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Tech Takes on Clemson in ACC Tournament

March 11, 2009

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ATLANTA – After splitting two games in the final week of the regular season, 12th-seeded Georgia Tech begins play in the 56th Atlantic Coast Conference Basketball Tournament with a first-round game against No. 5 Clemson at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The winner of that game will face No. 4-seed Florida State in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

The Georgia Tech Ticket Office still has a LIMITED number of seats still available in either the $396 (Lower – Section 100 / Mezzanine – Section 200) or $363 (Upper) price levels. Ticket books are good for all 11 games and may be picked up immediately at the Georgia Tech ticket office or at the Georgia Dome will call window beginning the day of the opening game.

Thursday’s game, and all but one in the tournament, will be televised on the ACC-Raycom Sports Network and can be seen in Atlanta on WATL-TV (Ch. 36). Coverage outside the ACC region can be seen on either ESPN or ESPN2.

Tech’s games can be heard on radio on the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on flagship station WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1). National radio coverage of all tournament games can be heard on XM Satellite Radio Channels 190-192.

Tech (11-18 overall, 2-14 ACC) played good basketball in its final two regular season games, posting a 78-68 win at home over Miami last Wednesday on Senior Night, then taking Boston College to the wire in a 67-66 loss in Chestnut Hill on Saturday.

Clemson (23-7 overall, 9-7 ACC), which lost at Wake Forest, 96-88, Sunday evening, tied with Boston College for fifth place and took the fifth seed in a tie-breaker. The 18th-ranked Tigers come into the tournament having lost three of their last four games, the lone win coming over Virginia, 75-57, last Tuesday.

Clemson won both games between the two teams during the regular season, taking a 73-59 victory on Jan. 25 in Clemson, then completing a sweep of the Jackets with an 81-73 win on Feb. 22 in Atlanta.

Florida State (23-8 overall, 10-6 ACC) grabbed the fourth seed by defeating Virginia Tech, 63-53, Sunday and taking fourth place alone in the final standings. The Seminoles, ranked 24th in the nation, have won four of their last six games and six of their last nine entering the tournament. FSU defeated Tech, 62-58, on Feb. 5 in Tallahassee in the teams’ only meeting this year.

Though Tech has faced Clemson more times than any other team in the ACC, Thursday marks only the third meeting between the two teams in the ACC Tournament, and the first since 1993. Tech has won both prior games in the tournament, including one in 1986. See Tech’s complete ACC Tournament results on page 13.

Thursday also marks Georgia Tech’s first game in the Georgia Dome since the 2006-07 season, when the Yellow Jackets defeated Connecticut in a February non-conference game (see list of Tech games in the Georgia Dome on page 3), The Jackets are 8-4 in games played in the Georgia Dome, including a 1-1 mark in ACC Tournament games.

Tech’s ACC Tournament History

Georgia Tech has played in 29 ACC Tournaments, and has a 20-26 all-time record in the event. The Yellow Jackets have won three championships, in 1985, 1990 and 1993. Tech has been a runner-up three other times (1986, 1996, 2005).

Tech has a 5-8 record in the tournament with Paul Hewitt as its head coach, including a runner-up finish in 2005 in Washington, D.C. The Yellow Jackets have won at least one tournament game in four of eight years under Hewitt, including first-round victories over Virginia (2001 and 2008) and North Carolina (2004), plus wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina in 2005 to reach the finals.

Tech has been the last seed five times (three No. 8’s, one No. 9 and one No. 11) and has not won from that position. The Jackets have won only four times in first-round games in which they were the lower-seeded team.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech has relied heavily on post players Gani Lawal (15.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Alade Aminu (12.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Zachery Peacock (9.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), who rank 1-3-5 on the team in scoring and 1-2-3 in rebounding. Lawal ranks second in the ACC in rebounding and field goal percentage, while Aminu ranks fifth in rebounding and sixth in field goal percentage.

But it is senior Lewis Clinch who has become Tech’s hottest player of late, scoring more than 20 points in four straight games and averaging 23.8 over his last five. The 6-3 guard has notched a career high twice during the stretch, first with 27 points against Clemson and then with 30 points against Miami. He has drained 29 three-point field goals (44.6 pct.) in his last five games.

Freshman Iman Shumpert, who has played both the point guard and wing positions this year, is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer overall (10.6 ppg) and in conference games (10.5 ppg). Shumpert ranks third in the ACC and 35th nationally in assists with 5.1 per game, and has made 34.5 percent of his threes in ACC games.

Sophomore Moe Miller, who has missed eight games this season with injuries and has struggled with his shot, averages 6.1 points and 4.0 assists per game. He has started nine of the last 11 games at the point.

Freshman Nick Foreman, a walk-on who has played in every game this season because of his defensive abilities, and sophomore Lance Storrs (4.2 ppg, 36.1 pct. from three-point range) are the key reserves in the backcourt. Brad Sheehan, a 7-foot sophomore averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds, is a key reserve in the post.

Series With Clemson

> The Yellow Jackets have won both ACC Tournament meetings with the Tigers, including a 69-61 semi-final decision on the way to the 1993 conference title in Charlotte. Tech also won its 1986 first-round meeting, 79-61, in Greensboro.

> Overall, Tech holds a 57-56 lead in a series that began in 1913. It is the oldest and longest-running series the Yellow Jackets have with an ACC member. The 113 all-time meetings are 28 more than Tech has played with any other ACC member. The series dates back to the 1912-13 season, when John Heisman coached the Tech basketball team.

> Clemson is one of two permanent home-and-away opponents on Tech’s schedule each year (Wake Forest is the other) since the ACC expanded to 12 schools.

> Clemson has won six of the last eight meetings in the series, and the Yellow Jackets trail 33-29 to the Tigers since joining the ACC.

> The Yellow Jackets have won 10 of the 18 games between the two teams since Paul Hewitt became Tech’s head coach, with a 6-3 record at home and a 4-5 mark at Clemson. Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell is 6-6 vs. Tech.

Quoting Coach Hewitt

Where does the ACC tournament fit? – “It’s a great event. It’s a great celebration of the season. I think it’s great for the players and families. he thing about the NCAA Tournament is that if you’re ticketed to go or get the opportunity to go, you do not know where you are going to be. To get a plane ticket, and transportation out to the site, if your team is fortunate to make the NCAA’s, it’s probably a lot harder. Everybody knows years in advance, or certainly by the start of the year, where the ACC Tournament is going to be, so they can make their plans and be there and celebrate the season with their families, friends, and what-have-you.

Does having to win the tournament create a different mindset for you? – “It probably does. For those teams, I know they want to win, and they are going to go out there and compete, but it is reassuring in the back of your mind that they have another game. I’m sure there is some of that.”

How difficult has this season been for you personally? – “It’s been tough. But, at the same time, I definitely appreciate how hard our guys have competed. When I look at us offensively, we just have not been good enough. This is the second-best defensive team I have coached since I have been here at Georgia Tech, but it is the least productive offensively in terms of shooting percentage from the foul line, the floor, the three, and total number of points, nd that’s where it is. The effort has been there, again when you look at defensive numbers, they are outstanding, and the only way you play that type of defense is when guys are trying hard. Offensively, we just have not had that firepower from the perimeter to help us pull out some of those games at the foul line.”

There’s more to the old adage that you win with defense – “You can’t put that much pressure on your defense. Our guys have been good enough to compete with anybody in this league. The only game I felt like we were over-matched was that game at Carolina and a lot of people walked into that building and saw we were over-matched. But, everybody else we played, I felt like we could play with them and had a chance to win the game or should have won the game. Some of it probably has to do with inexperience, stepping up at the end of the game and making free throws, or making some poor decisions down the stretch of games. We have got to find a way to pull those games out. As we got better, unfortunately, the rest of the league kept getting better.”

On playing Clemson – “They have got great balance inside and outside. When we played them the first time, we put an emphasis on Booker, and we did a good job of limiting him somewhat, but their outside guys really hurt us. In the second game, Booker really established himself and had 21 points, and they got great contribution off the bench from Andre Young. So they have good balance, and they are definitely a team that regardless of how things go for them this weekend, they are a very dangerous team come NCAA tournament time. They don’t rely on any one person.”

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