vs. NC State

Georgia Tech and NC State have split their regular-season meetings each of the past two years. Tech defeated the Wolfpack, 69-54, at home on Feb. 17, following a 72-60 defeat on Jan. 16 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

NC State leads the overall series, 40-29, on the strength of a seven-game winning streak over the Jackets from 1997-2000. Prior to that, Tech had won seven in a row.

The Jackets, who are 7-20 against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, have yet to win at the ESA, falling 72-60 last year and 66-58 on Jan. 22, 2000. Prior to that, Tech was just 7-18 in games played at Reynolds Coliseum. Tech’s last win on the ‘Pack’s home court was a 76-71 decision on Jan. 24, 1996.

Last Time Out

Georgia Tech fell to 0-4 in the ACC with a 92-87 loss to No. 4 Maryland Sunday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center.

For the second straight game, Tech shot the ball fairly well, 55.2 percent in the second half and 46.6 percent for the game as the Jackets rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit with a chance to tie the game in the final 30 seconds.

Tony Akins scored 24 points to lead five Jackets in double figures, followed by Ed Nelson’s career-best 18 points with eight rebounds. Marvin Lewis scored 12, Clarence Moore 11 and Isma’il Muhammad 10.

Against one of the ACC’s top defensive teams, Tech shot well, turned the ball over just 11 times and shot 40 free throws, though the Jackets made just 25 of them.

Close But No Cigar

With the exception of a 25-point loss at Duke, Georgia Tech has challenged each opponent and had a chance late in each game, losing to North Carolina, Clemson and Maryland by a total of 18 points.

Sunday against Maryland, Tech trailed by 13 points at halftime, but shot 55.2 percent in the second half in rallying to within 85-83 and had possession of the ball in the final 30 seconds. But Juan Dixon stole the ball from Tony Akins from behind and fed Chris Wilcox for a game-clinching dunk.

Against Clemson, Tech also rallied from a double-digit deficit to trail by just three inside of five minutes, but Clemson put the game away on a long three-pointer by Edward Scott and free throws.

Tech led most of its game at North Carolina on Dec. 1, and was tied 77-77 at the 1:13 mark, before the Tar Heels scored the last six points on four free throws and a layup. Even against Duke, Tech scored the last 16 points of the game, a run not equaled by the Jackets in any other game this season.

Schenscher Back at Practice

Luke Schenscher, who averaged 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in six games before breaking a bone in his foot in late November, returned to practice last Friday and could return to action. The 7-foot center from Australia has been out of the lineup for 11 games since the Dec. 1 North Carolina game after X-rays revealed a broken third metatarsal bone in his left foot Nov. 29.

The loss has left Tech with just nine healthy scholarship players. Senior Michael Isenhour is missing the entire season while being treated for leukemia. It also left Tech with a small roster with the tallest player being 6-8 Robert Brooks.

“He just got back to practice this week,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “We’re going to see how he feels. If there’s no pain in that foot and there is no re-occurrence of the injury, more than likely he’s going to come back to action. We want to be careful with it, because we remember what happened to Mo last year. The next game he plays eliminates the possibility of him red-shirting. His size and post presence around the basket will help us quite a bit if he can come back.

Akins At The Point

Tony Akins, who made his 103rd career start vs. Duke, has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player, scoring in double digits in 15 of 17 games and leading the Jackets in scoring at 16.5 points per game (8th in the ACC) while averaging 5.8 assists (5th in the ACC).

Since failing to sink a three-pointer against IUPUI, the 5-11 senior has been on a binge, hitting 16 of 26 three-point attempts (61.5 percent) and 25 of 45 (55.6) overall in four games, averaging 20.0 points over that stretch. He now leads the ACC in three-point percentage (43.5) and ranks second three-point field goals per game (3.35).

In four ACC games, Akins has shot 52 percent from the floor and 51.9 percent from three-point range, averaging an even 20 points and 7 assists per game.

Akins is averaging career-bests in most offensive categories, including scoring, assists and shooting. His 5.8 assists per game are more than a full assist better than his career-best rate of 4.5 as a freshman. He has had three double-digit assist games this year. He is shooting 78 percent from the free throw line, which would rank 6th in the ACC with enough attempts.

Akins ranks sixth in career assists (482), having passed Kenny Anderson for that spot in the Cornell game, and 8th in steals (142). He has 1,400 career points, jumping to 17th place in Tech history after beginning the year in 28th. He needs 12 points to move past Lenny Horton (1,411 points, 1977-80) for 16th place.

Lewis Finds His Mark

Marvin Lewis has established himself as one of the top three-point shooters in the ACC, hitting 43.6 percent of his attempts this season, which would lead the ACC if he met the league-minimum of two made per game. He falls four three-pointers shy of the minimum.

The 6-4 sophomore has been very consistent offensively of late, scoring in double figures in eight of 10 games and averaging 13.3 points. Lewis is 5-for-10 from behind the arc in the last two games against Duke and Maryland.

He also is one of the ACC’s top marksmen from the foul line, hitting 86.4 percent from the stripe (third in the ACC) on a team-high 59 attempts. He hit 8-of-9 against Clemson and has had three games where he was 6-for-6 (Illinois, Davidson, Wofford). Over his last eight games, he has hit 88.2 percent from the stripe (30-34).

A Balanced Attack

Only two Yellow Jackets, Tony Akins (16.5 ppg) and Marvin Lewis (13.2 ppg), are averaging in double-figures for the season, but Georgia Tech has been balanced offensively for the past month, placing at least four players in double figures in nine of the last 11 games (five reached double digits against Maryland).

Eight different players are averaging better than five points per game, including seven who are scoring seven points per game or more. Nine different Yellow Jackets have scored in double figures at least once this season.

Overall, Tech has averaged 78.2 points per game this season, nearly three points per game better than last season, fifth in the ACC. The Jackets lead the ACC in three-point percentage (37.1) and rank third in free throw percentage (68.6).

Offense Running Smoothly

Georgia Tech has found consistency and balance in its offense since December began, averaging 82.4 points in the last 11 games dating back to the ACC opener against North Carolina. That includes 96 points against 13th-ranked Syracuse on Dec. 16, its highest scoring output since 97 in the season opener against Florida A&M, 92 points vs. IUPUI, 86 vs. Cornell and 87 against Maryland.

Against the ACC, Tech has averaged 79.8 points, shot 44.0 percent from the floor and 38.4 percent from three-point range, all better numbers than the 17-game overall totals. Tech has outscored the average yield of each of its four ACC opponents, including the 87 against Maryland, which had given up 64.4 points per game before Sunday. Tech also shot 46.6 percent against the Terps, which had been allowing an ACC-best 36.8 percent.

Tech Getting More of Moore

Head coach Paul Hewitt has called Clarence Moore his most important player when the 6-5 sophomore is at his best. The Yellow Jackets have seen Moore at his best more often lately.

Moore has scored in double digits in three of four games, including 16 against Clemson and 11 against Maryland. He has made 46.8 percent of his field goals and averaged 5.3 rebounds in that stretch.

Not coincidentally, Moore’s best games have occurred when he has played aggressively on offense and gotten to the free throw line — against Penn (13 points, 3-6 FT), Syracuse (20 points, 6-7 FT), Davidson (13 points, 5-8 FT) and Maryland (11 points, 7-13 FT).

After a two-game absence from the starting lineup, Clarence Moore got back in the lineup for Georgia (Dec. 9) and responded with a career-high 20 points with 7 assists against Syracuse, which earned him ACC co-Player of the Week honors, and a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in the following game against Davidson.

Moore is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer overall and its third-leading rebounder. In four ACC games so far, the Norco, La., native has hit 52.4 percent of his field goals and 50 percent of his three-point attempts (3-of-6).

Bench a Key Component for Tech

Playing with a 10-man rotation (nine now with the absence of Schenscher) since the arrival of head coach Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech has come to rely more heavily on its bench. They have provided the Jackets some real spark offensively this season.

Freshman B.J. Elder and sophomore Halston Lane have been the top scorers at 9.1 and 8.5 points per game, respectively, combining to shoot 39.1 percent from the floor and 75.7 percent from the line. Elder ranks fifth among ACC freshmen in scoring. Isma’il Muhammad, another freshman, has averaged 9.9 points in his last four full games (he played sparingly against Clemson and missed two games before that with a hip pointer).

Tech’s reserves have 30 or more points five times this season, averaging 26.2 per game, and has outscored the reserves of its opponent in 12 of 17 games. Tech’s bench, which provided 46 points Dec. 1 at North Carolina and 40 vs. Florida A&M in the season opener, has had a double-figure scorer in 11 games this season.

Tech Holding Its Own On The Boards

Rebounding and size were pre-season concerns for head coach Paul Hewitt, but the Yellow Jackets have gotten off to a good start on the boards despite having no player taller than 6-8 for the last 11 games. Tech has outrebounded its opponents by 40.9 to 36.6 per game, and has beaten 10 of 17 opponents on the boards.

Even with 6-11 Alvin Jones leading the ACC in rebounding a year ago, Tech struggled as a team, being outrebounded 40-to-37.5 for the season.

More impressive is the fact that Tech has averaged 15.71 offensive rebounds, which ranks third in the ACC. Three Tech players – Robert Brooks, Ed Nelson and Clarence Moore – rank among the ACC’s top 15 in offensive rebounds.

Taking Better Care of the Ball

Despite its struggles in other areas, Georgia Tech has taken better care of the ball of late, averaging just 15.2 turnovers in the last nine games, including the steal-happy defenses of Duke and Maryland. Tech committed a season-low eight each against IUPUI and Cornell, and had just 11 against Maryland.

Tech averaged 19.1 turnovers over its first eight games, including three games with more than 20.

Tech Stronger at the Line

Georgia Tech has shown modest improvement this season from the free throw line (68.6 percent), and have five players over 70 percent from the stripe. The Jackets rank third in the ACC in free throw percentage.

Marvin Lewis ranks third in the conference at 86.4 percent, followed by Akins at 78.0 percent, B.J. Elder at 76.0 percent, Halston Lane at 75.6 percent and Robert Brooks at 71.4.

Besides freshman Ed Nelson, who has struggled at 49.1 percent on 57 attempts, second most on the team, Tech has an aggregate free throw percentage of 72.2 percent. Tech has not shot 70 percent from the stripe for an entire season since the 1995-96 season (70.3).

Shuffling the Lineup

Facing a roster with five new scholarship players, head coach Paul Hewitt used his sixth different starting lineup vs. Duke, tinkering to find that right combination or match up better against its opponent. The backcourt duo of Tony Akins and Marvin Lewis are the only players to have started every game this season.

Freshman B.J. Elder became the ninth different player to start a game this season Thursday night against Duke, while sophomore swingman Halston Lane cracked the starting five for the first time in his career against Davidson. Freshman Ed Nelson started the first nine games of the season and the last five.

Clarence Moore has started 15 games, Nelson has started 14, Robert Brooks has started 11, Luke Schenscher five, Lane three, and Anthony McHenry two.

Despite who starts the game, Hewitt is still using a nine-man rotation while Schenscher is out with a foot injury (see below). Counting Schenscher, 10 different Yellow Jackets are averaging at least 10 minutes a game.

Akins For Three

Tony Akins has made his mark as one of the top three-point shooters in Georgia Tech history. After Sunday’s game against Maryland, only Dennis Scott (351-for-831) ranks ahead of Akins on Tech’s career lists for three-point field goals made and attempted.

Akins, who is 260-for-695 in his career (37.4 percent), passed Travis Best (258-for-656) Sunday and has risen to 9th place on the all-time ACC list for three-point field goals made.

The 5-11 senior has already shot 131 three-point attempts this season, an average of 7.7 per game which is well above his career average of 6.2 attempts per game. But with an increase in frequency has come an improvement in accuracy. He has made 43.5 percent of his attempts this season, compared with 35.7 percent for his first three years combined.

Georgia Tech (7-10, 0-4) vs. NC State (13-4, 3-2)January 19, 2002 o 2 p.m. o Entertainment and Sports Arena o Raleigh, N.C.

TV: Raycom/JP Sports (WATL-TV in Atlanta), Bob Rathbun, pbp, Gil McGregor, color Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com Tech Record: 7-10, 0-4 ACC H: 4-5, A: 0-3, N: 3-2 Series vs. NC State: NC State leads 40-29 Vs. NC State at ESA: NC State leads 2-0 Last year’s meetings: NC State won, 72-60, in Raleigh, Tech won, 69-54, in Atlanta Hewitt Record: 90-50 (.643), 5th season Hewitt at Tech: 24-23 (.511), 2nd season Last game: Jan. 13, Maryland d. Tech, 92-87, at AMC Next game: Jan. 22, Virginia, 7:30 p.m., AMC [ESPN2] More info: Ramblinwreck.com

Probable Starters F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 8.6 ppg 5.1 rpg F 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 7.3 ppg 6.9 rpg C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 5.3 ppg 6.2 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 16.5 ppg 5.8 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 13.2 ppg 4.7 rpg

Top Reserves G 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 9.1 ppg 1.9 rpg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 8.5 ppg 3.6 rpg F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 2.2 ppg 1.4 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 7.4 ppg 3.1 rpg C 12 Luke Schenscher 7-0 Fr. 3.7 ppg 2.5 rpg

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