Jan. 24, 2002
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech faces its fourth Top-25 team in five games Saturday when it travels to meet No. 21 Wake Forest at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Saturday’s game will be televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot network, WATL-TV (Ch. 36) in Atlanta. Local radio coverage on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network can be heard on WQXI-AM (790) and WMAX-FM (98.1).
Tech (7-12, 0-6 ACC) still seeks its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory, and comes into the game with five straight losses following a heart-breaking 69-65 loss to No. 7 Virginia Tuesday night in Atlanta. The Demon Deacons (13-6, 3-3 ACC) have lost three straight, all to top-10 teams, including an 85-63 loss at home to No. 3 Maryland Wednesday.
“There’s no shame in losing to three top-10 teams in a row,” head coach Paul Hewitt said. “Three of our last four losses have been to top-10 teams. It’s all about effort. It always will be. That has to be there every night. When you break through, then you’ll be consistent. For us, it’s a matter of breaking through. It’s a matter of making some big stops and getting some big rebounds.
“One of the things we’ve talked about as a staff in the last week to 10 days is making more competitive situations in practice. We’re just getting beat in some competitive sequences, whether it’s fighting for a loose ball or a rebounds. We’ve got to do some things to try and coach that, competing for some of those toss-up situations that have cost us some games.”
Led by the backcourt tandem of 5-11 Tony Akins (Sr., Lilburn, Ga.) and 6-4 Marvin Lewis (So., Germantown, Md.), Tech continues to exhibit balance on offense with five players averaging in double figures in ACC games, and leads the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (37.1). The Jackets have struggled defensively, however, allowing 85.8 points a game against league foes, but was able to hold Virginia 12 points under its seasonal average Tuesday night.
Akins, Tech’s point guard, ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring (15.8 points per game), fifth in assists (5.7 per game) and first in three-point percentage (42.4 percent). Lewis, Tech’s only other player averaging in double figures for the season with 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, ranks third in the ACC in free throw percentage (87.3). He has made 43.6 percent of his three-point attempts, but falls short of the ACC minimum for being ranked.
Hewitt has used six different starting lineups this season, but the one he has used most frequently of late 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 10.7 points in ACC games, averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds for the season. Nelson, who has had some of his best performances of the season in Tech’s last four games against Duke, Maryland, NC State and Virginia, averages 8.1 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds, which also tops all ACC freshmen. Brooks, who has started 12 of the last 14 games, averages 4.7 points and 5.7 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 9.4 and 7.7 points per game, respectively. Elder has started two of Tech’s last four games against Duke and Virginia in place of Brooks, and may start again Saturday.
Also coming off the bench are 6-5 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), who averages 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds, and 6-5 guard Anthony McHenry (Fr., Birmingham, Ala.), 1.9 ppg. Tech got a lift Tuesday night from 7-foot freshman center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), who returned to the court after missing 12 games with a broken foot, scoring six points with three blocked shots.
Tech Series vs. Wake Forest
Georgia Tech and Wake Forest split their two games last year, but the Deacons have won four of the last five meetings to take a 25-24 lead in the overall series.
Tech upset the Deacons, ranked sixth at the time, at home last year, 95-89, then lost to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem by the score of 81-65. In the home victory, Halston Lane scored 17 of his 21 points after intermission, while four other Jackets hit double figures. Robert O’Kelley and Josh Howard scored 18 apiece to pace the Deacons in Winston-Salem.
The Jackets are 3-9 all-time at the Joel Coliseum, including three straight losses. Tech’s last win in the building was a 77-76 thriller on Feb. 11, 1998. Tech is 5-13 all-time against Wake in Winston-Salem.
The home team has won 13 of the last 16 games in the series, the exceptions being the abovementioned Tech victory in 1998, a 60-46 Wake victory at Tech on Feb. 27, 2000, and a 73-63 Wake win at Tech on Jan. 8, 1997.
Tech is 21-15 against Wake Forest since 1985, including 12 straight victories from 1985-91.
Last Time Out
Georgia Tech fell to 0-6 in the ACC and suffered its fourth conference loss by seven or fewer points in a 69-65 defeat to No. 7 Virginia Tuesday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Tech jumped to an 8-0 lead, led by as many as 10 points in the first half and didn’t trail in the game until 3:12 remained as Virginia secured key rebounds on the offensive end for second chance points in the final minutes.
Close But No Cigar
Four of Georgia Tech’s six conference losses have come by seven points or fewer – North Carolina (83-77 in Chapel Hill, NC), Clemson (83-76), No. 3 Maryland (92-87) and No. 7 Virginia (69-65).
With the exception of a 25-point loss at Duke, Georgia Tech has challenged each opponent and had a chance late in each game.
oTech led for most of its game with Virginia, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading by as many as 10 points in the first half. Virginia rallied to take its first lead with 3:12 left and forced Tony Akins to miss a potential game-tying layup in the final seconds.
oTech held a 9-point lead over NC State at the 14:01 mark, and did not trail in its game with the Wolfpack until the 10:33 mark as poor shooting prevented the Jackets from staying in the game. Tech remained within 10 points as late as five minutes to go.
oAgainst 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 Akins from behind and fed Chris Wilcox for a game-clinching dunk.
oAgainst 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.
oTech 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.
oEven against Duke, Tech scored the last 16 points of the game, a run not equaled by the Jackets in any other game this season.
Akins Cools Off, But Still Leads ACC in 3-Pt. Shooting
Tony Akins, who made his 105th career start vs. NC State, has been Georgia Tech’s most consistent offensive player, scoring in double digits in 16 of 19 games and leading the Jackets in scoring at 15.8 points per game (8th in the ACC) while averaging 5.7 assists (5th in the ACC).
Akins failed to sink a three-pointer for the first time since the IUPUI game and scored just two points against Virginia, but had seven assists, six rebounds and two steals.
Between those two games, however, the 5-11 senior went on a binge, hitting 20 of 35 three-point attempts (57.1 percent) and 31 of 60 (51.7) overall in his last five games, averaging 19.4 points over that stretch. He remains at the top of the ACC in three-point percentage (42.4) and ranks second in three-point field goals per game (3.21).
In six ACC games, Akins has shot 45.2 percent from the floor and 45.0 percent from three-point range, averaging 16.5 points and 6.3 assists per game.
Akins is averaging career-bests in most offensive categories, including scoring, assists and shooting. His 5.7 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 after never posting one his first three seasons.
He is shooting 76.7 percent from the free throw line, which would rank 7th in the ACC with enough attempts.
On the Rebound
When Tony Akins doesn’t score a three, he usually responds in a big way. After missing out from behind the arc against IUPUI, Akins went on a five-game tear in which he averaged 19.4 points and hit 20 of 35 three-point attempts (57.1 percent).
Last year after going scoreless against Clemson last season, Akins averaged 18.1 points and hit 46.6 percent of his threes the rest of the season.
As a sophomore, Akins went 0-2 with nine points against Virginia. In the final eight games of that season, he hit 45.7 percent of his threes and 13.5 points, including a 33-point performance against Florida State in which he sank 9 of 14 three-point attempts.
Akins’ Career Numbers
Tony Akins ranks sixth in career assists (492), having passed Kenny Anderson for that spot in the Cornell game, and 8th in steals (144). He has 1,419 career points, jumping to 16th place in Tech history after beginning the year in 28th. He needs 41 points to move past Jim Wood (1,459 points, 1974-77) for 15th place.
The Full Nelson
Freshman Ed Nelson seems to have grown more comfortable in recent games, averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in Tech’s last four outings against Duke, Maryland, NC State and Virginia, giving the Yellow Jackets some inside scoring presence that has been lacking most of the season.
Nelson scored 14 points with nine rebounds against Duke, 18 and 8 against Maryland, 14 and 8 against State and 15 and 3 against Virginia, hitting 23 of 41 field goal tries (56.1 percent) in those games combined. In his first 15 games, he had just three double-digit scoring games.
He has also gotten to the free throw line for 23 attempts, making 15 for 65.2 percent, a vast improvement over his first 15 games (46.5 percent).
“We said before the season started that Ed Nelson was going to be one of our better rebounders and one of our better scorers,” said Hewitt. “Early in the year, he had a little bit of adjustment playing against some taller defenders. Instead of taking the ball at them as he was accustomed to, he shied away from contact, double-clutched a little on his shot. Now he seems to have smoothed that out, and he’s going right at people.”
Like an Elder
He is only a freshman, but he’s beginning to play more like an Elder, B.J. Elder, that is. The 6-3 rookie from Madison, Ga., has scored in double figures seven times in Georgia Tech’s last nine games, including a 14-point effort in his second career start Tuesday night against Virginia.
Head coach Paul Hewitt has inserted Elder into the starting lineup twice in place of Robert Brooks when he has wanted a smaller, quicker unit. The first time was at Duke on Jan. 10, and Elder responded with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with two assists before fouling out.
Beginning Dec. 21 against Wofford, Elder has averaged 10.9 points, and has scored an even 10 points a game in conference play. His season high of 17 points came at North Carolina on Dec. 1.
A Balanced Attack
Only two Yellow Jackets, Tony Akins (15.8 ppg) and Marvin Lewis (12.8 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 10 of the last 13 games.
Nine different Yellow Jackets have scored in double figures at least once this season.
Overall, Tech has averaged 77.1 points per game this season, about two points per game better than last season, fifth in the ACC. The Jackets lead the ACC in three-point percentage (37.1) and rank fifth in free throw percentage (68.5).
Tech Getting More of MooreM
Moore has scored in double digits in five of six games, including 16 against Clemson, 11 against Maryland, 14 against NC State and 15 against Virginia. He has made 44.4 percent of his field goals and averaged 6.5 rebounds in that stretch. He also has at least one steal in five straight games, including four against Virginia.
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 six ACC games so far, the Norco, La., native has hit 50 percent of his three-point attempts (8-of-16).
They’re Not Booing, They’re Saying “Loooook”
Luke Schenscher, who missed 12 games with a broken bone in his foot, made a triumphant return to action Tuesday night, scoring four points and blocking three shots in a three-minute first-half stint in Georgia Tech’s 69-65 loss to Virginia.
The 7-foot center from Hope Forest, South Australia finished with six points and two rebounds, scoring his final bucket on a left-handed hook shot to give Tech its last lead at 63-62 with 2:11 left in the game.
Each of Schenscher’s entries and exits from the game, as well as his baskets and blocks, were greeted by the home crowd’s chorus of “Loooook.”
Schenscher averaged 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in six games before breaking the third metatarsal bone in his left foot on Nov. 29. Tech played the ensuing 12 games with no player taller than 6-8 and nine healthy scholarship players.
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 14.1 turnovers in an eight-game stretch dating back to Dec. 29, including the steal-happy defenses of Duke and Maryland. Tech committed a season-low eight each against IUPUI and Cornell, had just 11 against Maryland and 10 against Virginia.
Tech averaged 19.3 turnovers over its first 11 games, including three games with more than 20.
Shuffling the Lineup
Facing a roster with five new scholarship players, head coach Paul Hewitt has used six different starting lineups this season, tinkering to find that right combination or match up better against its opponent. 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 Jan. 10 against Duke, and started for the second time Tuesday night against Virginia. In each case, he swapped places with 6-8 Robert Brooks to create a smaller, quicker unit. Brooks entered the starting lineup for Wisconsin when Luke Schenscher, who started the first five games of the season, broke a bone in his foot.
Clarence Moore has started 16 games, Nelson has started 15, Robert Brooks has started 12, Luke Schenscher five, Lane three, and Anthony McHenry two. Despite who starts the game, Hewitt is still using a 10-man rotation, each of whom averages at least 10 minutes a game.
Georgia Tech (7-12, 0-6) vs. No. 21/16 Wake Forest (13-6, 3-3)January 26, 2002 o 1:30 p.m.Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum o Winston-Salem, N.C.
TV: Raycom/JP, Steve Martin, pbp, Gil McGregor, color Radio: WQXI-AM (790), WMAX-FM (98.1), Wes Durham, pbp, Randy Waters, color, also on Ramblinwreck.com Tech Record: 7-12, 0-6 ACC (H: 4-6, A: 0-4, N: 3-2) Series vs. Wake Forest: Wake leads, 25-24 Vs. WF at LJVMC: Wake leads, 9-3 Vs. WF in Winston-Salem: Wake leads, 13-5 Last year’s meetings: Tech won 95-89 (ot) in Atlanta, Wake won 81-65 in Winston-Salem Hewitt Record: 90-52 (.633), 5th season Hewitt at Tech: 24-25 (.490), 2nd season Last game: Jan. 22, Virginia d. Tech, 69-65, in Atlanta Next game: Jan. 30, Florida State, 9 p.m., in Atlanta
Probable Starters F 5 Clarence Moore 6-5 So.-R 9.2 ppg 5.5 rpg F 32 Ed Nelson 6-7 Fr. 8.1 ppg 6.8 rpg C 34 Robert Brooks 6-8 So. 4.7 ppg 5.7 rpg G 3 Tony Akins 5-11 Sr. 15.8 ppg 5.7 apg G 24 Marvin Lewis 6-4 So. 12.8 ppg 4.5 rpg
Top Reserves G 1 B.J. Elder 6-3 Fr. 9.4 ppg 1.9 rpg F 33 Halston Lane 6-5 So. 7.7 ppg F 55 Anthony McHenry 6-6 Fr. 1.9 ppg 1.3 rpg F 2 Isma’il Muhammad 6-5 Fr. 6.9 ppg 3.1 rpg C 12 Luke Schenscher 7-0 Fr. 4.0 ppg 2.4 rpg