Jan. 14, 2005
Georgia Tech, ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today rankings, finishes its week on Tobacco Road with a 5:30 p.m. game Sunday against NC State at the RBC Center, where the Yellow Jackets are winless in five tries.
The game is being televised nationally on Fox Sports Net (FSN South in Atlanta). Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, which airs in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1).
Tech (11-3, 2-1 ACC) won its first two ACC games with homecourt victories over Miami (80-69) and Virginia (92-69), but dropped its first road game in conference at No. 3 North Carolina Wednesday night by a score of 91-69. The Jackets are just 1-3 away from Atlanta this year, and all three losses have come to ranked teams in Gonzaga (No. 22), Kansas (No. 2) and North Carolina.
NC State (10-5, 0-2 ACC) has lost four straight games to St. John’s, West Virginia, Miami and Duke (Thursday night at home, 74-86), but has beaten the Yellow Jackets the last four times the teams have played. The Wolfpack also has beaten Tech 10 straight times away from Atlanta, including two ACC Tournament games played in Greensboro.
Despite giving up a season-high 91 points to North Carolina, Tech still leads or is close to the lead in several defensive categories, including points allowed (second, 60.4 ppg), field goal percentage defense (first, .351) and three-point defense (first, .281), rebounding (third, 41.8 per game) and defensive rebounds (first, 29.1 per game).
The Yellow Jackets have played the last three games without leading scorer B.J. Elder (13.2 ppg), who strained his left hamstring in the first half of the game at Kansas and is not expected to play at NC State. Backup center Ra’Sean Dickey, who sustained a hyperextended right knee late in Tech’s game with Virginia, did not dress at North Carolina and may not play Sunday.
Georgia Tech has played its last three-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. Also a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 11th in the ACC in scoring (15.5 ppg), fourth in assists (4.43 per game), fourth in field goal percentage (56.3) and second in both three-point percentage (48.1) and free throw percentage (89.3).
Jack has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games, including 26 at Kansas and 24 at North Carolina, trying to pick up the scoring void left by Elder’s absence.
He is joined in the lineup by a quartet of seniors in 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 10.4 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 11.2 points and 3.1 assists.
Schenscher, who ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.50 per game), is hitting 56.4 percent of his shots from the floor (60 percent in three ACC games) and has averaged 11.6 points in league games thus far. Bynum led Tech with 21 points against Miami (8-of-15 FG), and has averaged a team-best four assists in conference games. Muhammad has made 47.7 percent of his field goals and ranks 16th in the conference in rebounding.
Jack and Schenscher have started every game, while Muhammad, McHenry and Bynum have taken turns coming off the bench. Elder had started every game until sustaining his injury.
Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, has played more and more of late, 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 in their first two ACC games.
Morrow scored 11 points against Miami and 13 against Virginia (in just 14 minutes), hitting 6-of-12 three-point field goals and 7-of-14 shots overall in the two wins, helping him earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. He has shot 45.9 percent from behind the arc this season, ranking seventh in the ACC, and is 14-for-27 from that distance in the last five games.
Dickey, who has shot 65.9 percent from the floor to lead the team this the season, had entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center behind Luke Schenscher before hyperextending his knee late in Tech’s game with Virginia. He scored 13 points (5-5 FG) with five rebounds in just 13 minutes against Virginia, and, despite foul trouble that limited him to nine minutes against Miami, he scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.
Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has not scored in either ACC game, but played 14 minutes against Virginia, dishing three assists against just one turnover.
Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior who has logged more minutes at the power forward position while Jeremis Smith has been out, also is backing up Schenscher while Dickey is sidelined. He played his best game of the season against Virginia with six points and five rebounds. 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 against the Cavaliers with seven points, and helped limit North Carolina’s Rashad McCants to 12 points Wednesday night.
Smith, a 6-6 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, who had averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 points in Tech’s first two games, suffered a dislocation of his right kneecap late in the Arkansas-Little Rock game on Nov. 26 and is out indefinitely.
QUOTING COACH HEWITT
You let the players discuss the game after your loss at North Carolina. Do you do that often? — “I just felt I needed to have the guys air out some things. We made some mistakes. I don’t think we rebounded the ball particularly well. That’s usually a category where you lay it on the line. I didn’t want them making excuses but at the same time I wanted to show them I’m with you. We have a good basketball team. We have accomplished a lot. I didn’t want to make it seem like it was anything bigger than just a regular January game.”
Where you happy with what you heard when you let the players talk? — “In a way I was, but we really won’t know until we play on Sunday. I thought the responses were very honest and right on target. It’s time to walk the walk. It has been all talk, and now we have to walk it on Sunday to see if the message they tried to tell each other shows itself when we play against NC State.”
Is it a difficult turn around to go to Carolina, back home and then return to Raleigh? — “I don’t think so. We are lucky that our administration allows us to charter on school nights. We got back quickly Wednesday night; I was back at home by 12 o’clock. I am lucky we have the administration we have here. They know we have to get the kids back to school. It is a lot less wear and tear. After Sunday’s game we are going to charter back. I don’t think it’s difficult at all.”
What did you learn about your team the other night? — “We have not focused as much in practice on rebounding as I have in the past. We just have to get back to doing that. I was so concerned about getting into our offense that I think I took away from some of that. I will put a lot of what happened on North Carolina. They did a great job and played very well, but I think I missed something in our preparation.”
What did they do that surprised you? — “They just did a great job on the offensive boards. When I reviewed the game, I watched the television copy. They put up a stat that they had 20-second chance points. ESPN put up that stat so I don’t know if it is absolutely accurate, but it tells you about the offensive rebounds in the first half. They were really active. I wasn’t surprised. I knew they were going to play hard. We could have done better at boxing out.”
Were you surprised at the sloppiness in the first half? — “I think you have give North Carolina credit. Turnovers ended up being even. They had 19; we had 19. Ours came early when they were able to take advantage. I think the turnovers led to bad shot selection early.”
What is it about NC State that has given you problems? — They have shot the ball very well against us. They did win the game here last year. They are well-coached. I think they compare with anyone in the league. And, like most people in this league, they are very tough to beat at home. They are playing well right now. We have run into them a couple of times when they are playing well. Last year they were coming off of a loss that was a big game. They did a great job against us.”
Do you expect the same kind of intensity this year? — “They play hard all the time. Our players are kind of in a similar boat. We have a real bad taste in our mouth because we played so poorly against Carolina. Despite everything that is going on, even if we were at full strength we still would have lost that game. Our team really feels like it has to come out and play better. You know me; I have said that before, if we don’t play well and lose, it is a really uncomfortable feeling. My guys felt very, very uncomfortable after that game and they want to get back on the court and just go play well. If you play well and lose, you can evaluate it later and find some good things. Our team felt very uncomfortable after the way they played the other night.”
On dealing with higher expectations — “I think a lot of times when people put things in kids’ heads, they end up regurgitating it back. We have lost to three outstanding teams. We lost to Gonzaga on a neutral site with a 12:30 a.m. eastern start, we lost by two in overtime (at No. 2 Kansas), and we were beaten by quite possibly the best team in the country (North Carolina). As I said before, you have to evaluate yourself objectively. Could we have played better against Carolina? Sure. We were right there against Kansas and we had a couple of break downs against Gonzaga. I am not going to lose sight about where we are. The whole thing about being targets, I’m not going to worry about. I hate to repeat myself, but the ACC is such a good league that just because you are ranked in the top 10 or top 15 or top 20 or not ranked, teams are going to play extremely hard every game.”
On absence of Elder and Dickey affecting the way Tech plays — “It could. There is no question that B.J. is one of our best players and Ra’Sean has been playing very well. As I said again, the way we played the other day, it didn’t matter. We didn’t play well enough to win. If we are playing well and then someone got into foul trouble even though we are playing well, then maybe that will affect it. If we can stay out of foul trouble and play to our level, we played a pretty good second half against Virginia and we beat a good Miami team with out B.J. It does have an impact, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t play good basketball.”
TECH VS. NC STATE
> NC State leads the overall series with Georgia Tech, 45-31 … The Wolfpack have won four straight games in the series and 13 of the last 17 … Prior to that, Tech had won seven in a row.
> Tech has yet to win at NC State’s RBC Center in five tries, and has lost eight straight times to the Wolfpack on their home court, dating back to Jan. 24, 1996. The Jackets are 7-25 against NC State in Raleigh, including a 7-18 mark in Reynolds Coliseum, the former homecourt of the Wolfpack. Tech also has lost its last 10 games to NC State in games played away from Atlanta, including the last eight meetings in Raleigh and two ACC Tournament tilts in Greensboro.
> Last season: NC State swept the season series from Tech, the only ACC team to do so. The Wolfpack won the teams’ first meeting, 76-72, on Jan. 24 in Raleigh. NC State launched 41 three-point attempts, the most ever attempted against Tech, and made 12. They completed the sweep with a 79-69 win in Atlanta on Feb. 25.
> Tech is 3-6 against NC State under head coach Paul Hewitt. Since Herb Sendek took over the reins at NC State, the Jackets are 5-13 against the Wolfpack and averaged just 62.6 points over the 18 meetings …The Jan. 24 meeting last year marked only the third time Tech has scored 70 or more points against a Sendek-coached Wolfpack team.
> Georgia Tech and NC State had split their regular-season meetings each of the past four years, each team winning at home, prior to last year’s sweep by the Wolfpack.
> Since Tech joined the ACC, it is 23-32 against NC State, including regular-season and tournament games.
LEFTOVERS FROM THE NORTH CAROLINA GAME
> Tech’s shooting percentages of 36.8 from the floor and 17.6 from three-point range (3-for-17) were season lows (Tech actually was 0-for-2 from three against Air Force). The Jackets’ eight assists also were a season low.
> Tech scored less than 70 points for the fourth time this season, but has won two of those games. Tech placed four players in double figures for the ninth time.
> Jarrett Jack went 10-for-10 from the free throw line, grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals.
> North Carolina had 17 offensive rebounds in the first half and 20 for the game, but scored only 15 points off them. Tech has given up 21.7 offensive rebounds on average in its last three games.
> Owing to injury more than anything, Tech got just 11 points from its bench, a season low.
> The Tar Heels became only the third team to shoot 40 percent against the Jackets this season (41.2 pct.). Their 35 free throws were the most by a Tech opponent this season.
TECH AGAINST THE ACC
> Against the ACC, Tech still ranks first against the league in field goal percentage defense (35.8), fourth in three-point defense (29.0 pct.), first in blocked shots (8.33 per game) third in rebounding (42.3 per game) and seventh in scoring defense (76.3 ppg). Tech is third in scoring offense (80.3), fourth in field goal percentage (45.2), sixth in three-point percentage (32.2) and seventh in three-pointers per game (6.33).
> Jarrett Jack ranks third among his peers in scoring at 20.0 points per game, second in three-point field goal percentage (64.3) and third in three-point field goals made (3.0 per game).
> Luke Schenscher ranks fourth in rebound average at 9.0 per game, first in blocked shots (4.0 per game) and third in field goal percentage (60.0).
> Will Bynum ranks fifth in assist average (4.0 per game) and third in assist-turnover ratio (3.0-1).
TECH STOCK TIPS
> Jarrett Jack needs just 15 points Sunday to become the 36th player in Georgia Tech history to reach 1,000 career points. The 6-3 junior currently has 985 points and has averaged 21.5 points in his last four games.
> Against the ACC, Jarrett Jack ranks third among his peers in scoring at 20.0 points per game, second in three-point field goal percentage (64.3) and third in three-point field goals made (3.0 per game).
> Tech’s scoring average against NC State over the past four seasons (Paul Hewitt era) is 68.1 points per game, compared to 74.7 points per game against the league at-large. That average has increased slightly each year, from 64.5 in 2001-01 to 70.5 in the two meetings last year. In the first two seasons, the Wolfpack held Tech to more than eight points per game under its conference scoring average. In the last two years, that difference had been around five points per game.
> In two games against the Wolfpack last year, Tech shot 44.7 percent from the floor, 30.6 percent from three-point range and 65.1 percent from the free throw line. NC State pulled 21 offensive rebounds and drained 12 three-point shots when the teams met in Raleigh. In Atlanta, the Wolfpack shot 51.2 percent and went 27-of-34 from the free throw line.