Feb. 1, 2005
Georgia Tech, which has won three of its first four ACC games on its homecourt this season, returns home Wednesday night to face Florida State at 7 p.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Tech (12-6, 3-4 ACC), No. 25 in this week’s Associated Press poll and No. 23 in the coaches’ poll, is tied for seventh place in the ACC standings with the Seminoles (11-9, 3-4) and NC State (13-7, 3-4), a half-game behind Miami (13-6, 4-4) and a full game behind Maryland and Virginia Tech (both 4-3).
Wednesday’s game is being televised regionally on FSN South and the Sunshine Network. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and will air in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1), as well as nationally on XM Satellite Radio Channel 180.
The Yellow Jackets have lost four of their last five games, including a homecourt defeat to Virginia Tech on Jan. 22, but have beaten No. 5 Wake Forest (102-101 in OT on Jan. 27) during that stretch. Tech, which has also beaten Miami and Virginia at home, is 0-3 on the road in conference play, and is coming off a 79-71 loss Sunday at Maryland.
Florida State has won two of its last three games, including a stirring homecourt win over Wake Forest (91-83) in overtime and a road win over NC State (70-64) in its last outing on Jan. 26.
Tech still leads or is close to the lead in several defensive categories, including points allowed (second, 65.1 ppg), field goal percentage defense (first, .370) and three-point defense (second, .301), rebounding (third, 40.8 per game) and defensive rebounds (first, 28.6 per game).
The victory over Wake Forest, in which the Yellow Jackets shot 54.4 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from three-point range and 81.6 percent from the foul line, were all season bests in conference games. But in their four ACC losses, the Yellow Jackets have not shot the ball well (40.2 pct. FG, 20 pct. on threes) and have been outrebounded by seven a game.
The Yellow Jackets have played the last seven games without leading scorer B.J. Elder (13.2 ppg), who strained his left hamstring in the first half of the game at Kansas. Tech also has had to deal with injuries to backup center Ra’Sean Dickey (hyperextended right knee against Virginia, missed one game), Will Bynum and Anthony McHenry (concussions) and Isma’il Muhammad (knee tendinitis) which have forced Tech to be further shorthanded in games and practice. Freshman Jeremis Smith (dislocated kneecap) has been out since the second game of the season.
Tech, which began the season with its highest national ranking (No. 3) since the 1985-86 squad held the top spot in the preseason AP poll, barely hung onto its top-25 status this week in the AP rankings, which has the Yellow Jackets at No. 25, and are No. 23 in the coaches’ poll. Tech has been nationally ranked for 30 consecutive weeks dating back to last Dec. 1, when the Jackets debuted at No. 13 following their Preseason NIT championship. It is the longest running streak in the polls for Tech since a 35-week run that spanned from the 1984-85 season into the middle of the 1986-87 campaign.
Tech has played its last seven-and-a-half games without 6-4 senior guard and leading scorer B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), who was averaging 13.2 points a game until he strained his left hamstring muscle in the first half of the Yellow Jackets’ loss at No. 2 Kansas on New Year’s Day. A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, Elder was shooting 43.2 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three-point range.
In his absence, Tech has gone with a starting lineup led by 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), who tops Tech in most every offensive category and has become Tech’s primary scorer. Also a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring (15.6 ppg), sixth in assists (4.33 per game), fourth in field goal percentage (51.7), seventh in three-point percentage (42.6) and third in free throw percentage (88.0).
He is joined in the lineup by a quartet of seniors in 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 13.2 points and 2.9 assists; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 9.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game; and 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Bynum scored a career-high 30 points against Wake Forest after putting up 28 against Virginia Tech, and is averaging 15.9 points in ACC games so far. Muhammad also turned in his best effort of the season against the Demon Deacons, scoring a season-high 17 points and matching a career-best for assists with six. He has scored in double figures in five straight games. averaging 13.8 points over that stretch.
Schenscher, who ranks eighth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.22 per game), is hitting 55.0 percent of his shots from the floor and has averaged 9.3 points in league games thus far, while McHenry is averaging 5.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in ACC games.
Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, has played more and more since December, with 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) giving the Yellow Jackets a huge lift since mid-December.
Morrow broke a three-game shooting slump by scoring 11 points (3-of-5 on threes) against Wake Forest. The freshman has made 38.1 percent of his three-pointers this season overall and 34.5 percent in conference games, but has struggled in Tech’s conference losses (1-for-15). He has five double-figure games off the bench this season.
Dickey, who has shot 64.3 percent from the floor to lead the team this season, has entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center behind Luke Schenscher. He is 16-for-23 from the floor in the five ACC games he has played, including his top game of 13 points (5-5 FG) with five rebounds in just 13 minutes against Virginia.
Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior who has logged more minutes at the power forward position while Jeremis Smith has been out. He played his best game of the season against Virginia with six points and five rebounds, and logged a season-high 18 minutes against Wake Forest. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively on the perimeter. He had the best offensive game of his career at Maryland with eight points (3-4 FG), and has averaged more than 12 minutes in Tech’s last five games.
QUOTING HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt
On the Maryland loss — “It is OK not to shoot the ball well sometimes, but I thought we had too many breakdowns defensively in the second half. In the first half, we got a nice lift off the bench from Mario West, as well as Ra’Sean Dickey. Even though we were down 10 [points], we felt like we were in striking distance. All we had to do was to have a good solid half of basketball without any breakdowns to give ourselves a chance to win. It looked like we were doing that, but toward the end we gave up too many easy baskets.” Is there more to your 3-4 ACC record than just B.J. Elder being out? – “Sure there is. We had a big comeback (at Maryland), then they ran a baseline out of bounds play, actually that I thought we were pretty well prepared for, but we blew an assignment and they got a three-point-play instead of us getting the chance to cut the lead to one, or maybe tie it. Ibekwe gets a basket and a foul and adds three points to their lead. Obviously if we had B.J., who I think is one of the top players in the league, makes us a better team, but at the same time we are good enough and talented enough to be a little bit better.”
I know you had said you guys would miss Marvin Lewis, but a lot of people didn’t believe you with all the talent you did have back. Is that a case where you miss one of those late shots or you miss one of those games? – “I honestly don’t think so. I think our problem has been more just lapses in concentration. As I’ve said at times this year, we’ve looked like a young team, but we’re not. We’re a veteran ball club, but there are just times we play like a young team and just make some immature decisions.”
The latest on a possible return of B.J. Elder – “Again, we’re just trying to take as much time as we can. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve had that injury. As a matter of fact, Doc Rivers was here last week practicing with the Celtics; we got into a conversation about it. He said that he had a similar thing, and it lasted the entire six weeks before he could get back. We’re at a point in the season where if he has another relapse, it could cost him the whole season. So we’re just trying to take our time. He will be back this year; he definitely will be back. When, I can’t tell you. He’s working out slowly, trying to get up to speed, and we’re doing different tests to bring him along very slowly each day. Of course, we increase how rigorous those those physical tests are to see where he is.”
In your offense, who has the green light, and what does that mean? – “Well certainly, Will Bynum and Jarrett Jack have a lot of freedom, but we really try to do the best we can to distribute the basketball equally and have guys take open shots. We do a lot of individual instruction, where we try to build the confidence of all our players offensively, if they’re open, to go ahead and take shots. But certainly Bynum and Jack because of their ability to create plays.”
If you don’t have a guy like that, does it limit an offense, does it require more of others, more discipline? – “I guess I really have not been a coach who has the philosophy to give just one guy the green light. I have always been of the feeling that if you move the ball effectively, the ball is going to find the open guy and the right guy.”
About Jack’s development as a player and a leader for this team – “Jarrett is a hard worker, and I think we can all look at him and realize how much he’s improved from his freshman year to now. I guess the most outstanding way you can see it is that his three-point shooting has gone from I think 29 percent as freshman to somewhere like 45 percent now. Because of his work ethic, our players a very quick to listen and follow him. They know that he’s in the gym as much as anybody, and at practice he gives everything he has. Certainly on the court, he’s proven that in big-game situations he’ll step up and deliver for his team.”
Do you see the Maryland as a step back, or do you still think you’re making strides even with what happened in College Park? – “We’re making strides, but I didn’t expect us to fall back on the defensive end. Our turnover numbers keep going down. When we don’t turn the ball over and we get shots, we’re going to score points. You have to give Maryland credit. They did an unbelievable job and contested shots yesterday. But I was disappointed there were some things that we covered in preparation for the game to take away. But we just had breakdowns, and that happens. There are times when teams just aren’t as sharp. There were a couple of times when guys would come to the bench and say ‘I know, I know, I missed that.’ But where we are now with the margin for error, we can’t have too many of those ‘I know’ games (laughs) not after the fact. You have to do it before the play happens. If we say take this away, you take that away. If we say ‘this player likes to use this move,’ then don’t allow him to do it. In all, was last week a good week for us? I’d say yes, but it wasn’t what we’d hoped for. We’d hoped for better.”
On how far Mario West has progressed offensively – “He is slowly gaining confidence on the offensive end of the floor. He was a big scorer in high school, and the reason we brought him here was because of his athleticism and willingness to defend. But he’s definitely making progress. He’s shooting his free throws well. He can get to the basket. It’s a matter of picking spots, and he’s picking his spots a lot better.”
SERIES NOTES WITH FLORIDA STATE
> Florida State leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 28-23, but Tech has won four of the last six meetings and 13 of the last 21.
> Last season: Tim Pickett scored a career-high 33 points in leading the Seminoles to an 81-65 win on Feb. 3 in Tallahassee. In the second meeting in Atlanta, Marvin Lewis scored a game-high 21 points, and Jarrett Jack added 15 points with 12 rebounds and six assists to lead Tech to a 63-60 victory. Tech’s point totals against FSU were its lowest of the season.
> The Yellow Jackets have won the last five homecourt meetings with FSU, whose last win in Atlanta occurred on Jan. 9, 1999 (75-56). Overall, Tech is 14-11 against the Seminoles in Atlanta, all of those games at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
> Since FSU joined the ACC, the Seminoles have won 14 of the 27 meetings. Florida State won the first six in a row, Tech followed by winning five straight, and is 8-8 against the Seminoles since then.
> In those 27 games, 11 have been decided by four points or less, 17 by 10 points or less. One of those games went to double-overtime, which the Yellow Jackets won 111-108 on Feb. 11, 1999 in Tallahassee.
> The teams have split the regular-season series six of the last seven years except the 2001-02 season, when Tech won both games. In that span, FSU also won the schools’ only ACC Tournament meeting in 2000.
> Tech has won five of eight games against FSU with Paul Hewitt as its head coach, and has split four games with the Seminoles under their head coach Leonard Hamilton. Tech is 3-2 against Hamilton, with a victory over his Miami team in December of 1997.
> Tech and Florida State were both members of the old Metro Conference from 1976-78, and the Seminoles won three of those four meetings.
PICKING UP THE SCORING LOAD
Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum have increased their scoring load for the Yellow Jackets in the absence of B.J. Elder. In Tech’s last seven games, including the Kansas game in which Elder sustained his hamstring injury, Jack has averaged 18.6 points a game and Bynum 14.8. Even Isma’il Muhammad has chipped in with five straight double figure games.
That trio has accounted for 55.2 percent of the Yellow Jackets field goal attempts, 57.8 percent of the points and 63.8 percent of the free throw attempts. They have combined to go to the free throw line 16.5 times a game.
Jack has shot 47.8 percent from the floor, 45.5 percent from three-point range and 88.5 percent from the free throw line in 52 attempts over that stretch. He scored a season-high 26 in that Kansas game, making 10 of 12 shots from the floor, added 22 against Virginia (5-7 from three), 24 at North Carolina (10-of-10 from the foul line) and 23 against Wake Forest (7-11 FG, 8-10 FT).
While he has not shot the ball for a high percentage over the eight games, Bynum really stepped up against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, scoring 28 against the Hokies and a career-high 30 against the Demon Deacons. Bynum was 16-for-31 from the floor (8-of-15 from three) and 18-of-20 from the foul line in those two games.
Muhammad has averaged 13.8 points over Tech’s last five games, including a season-high 17 against Wake Forest and 15 at Maryland, and has made 51 percent of his shots over that stretch.
As a team, Tech has averaged 77.4 points in Elder’s absence, one point below the season norm, shot 44.2 percent from the floor (2.5 percent off) and 31.4 percent from three-point range (2.4 percent off). Those numbers include the Wake Forest game, in which Tech established season bests in scoring (102 points), field goal percentage (54.4 pct.), three-point percentage (42.9 pct.) and free throw shooting (81.6 pct., 38 attempts).
GET ON TOP, STAY ON TOP
Georgia Tech has won most of its games this season, particularly its ACC victories, by coming out aggressively, taking the lead early and keeping it. When the Yellow Jackets fall behind in the first half, they always have been on the wrong end of the score at the end.
Tech has led at halftime in 11 of its 12 victories this season (exception: Illinois-Chicago). The Jackets have trailed or were tied at the half in five of their six losses (exception: Kansas).
Tech has held substantial first-half leads in three of its five losses, including Kansas (led 31-18 at the 3:23 mark, 34-27 at the half; Gonzaga (led 30-23 at the 8:41 mark, fell behind 45-41 at half), and Virginia Tech (led 22-13 at the 9:32 mark, tied at the half, 33-33).
In each of its ACC losses on the road, Tech has fallen behind by double digits in the first half and were never able to climb all the way back. The Jackets did inch within five at NC State and three at Maryland, but could get no closer. Virginia Tech, a home game, led by as many as 11 in the second half, and the Jackets rallied to lead by one in the final minute before losing.
When the Yellow Jackets have jumped ahead early, they have been able to withstand rallies by their opponents, including:
> Against Virginia, Tech kept the upper hand in a close first half, leading by six at intermission, then built a lead of as many as 32 points in the second half before winning 92-69.
> Miami, in which Tech saw a 46-32 halftime lead evaporate to one in the second half, but responded with a run of its own and won 80-69.
> Against Wake Forest, Tech led by as many as 17 in the first half and 14 in the second half, lost the entire lead but still won in overtime.
TECH STOCK TIPS
> January has never been a good month for Georgia Tech under Paul Hewitt, and the Yellow Jackets have gone 18-22 in that month over five seasons. February and March have been much better to Tech, with the Jackets posting a 30-22 record in those two months combined. It is also pertinent to note that the Jackets were 6-7 in the ACC last year before going on its late-season run.
> Tech established season bests against ACC opponents in scoring (102 points), field goal percentage (54.4 pct.), three-point percentage (42.9 pct.) and free throw shooting (81.6 pct., 38 attempts) against Wake Forest, then followed that with season lows at Maryland (35.1% FG, 4-20 on threes).
> Tech has averaged 85.1 points at home this season, but has not scored more than 73 points in any game away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
> There is a drastic difference in Tech’s shooting numbers at home and on the road. The Yellow Jackets have shot 49.7 percent overall at home, 38.6 percent from three-point range, On the road, Tech has made just 39.6 percent from the floor, 22.4 percent from three-point range.
> Tech also has limited its opponents to 35.5 percent at home, 26.3 percent from three-point range, as opposed to 39.5 overall and 39.8 from three-point range on the road.
> Tech has committed just 13 turnovers in its last three games after averaging more than 15 over its first four ACC games.
> Tech has a minus-3.2 rebounding deficit against the ACC and has outrebounded only Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. That said, the Yellow Jackets’ rebounding average is up more than 3.4 per game from last year, and its rebound margin for the season is up almost four per game.
> Owing to Tech’s efforts to be balanced on offense, three players are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, but none of them have enough field goals to make the ACC rankings. Jack’s 15.6 points a game leads Tech, but ranks only 12th in the ACC.
> Tech has had nine double-figure performances off the bench this year, including five from Anthony Morrow. Tech’s bench has averaged 21.9 points this season, 18.6 ppg against ACC teams.
> In its three ACC wins this season, Tech has shot 50.5 percent from the floor, 39.7 percent from three-point range and 73.5 percent from the foul line. In its four conference losses, the percentages are 40.2, 20.0 and 71.3. Tech has scored 91.3 points on average in its three wins, 69.2 in the three losses.
PLAYER QUICK HITS
> Jarrett Jack has been to the free throw line 52 times in Tech’s last eight games (he made 46), compared to 31 in Tech’s first 10 games. Away from Atlanta this season, Jack is 26-of-27 (96.3 percent) from the charity stripe.
> Jack’s 51.7 percent shooting from the floor leads all ACC guards. He has made at least one three-point field goal in 12 straight games and has made 43.3 percent in ACC games.
> Will Bynum has 68 points in his last three games (22.7 ppg), made 19-of-45 from the floor, 10-of-22 from three-point range and 20-of-22 from the foul line.
> Isma’il Muhammad has reached double figures in five straight games, averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 26-for-51 from the floor. A 43-percent free throw shooter for the season, he went 7-for-7 from the foul line at Maryland.
> Ra’Sean Dickey is 16-for-23 from the floor in ACC games.
> Mario West has played double-digit minutes in each of his last six games and has also scored in six straight games. West, who had scored a total of eight points in the Yellow Jackets’ first 12 games this season, has achieved career highs in scoring twice since ACC play began (7 points vs. Virginia, 8 vs. Maryland).
> Anthony Morrow went 3-for-5 from three-point range in the first half of the Wake Forest game, but is otherwise 1-for-15 from that distance in Tech’s last four games.
> Anthony McHenry has averaged 5.1 rebounds in his last eight games, one per game above his season norm, and 5.5 points, almost a half-point above his season norm. He has shot 48.6 percent from the floor over that stretch.