Nov. 19, 2006
Maui, Hawaii – Georgia Tech plays its first games away from home beginning Monday when it plays in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. The 21st-ranked Yellow Jackets face Purdue in the opening round at 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, in a game televised nationally in ESPN2.
Tech will meet either Oklahoma or 13th-ranked Memphis, the other two teams on the Yellow Jackets’ side of the bracket, on Tuesday. If both Tech and its Tuesday opponent are in the winner’s bracket, the game will be at 7 p.m. on ESPN. If both teams lose Monday, Tuesday’s game will be at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Tech will meet either host Chaminade, DePaul, No. 22 Kentucky or No. 6 UCLA on Wednesday.
Radio coverage for all of the Yellow Jackets’ games is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, airing in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790). Tech’s game Monday can also be heard on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 191, and the Tuesday and Wednesday games will be on Ch. 194.
This is Georgia Tech’s first trip to Maui, but its fifth appearance at a regular-season event in the 50th state. The Yellow Jackets played in the Big Island Classic in 1998, and have appeared three times in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu (1984, 1988, 1994), winning that event in 1984.
The first two games in Maui plus a potential final-day pairing with UCLA, Kentucky or DePaul gives head coach Paul Hewitt’s 3-0 team a very challenging non-conference schedule as the Yellow Jackets attempt to return to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have a very tough opponent tomorrow in Purdue, which is an outstanding man-to-man basketball team,” said Hewitt Sunday. “We’re starting three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior, so like everyone else here, we’re a young basketball team. But we’re playing pretty hard. I like this group of guys. They have shown me that it’s important to them that they guard and try to play good team basketball.”
Purdue is 2-0 following season-opening victories over Northern Colorado and Western Carolina.
“We’ve had two games already, and we’re starting to gel a little bit, and hopefully we can put it together,” said Boilermakers’ head coach Matt Painter Sunday. “We know we’re playing a tough team in Georgia Tech. They’re a very athletic team. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Tech, ranked 23rd in the nation by the Associated Press and 21st by the coaches, has opened its season with three impressive wins by an average of 31 points, defeating Elon 83-49, Jackson State 100-70 and cross-town rival Georgia State 103-74, all at home. The Jackets have averaged 95.3 points offensively, shooting 57.4 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from three-point range.
Since coming to Maui, the Yellow Jackets have been a busy bunch, beginning with a workout in the Hyatt Regency pool upon arrival Friday night. The team practiced for two hours Saturday along with half-hour weight workouts and a two-hour study hall before attending a meet-and-greet session with the other seven teams Saturday night.
Sunday’s schedule included another two-hour practice and a study hall before the official tournament Tip-Off Banquet in the evening.
Tech’s starting lineup for the first three games has included freshman Javaris Crittenton at point guard, sophomore Lewis Clinch and freshman Thaddeus Young on the wings, junior Jeremis Smith at strong forward and freshman Zach Peacock at center.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, was a McDonald’s All-American his senior year at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy and has averaged 15.7 points (51.6 pct. FG) and 8.0 assists in Tech’s first two games. Young, a 6-8 McDonald’s All-American from Mitchell High School in Memphis, Tenn., has averaged 16.0 pounts on 60.6-percent shooting and 3.0 rebounds.
Crittenton and Young were expected to start the opener, but Peacock, a 6-8 all-state performer from Norland High School in Miami, has been a surprise even to head coach Paul Hewitt. Peacock, demonstrating the effort and toughness Hewitt wants in the post, has averaged 9.0 points and 2.7 rebounds while making 10-of-15 field goal tries (66.7 pct.).
The two returning players in the starting lineup are Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 shooting guard from Cordele, Ga., and Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 strong forward from Fort Worth, Texas. Clinch, a sophomore, has picked up where he left off at the end of last season and then some, leading the Jackets in scoring at 16.7 points a game while hitting 72.4 percent of his shots from the floor and 58.3 percent of his three-point attempts. Smith, a junior, has improved offensively and is just as tough on the boards and on defense as he was a year ago, averaging 9.7 points (12-of-14 FG) and 4.3 rebounds.
Hewitt has built plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, employing a solid nine-man rotation in the first three games.
Off the bench, four players are averaging double-digit minutes, including Ra’Sean Dickey (8.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 61.1 FG pct.), a 6-10 junior who started 20 games last year, 6-5 senior guard Mario West (4.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 7-of-10 FG), 6-10 red-shirt freshman forward Mouhammad Faye (5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) and 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (6.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who started all 30 games last year but is working his way back from a back injury.
Tech vs. the Maui Field
Georgia Tech is facing Purdue for the third time in its history, and first since the 1988 Rainbow Classic, a 72-69 Tech win. The Boilermakers won the other meeting, 53-45, in the 1980 Gator Bowl Classic.
Tech and Oklahoma have split four encounters in their history, last meeting in the 1995 Preseason NIT at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, an 83-72 Tech win. The Yellow Jackets and Sooners also met in the 1994 Rainbow Classic, an 89-85 Tech win. Both of Oklahoma’s wins came in the early 1980s.
Tech and Memphis last met in the 1992 NCAA Midwest Regional, an 83-79 overtime win for the Tigers, and are 3-3 overall against each other. The other five meetings all occurred in the late 1970s when both teams were members of the old Metro Conference.
On the other side of the bracket:
Tech and DePaul are 2-2 all-time, the last meeting coming in the 1991 NCAA Midwest Regional, an 87-70 Tech victory. The Yellow Jackets also defeated the Blue Demons, 71-70, on a last-second three-point shot by Dennis Scott at home in 1988.
Tech and Kentucky have a long history as former Southeastern Conference foes, and the Wildcast lead the series, 56-15. The teams have played nine times since the Jackets left the SEC, Tech winning twice. The last meeting was an 86-84 win for the Jackets in Atlanta in 2000, head coach Paul Hewitt’s first season at Tech.
UCLA holds a 2-1 edge all-time against Tech, but the Yellow Jackets won the last meeting, a 72-67 decision in the 2000 John Wooden Classic, also in Hewitt’s first season at Tech.
Offense Impressive Early
Head coach Paul Hewitt has expressed little doubt that this Yellow Jacket team can be explosive offensively, and they have supported that belief early on, putting together Tech’s first consecutive games of 100 points since the 1994-95 season. Until last week, Tech had only two other 100-point games under Hewitt, and one of those was an overtime game.
“If we take good shots, we can shoot the ball well,” said Hewitt. “We’ve got to move the ball and make the extra pass.”
Tech’s gaudy shooting numbers through three games (57.4 percent from the floor) have largely been a result of the Yellow Jackets’ ability to get the ball close to the basket and finish. In the first two games against Elon and Jackson State, 52 of Tech’s 72 field goals came on layups, dunks or point-blank shots in the paint. Tech was 52-of-67 from close range. But Tech used a long-range assault on Georgia State in game three, hitting 13-of-24 three-point attempts after making just 8-of-24 in the first two games.
Six players in Tech’s regular nine-man rotation have hit better than 60 percent of their shots (Jeremis Smith 85.7, Lewis Clinch 72.4, Mario West, 70.0, Zach Peacock 66.7, Ra’Sean Dickey 61.1, Thaddeus Young 60.6), and Javaris Crittenton stands at 51.6 percent.