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Tech Plays Final Homestand with No. 8 UNC, Boston College

Feb. 27, 2007


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Having won five of seven games in the month of February, Georgia Tech closes out its regular-season schedule this week with a pair of important home games against two of the top four teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, No. 8 North Carolina and Boston College. The Yellow Jackets need to win both to finish with a .500 record in the ACC and get to 20 overall wins.

Tech hosts the Tar Heels Thursday night at 9 p.m. in a game that is being televised over the Raycom/Lincoln Financial television network, and can be seen in Atlanta on WATL-TV. The game can be seen outside the ACC area on ESPN2. Sunday’s regular season finale against the Eagles tips off at 3 p.m. and can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net.

Radio coverage for both games is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network and heard locally on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). A broadcast of each game can also be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 192.

Tech is 18-10 overall, 6-8 in the ACC, following Saturday’s 75-69 loss at No. 24 Virginia, will try and even its season series with North Carolina after the Tar Heels took a 77-61 decision Jan. 20 in Chapel Hill. The Yellow Jackets’ overall mark is a seven-win improvement over last year’s record and identical at this point to that of the 2004-05 team that reached the finals of the ACC Tournament and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Tech is in seventh place in the conference standings, two games behind Duke and Maryland (both 8-6), a half-game ahead of Florida State (6-9) and a full game ahead of Clemson (5-9). A win Thursday night would assure the Yellow Jackets of at least a ninth-place finish (eighth place if Clemson loses to Miami on Wednesday). Mathematically, Tech can still tie Maryland for fifth place in the final standings, but would lose a tiebreaker to the Terrapins. If Tech ties Duke at 8-8, it would win a tie breaker over the Blue Devils.

North Carolina is 24-5 overall and tied for first place in the ACC at 10-4 after Sunday’s 89-87 loss at Maryland, and the Tar Heels close their regular season Sunday at home against Duke.

Thursday night’s game is North Carolina’s first visit to Alexander Memorial Coliseum since Feb. 10, 2004, when the Yellow Jackets took an 88-77 victory. The teams have played five times in between, including a pair of ACC Tournament games that Tech won and three games at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.

Crittenton Making Case for Rookie of the Year

Freshman Javaris Crittenton has effectively taken over the Yellow Jackets’ floor leadership of late, the driving force behind Tech February run of five wins in seven games.

> Currently, IN ACC GAMES ONLY, Crittenton is the highest-ranked freshman in scoring (16.2 ppg, 8th among all players) and steals (2.14 per game), No. 2 in free throw percentage (86.7 pct.) and No. 3 in assists (4.64).

The 6-5 freshman has averaged 19.0 points during the current run, most recently carrying the Jackets with 29 points in their 63-57 win at Florida State and 22 points with nine assists and six rebounds in a 75-61 win against Wake Forest. Crittenton also scored 26 points against Clemson and 21 against NC State. The Atlanta native also has hit 47.4 percent of his field goals (35.7 pct. from three-point range), averaged 5.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, taken 17 steals and gone 33-for-37 at the free throw line.

Crittenton also put together a three-game stretch of ACC games against Clemson, Duke and Florida State in early January in which he averaged 18.7 points (59.4 pct. FG) and 5.3 assists. Tech defeated Duke and FSU and lost to Clemson on a last-second shot.

Six of Crittenton’s seven 20-point games this season have come in ACC games (the other was Purdue on Maui), and Tech has won six of those seven games.

Series vs. North Carolina

> North Carolina has an overwhelming 58-19 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, and a 44-17 advantage since Tech joined the ACC. The Tar Heels have won 17 of the last 23 meetings.

> The teams have played 31 times in the city of Atlanta, but only 19 times at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where the Tar Heels hold an 11-8 lead. 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 has won the last three meetings in the Thrillerdome, and is 3-1 against UNC in the Coliseum under Paul Hewitt.

> Earlier this season: In Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech went scoreless for nearly eight minutes at the end of the first half and the start of the second, while North Carolina forced 22 Yellow Jackets turnovers in cruising past the Yellow Jackets, 77-61. Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 24 points, 14 of them from the foul line, while Thaddeus Young paced Tech with 22.

> 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.

> Tech is 5-9 against UNC under Paul Hewitt, is 3-4 against the Tar Heels under Roy Williams, and 3-5 against Williams all-time.

> Counting ACC and SIC Tournament games played in the city, Tech is 11-20 vs. North Carolina in Atlanta. Tech has defeated the Tar Heels at home each of the past three years.

> 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.

Tech and the RPI

> Georgia Tech is 6-8 vs. teams in the top 50 of the current ratings, and 8-8 vs. the top 100. Tech’s remaining opponents are ranked No. 3 (North Carolina) and No. 26 (Boston College). Tech’s schedule is rated the 46th toughest in the country.

> Tech has seven wins against teams in the top 55.

> Only nine teams in the country have more wins against the RPI top 50 than does Tech, including North Carolina, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Duke and Maryland, all of whom the Yellow Jackets have played.

> Tech has moved up 16 spots (60 to 44) in the RPI in the last three weeks, though the Jackets now stand at No. 51.

> Tech is 3-5 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25, defeating No. 11 Memphis, No. 11 Duke and No. 25 Clemson (Feb. 3), while losing to No. 5 UCLA, No. 23 Clemson (on Jan. 6), No. 4 North Carolina, No. 24 Virginia Tech and No. 24 Virginia.

Feb-U-Very Nice

Georgia Tech enjoyed its best February since the 2001-02 team closed out the regular year with eight wins in 10 games, including seven-of-nine in the ACC. Tech’s 5-2 record for February was its best since that year and better than any of the Yellow Jackets three NCAA Tournament teams under Paul Hewitt.

Tech’s 2004 Final Four team was 4-4 in February before making its remarkable March run, and the 2004-05 group went 4-3 in February. The 2001 NCAA team was 4-4 during the month.

Tech’s record for March under Paul Hewitt is 18-12.

Market Fluctuations Tied to Defense

Tech has seen its season cycle up and down like the stock market, with its fortunes tied primarily to defense. Tech has allowed just 63.3 points a game during its last seven games, which followed a streak of four straight losses in which it allowed 78.8 points per game.

The Yellow Jackets began the season with five straight wins (67.8 ppg), including wins over Purdue and No. 11 Memphis in the first two rounds of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Then came three losses in the next four games to UCLA (Maui championship game), Miami and Vanderbilt as Tech approached fall semester final exams (81.0 ppg).

Coming out of finals, Tech won seven of its next eight games, including homecourt wins over state-rival Georgia, 11th-ranked Duke and Florida State, playing with renewed vigor on the defensive end of the floor (60.4 ppg allowed).

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech has utilized the same starting lineup for its last seven games, led by freshmen Javaris Crittenton at the point guard spot and Thaddeus Young at the samll forward. Juniors Anthony Morrow, Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey have filled the off-guard, big forward and center positions.

Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, is the trigger man, averaging 14.5 points (16th in the ACC) as well as 5.4 assists per game (third in the ACC), while hitting 39.6 percent of his three-point field goal tries. Crittenton has averaged a team-high 16.2 points in Tech’s ACC games (8th in the ACC), has played an average of 33.9 minutes in those games and tops ACC freshmen in scoring and steals in league games.

Young, a 6-8 small forward, has been around the team lead in scoring nearly all season, currently second at 13.8 points per game (18th in the ACC). The Memphis, Tenn., native has averaged 13.3 points in Tech’s ACC games in 2007 (played only briefly at Miami in December due to knee tendinitis), and has made 49.0 percent of his shots from the floor in conference play.

Tech’s inside game is carried by two veterans in Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, and Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C. Smith, the only Tech player to start every game this season, gives Tech muscle inside on defense and on the boards, averaging 8.5 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds. He has made 58 percent of his field goal tries this season and has averaged 7.5 boards over Tech’s last four games.

Since returning to the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Dickey has posted nine double-figure efforts and has made 62.8 percent of his field goal attempts in ACC games (team-high 58.8 percent overall). Dickey averages 9.4 points per game against the conference, 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds overall this season.

Anthony Morrow, a 6-5 junior who has reached double figures in 11 of Tech’s last 16 games, has started the last seven since Feb. 3 against Clemson. The Charlotte, N.C., native has averaged 9.4 points in ACC games, third-best on the team, and 9.2 points per game for the season.

Off the bench, Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard from Douglasville, Ga. (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.7 steals), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard, and has come through on the offensive end in three of Tech’s bigger wins this season. Tech has gotten a big lift recently from 6-10 post player Alade Aminu, a sophomore from Stone Mountain, who has averaged 5.0 points over the last seven games after not having appeared in any of Tech’s first eight ACC games.

Also averaging double-digit minutes is 6-8 freshman Zach Peacock of Miami, who started the first nine games of the season and averages 5.6 points and 2.9 rebounds as Tech’s backup center and power forward, and 6-5 sophomore D’Andre Bell of Los Angeles, who gave Tech a spark in the last six games with excellent defense and 3.2 points a game. Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye, a 6-10 forward from Dakar, Senegal, has been slowed recently by a bout of the flu, but his biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations.

Quoting head coach Paul Hewitt

Have we reached a point where a 16 seed might beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? – “I thought that was going to happen last year. With all the parity there is, I felt like a team like George Mason could make it to the Final Four, and they did. It’s eventually going to happen.”

Is college basketball becoming a March sport? – “The fans of college basketball are going to be into it. It fans want to just watch in March, then that’s fine. I think that’s what all sports have boiled down to. In the past, you could admire consistent success in the regular season. If you lost in the post-season, then you weren’t lucky. Now, people view success in the regular season as being lucky, and what you do in the post-season is what you really are. In the post-season, the margin for error is much thinner, no matter what the sport.”

Could you imagine early in the season that there would be six teams in the ACC separated by just two games? – “Before the season, I felt like there were nine teams capable of making it to the NCAA Tournament. What we’re seeing now is not a surprise to me. That’s why this league is the best in the country, because every night out, you’ve got to put it on the line. If you don’t, you’re certainly going to lose.”

How do you view this week with two high-RPI teams left on your schedule? – “Moving into this last stretch of our schedule was a tremendous opportunity for us against some very good teams. We certainly lost a great opportunity Saturday, up seven with 3:41 to go, but you’ve got to credit Virginia for making all the plays down the stretch. We’re playing good ball. I don’t know if we’re going to make it to the tournament, but I feel about this team like I did about our team in 2004. We lost a couple of tough games, but I felt we were playing good basketball. This team is playing very well, and if we can do enough to make it into the tournament, I’m very confident that we’ll be successful.”

On the ACC Tournament moving outside North Carolina occasionally? – “I think anywhere we have teams (is important). It’s healthy for the tournament to move it around a little bit. The first year I was here, we had it at the Georgia Dome, and if I’m not mistaken, we set records for attendance. It was a great tournament. You’ve got four teams in North Carolina, so to play it there more often than not makes sense.”


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