Tech Meets No. 1 Connecticut in NIT Semis

Nov. 25, 2003

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech resumes its Preseason NIT action Wednesday night with a semi-final contest against No. 1-ranked Connecticut at Madison Square Garden after getting a 90-69 victory on the road Sunday at Cornell.

Wednesday’s game will be nationally televised on ESPN, and will be broadcast on radio in the Atlanta area on WQXI-AM (790). Tech has won its first three games of the season, defeating Louisiana-Lafayette (79-45) and Hofstra (75-56) before Sunday’s win over the Big Red. The Huskies, also 3-0, advanced to the semi-finals by defeating Yale (70-60) and Nevada (93-79), and have also beaten Sacred Heart.

The winner of Wednesday’s game advances to the championship at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of the other semi-final game between Texas Tech and Utah. The losers play for third place at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Both of those games will be televised on ESPN as well.

“It’s a great opportunity (to play Connecticut in Madison Square Garden),” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “We feel like this team is experienced enough and has been through enough over the last couple of years to understand what it takes to go into this situation and perform well.

“We’re going to have to take care of the ball. They’re a very good defensive team. They pressure, they turn you over, and they score well in transition. They’ve got great players, and Jim Calhoun has done a great job over the years.”

Tech is off to its third 3-0 start in four seasons under Hewitt. Tech has started 3-0 in six of its last seven seasons, but has not won its first four games of a season since the 1998-99 campaign. The Yellow Jackets have played good defense in the early going, limiting their first three opponents to just 56.7 points per game. Tech’s three opponents have shot just 34.3 percent from the floor and have committed more turnovers (64) than made field goals (58).

“We’ve got to get great ball pressure (against the Huskies), we’ve got to contest shots,” said Hewitt. “And even more important in this game, we’ve got to do a better job of keeping them to one shot.”

Georgia Tech has employed the same starting lineup for both of its exhibition games and its three regular-season games — 6-3 Jarrett Jack at point guard, 6-4 Marvin Lewis and 6-4 B.J. Elder on the wings, 6-7 Anthony McHenry at the strong forward spot and 7-1 Luke Schenscher at center.

Lewis, a senior, and Elder, a junior, are Tech’s top two returning scorers from last year’s squad and have begun this season in the same fashion. Lewis scored 18 points at Cornell and has averaged 16.3 points a game, while Elder has matched his 15.0 average of a year ago. Jack, a sophomore who was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday, matched his career-best with 21 points at Cornell, and has dished 10.0 assists per game and averaged 14.7 points. Already one of the nation’s finest backcourt trios, they unit will get stronger in December when it is joined by 6-0 junior transfer Will Bynum.

Schenscher, a junior, averaged just 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in the two Preseason NIT games, but scored a career-high 15 points (7-13 FG) with seven rebounds Sunday at Cornell. McHenry, also a junior, has been solid with 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He scored five points with six rebounds and five assists (no TO) at Cornell.

Tech’s primary reserves include Isma’il Muhammad, a 6-6 junior forward who has averaged 12.3 points and 3.3 rebounds while hitting 61.5 percent of his shots; Clarence Moore, a 6-5 senior forward averaging 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds; and Robert Brooks, a 6-8 senior postman averaging 4.7 points and 3.0 rebounds (7-of-10 from the floor).

Mario West, a 6-4 freshman guard who red-shirted last season, and Jim Nystr?m, a 6-4 sophomore shooting guard, and provide additional minutes off the bench.

Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 sophomore who moved into the lineup for Tech’s post-season NIT run last year, is sidelined indefinitely because of a dislocated kneecap suffered in practice on Oct. 30.

New York, New York

>Georgia Tech is making its third trip to New York in four Preseason NIT appearances when it visits Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to face No. 1-ranked Connecticut in the semi-finals. Tech defeated Louisiana-Lafayette and Hofstra to get here, while the Huskies advanced by beating Yale and Nevada.

>In its previous three Preseason NITs, Tech advanced to the final four in New York in 1991 and 1995. The Yellow Jackets made the final in 1991 before losing to Oklahoma State (78-71), and finished third in 1995, losing to Georgetown in the semi-finals and defeating Michigan in the third-place game.

>Tech is appearing in its fourth Preseason NIT, and its first since 1995, when Stephon Marbury was a freshman. The Yellow Jackets have a 9-3 overall record in the event, including a 79-45 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in this year’s first round game last Tuesday and a 75-56 win over Hofstra Thursday.

>In Tech’s last trip to New York for the Preseason NIT in 1995, its starting lineup included Marbury and Drew Barry at the guards, Matt Harpring and Michael Maddox at the forwards and Eddie Elisma at center. In 1991, Tech’s starting lineup was Jon Barry and Travis Best in the backcourt, James Forrest and Malcolm Mackey at the forwards and Matt Geiger at center.

Tech vs. Connecticut

Georgia Tech and Connecticut have never met on the hardwood, although the Yellow Jackets and Huskies did meet for the first time in football during the 2002 season and will play again on the gridiron each of the next two years.

Tech is 31-21 all-time against the Big East, having split a two-game series with Syracuse the last two seasons. The Jackets also will host St. John’s at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 21. Connecticut and Providence are the only current members of the Big East whom Georgia Tech has never played in basketball.

Tech vs. No. 1

In Connecticut, Georgia Tech is facing a No. 1-ranked team for the first time since Feb. 9, 2002, and the first No. 1 team that did not come from the ACC since Mar. 23, 1985 (Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament). Out of 38 games against No. 1-ranked teams in Tech’s history, only four have occurred against teams other than Kentucky (12 times), Duke (10 times) or North Carolina (12 times) — UCLA, Virginia (twice) and Georgetown [see page 269 in the Tech media guide for complete results vs. No. 1 teams].

Tech is 7-31 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the nation, the most recent encounter being the Yellow Jackets’ 95-63 loss to Duke on Feb. 9 of last season. Tech’s last win over a No. 1 team was Feb. 12, 1994, a 96-89 triumph at North Carolina. Tech was unranked in three of the seven wins.

Tech's victories over No. 1 teams:Jan. 8, 1955    at Kentucky, 59-58Jan. 31, 1955   Kentucky, 65-69Jan. 4, 1964    Kentucky, 76-67Jan. 10, 1993   Duke, 80-79Mar. 14, 1993   North Carolina, 77-75 (ACC Tournament)Jan. 12, 1994   North Carolina, 89-69Feb. 12, 1994   at North Carolina, 96-89

Tech Against Ranked Teams

Georgia Tech has won 10 games against nationally-ranked opponents against 22 losses in three seasons under Paul Hewitt, including a 2-6 mark in 2002-03. Tech took an 83-77 homecourt win over No. 17 Georgia on Nov. 27 and a 90-84 win over No. 8 Maryland on Feb. 9. The losses were to No. 20 Minnesota, No. 23 Maryland, No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 3 Duke on the road, and No. 10 Wake Forest and No. 6 Duke at home. The six losses to ranked teams occurred by an average margin of 10.3 points.

At home, Tech is 6-7 against top 25 opposition under Hewitt, and 8-8 against ranked teams in the city of Atlanta (including games at Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome).

Tech in the Garden

Georgia Tech has an all-time record of 15-8 in Madison Square Garden, having visited most recently last December and earned a 67-53 victory over Marist. It will be Tech’s second trip there under Paul Hewitt.

“I don’t know who’s more excited, our players or me,” said the coach, who grew up in the Long Island area. “Every time I go there, it’s a special feeling, and I know it will be for our players.”

Tech has played two Preseason NITs in the Garden (2-2, one runner-up, one third place) and two Postseason NITs (4-2, lost in the finals in 1971). The Yellow Jackets also have appeared four times in the Holiday Festival, posting a 5-3 record with one championship.

Tech Starts Strong

Georgia Tech has begun its fourth campaign under Paul Hewitt outscoring its three opponents by an average of 24.7 points. The Yellow Jackets have allowed just 56.7 points per game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Hofstra and Cornell and limited those three teams collectively to 34.3-percent shooting from the floor and 28.1 from three-point range.

Tech also has forced 64 turnovers (21.3 per game) and allowed only 58 field goals made.

Non-Conference Slate Gets A Boost

Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule got a lot tougher after the Yellow Jackets defeated Hofstra Thursday night. Until then, none of Tech’s non-conference opponents appeared in either pre-season top 25 poll, and only five were coming off post-season runs in 2003. But top-ranked Connecticut now looms as Tech’s next opponent Wednesday night. Utah, an NCAA team a year ago, and Texas Tech, which eliminated the Jackets in the NIT, await the Jackets on Friday.

Five ACC teams appear in the rankings — Duke (No. 2), North Carolina (No. 10 AP, No. 9 ESPN/USA Today), Wake Forest (No. 20/21), NC State (No. 24 AP) and Maryland (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today).

GAME DATA

Georgia Tech (3-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Connecticut (3-0, 0-0 Big East)Preseason NITNovember 23, 2003 * 9:30 p.m.Madison Square Garden (19,000)

TV: ESPN; Dave O’Brien, pbp; Len Elmore, color

Radio: Georgia Tech/ISP Network (flagship WQXI-AM 790); Wes Durham, pbp; Randy Waters, color

Tech Record Breakdown: Home: 2-0; Away: 1-0; Neutral: 0-0

Series Breakdown vs. Connecticut: never met

Tech vs. Big East: Tech leads, 31-21

Tech at Madison Square Garden: 15-8

Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt: 117-71 (.618), 7th season overall 51-44 (.527), 4th season at Tech 22-26 (.458) vs. the ACC 0-0 vs. Connecticut

UConn Coach Jim Calhoun: 649-296 (.687), 32nd season overall 401-159 (715), 18th season at Uconn 0-0 vs. Georgia Tech

Next for Tech: Nov. 28 vs. Texas Tech or Utah (NIT, Madison Square Garden) Next for UConn: Nov. 28 vs. Texas Tech or Utah (NIT, Madison Square Garden)

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