Dec. 21, 2004
Georgia Tech, ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today rankings this week, looks to get back on the winning track Wednesday night when it hosts Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
It is the first of two holiday home games for the Yellow Jackets, preceding a Dec. 28 matchup with Lafayette, before Tech visits No. 2 Kansas on Jan. 1. The game will not be televised, but can be heard on radio over the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, with flagship station WQXI-AM (790) and student station WREK-FM (91.1) carrying the game in Atlanta.
Tech (7-1) suffered its first loss of the season Saturday night, 85-73 to No. 22 Gonzaga in the Las Vegas Showdown. The Jackets had won their first seven games by an average of 25.6 points. Charleston Southern (1-5) comes to Atlanta having lost four straight games since its only victory of the season, an 82-58 decision over Voorhees College on Nov. 22.
The Yellow Jackets have been sluggish offensively in three games since the end of fall semester exams, averaging just 69.7 points in games against Air Force (64-42), James Madison (72-47) and Gonzaga. But Tech remains the ACC leader in several defensive categories, including points allowed (55.1), field goal percentage defense (.347), three-point defense (.268) and rebound average (41.5).
On moving forward from the Gonzaga loss, head coach Paul Hewitt said Monday, “That’s all we can do. We have been practicing well. We’ve got to realize that we have the tougher part of our schedule coming up, and we have to be sharper than we were Saturday night.”
Tech began the season with its highest national ranking since the 1985-86 squad held the top spot in the preseason AP poll. Tech has been nationally ranked for 24 consecutive weeks dating back to last Dec. 1, when the Jackets were No. 13 following their Preseason NIT championship.
Tech leads the series with Charleston Southern, 5-1. This will be the second meeting between Tech and Charleston Southern since Hewitt became the Yellow Jackets’ head coach. Alvin Jones scored 21 points with nine rebounds, and Tony Akins had 10 points and five assists in that Nov., 2000 meeting, won by the Jackets, 85-62.
It was Hewitt’s second game on the Tech sideline. Current Tech graduate assistant Darryl LaBarrie scored nine points and went 4-for-4 from the floor in the game, including one three-pointer.
The Yellow Jackets are led by their five-man senior class – 6-4 guard B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), Tech’s leading scorer who is currently averaging 16.5 points per game, eighth-best in the ACC; 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 8.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 11.8 points and 2.6 assists.
They are joined by one of the nation’s best point guards, 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), averaging 13.5 points and 4.9 assists per game while also hitting 57.8 percent of his field goal attempts and 88.0 percent of his free throws.
From those six have come Tech’s starting five in each game so far. Muhammad and Bynum alternated in the starting lineup except for the Georgia game on Dec. 5, when both started and McHenry came off the bench. Jack, Elder and Schenscher have started every game.
Elder, a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards, has taken on a greater share of Tech’s scoring load and has shot the ball better percentage-wise over his junior season. Elder’s scoring average is up almost two points a game over last season, his 45.0 percent mark from the floor is four percent better than last year, and his three-point marksmanship is improved as well. Elder shot 69 percent (22-of-32) over a three-game stretch against Michigan, Georgia and Air Force, but has cooled off the last two games (7-for-25 overall, 3-for-11 from three).
Jack, making a case for himself as one of the nation’s top point guards, had his best two games against Michigan (16 points and dished out a season-high 11 assists without committing a turnover in 30 minutes) and Georgia (7-for-7 with three threes for 18 points), and has given the Yellow Jackets another outside shooting threat (44.4 percent from three). Over his last five games, Schenscher has averaged 10.2 points and 9.8 rebounds while making 60 percent of his shots from the floor.
Reserve help comes from 6-9 junior Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), who has played very well throughout preseason practice and shown no ill effects from the dislocated knee that kept him out of 13 games last season. Tarver has averaged 2.9 rebounds and has blocked 10 shots while averaging just under 12 minutes. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively, and has averaged 2.3 rebounds in just under six minutes per game.
Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, is coming along slowly but will provide needed help in various roles.
Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-9 forward-center from Clio (pronounced KLY-oh), S.C., combines with Schenscher and Tarver to give the Jackets good size and strength at the center position. In 10 minutes on the floor against Georgia, Dickey scored 12 points (3-3 FG, 6-7 FT) pulled down six rebounds and blocked two shots. He is 11-for-15 from the floor this season and has averaged 5.2 points.
Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., and Anthony Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., can supply added scoring punch from the perimeter. Morrow hit two threes each against Michigan and James Madison, while Fredrick played a season-high 16 minutes, drained 2-of-3 from behind the three-point arc and had two assists against Georgia.
LEFTOVERS FROM VEGAS
> Tech shot a season-low 40.3 percent from the floor after having made 53 percent of its field goals in the previous five games combined. The Jackets were 8-of-25 from three-point range.
> Tech was outrebounded for the second straight game after winning the battle of the boards on average by more than 11 in the first five games.
> In the last four games, Tech has been to the free throw line 27 times on average, and has converted 63.9 percent.
> Since going 0-for-2 from three-point range against Air Force, breaking a 546-game streak with at least one three, Tech is 16-for-48 in the last two games.
> Gonzaga’s shooting percentages of 49.2 overall and 38.5 from three-point range were the best any team has managed against Tech this year.
TECH STOCK TIPS
> Tech and North Carolina are the two most experienced teams in the ACC, each with 40 or more total starts among juniors and seniors. Tech has the most starts by seniors, with 32, along with eight starts from junior Jarrett Jack. The Tar Heels have 18 starts from seniors, and 26 from juniors.
> Tech has played only one game closer than 12 points, a 60-59 victory at Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 22. The average margin of the other seven games has been 27.1 points.
> Tech’s top five scorers are all shooting 45 percent or better from the floor, three at 50 percent or higher. But all of them fall short of the NCAA minimum of five field goals made per game to be ranked among the conference or national leaders. Luke Schenscher leads at 59.6 percent, followed by Jarrett Jack at 57.8 percent and Isma’il Muhammad at 50 percent.
> Tech has blocked 51 shots in seven games, an average of 6.4 per game that ranks third in the ACC. That has helped limit Tech’s opponents to just 34.7 percent from the floor, best in the ACC. The Jackets also top the league in three-point defense (26.8 percent) and are also first in scoring defense (55.1).
> Tech has rebounded well, outboarding its opponents by an average of 8.0 per game which leads the ACC.
> Tech has 141 assists on 222 field goals, a rate of 63.5 percent, and ranks fourth in the ACC in assist average (17.63 per game).
TECH IN THE THRILLERDOME
Georgia Tech is playing its 49th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center, and the Jackets have a record of 483-163 (.747) in the building, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke. Since the 1981-82 season, Tech is 245-62 (.797) in its on-campus home.
The Yellow Jackets were 12-3 at home last season, and have won 31 of their last 36 games in the Thrillerdome dating back to the final two home games of 2001-02.
Tech is 139-8 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the beginning of the 1981-82 season. Three of those eight losses occurred in the 2001-02 season to Penn, Tulane and IUPUI. From 1981 through last season, the only other non-ACC teams to win at the Thrillerdome were Georgia (2000), Penn State (1998), College of Charleston (1993), Louisville (1989), and Richmond (1987).
Georgia Tech played to sellout crowds every home game after its run to the Preseason NIT championship, and that included all of Tech’s home games during the break between fall and winter semesters. The Thrillerdome has been sold out for this entire season since early summer.