Feb. 4, 2003
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech looks for its first road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season when it visits Clemson for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Yellow Jackets have won six of their last eight games and two in a row, and have an 11-7 overall record, 4-3 in the ACC. Clemson, 11-6, 1-6 in the ACC, has lost four in a row.
The game will not be televised, but will be broadcast on the Georgia Tech-ISP Radio Network and heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WMGP-FM (98.1), WSNY-FM (100.1), WLKQ-FM (102.3) and WTSH-FM (107.1).
Tech has its best seven-game ACC record since the 1995-96 season, and has won 11 of its last 16 conference games following Saturdays 80-60 win over Virginia. A victory Wednesday night would give Tech a 5-3 record at the halfway point of the ACC schedule. The Yellow Jackets began last season 0-7 before finishing 7-9. In 2000-01, Paul Hewitt’s first season, Tech was 4-4 at the halfway point, and finished 8-8.
Tech has won all four of its ACC home games this season (NC State, Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia) by an average of 17.8 points. But the Jackets are just 1-7 away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum, including an 0-6 mark on opponents’ home courts.
The Yellow Jackets have built their recent success on defense, holding six of their last eight opponents to 40 percent or worse shooting from the floor. In the same period of time, however, Tech has shot 45.7 percent from the floor and 40.3 percent from three-point range. Tech has also had success in the last two trips to Littlejohn Coliseum, shooting 54.9 percent overall and 51.9 percent from three-point range to score victories.
“Our history there is not stellar,” said head coach Paul Hewitt. “They’re a good team at home. They have had some quality wins, especially Cincinnati. I don’t want to wake anybody up on our team. I want our guys to go in there thinking it’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum. I hope we can shoot the ball well like we have the last two years there, and I have a lot of confidence in our ability to guard people.”
Hewitt’s starting five for the last 10 games has been 6-3 freshman Jarrett Jack, 6-4 junior Marvin Lewis, 6-4 sophomore B.J. Elder, 6-10 freshman Chris Bosh and 7-1 sophomore Luke Schenscher, and the Yellow Jackets are 6-4 with that group on the floor for the opening tip. Tech has used four different starting lineups this season, only Jack and Bosh have started every game.
Tech has three players scoring in double figures for the season, led by Bosh, who has scored 20 or more in four of his last five games and ranks eighth in the ACC in scoring at 16.3 points per game. The ACC Rookie of the Year candidate leads the ACC in field goal percentage (60.0) and is second in rebounding (9.3), and is the nations top rebounder among freshmen.
Elder, who ranks 10th in the conference 16.1 points a game overall, averages 17.4 ppg in ACC games. He leads the ACC in three-point shooting percentage at 44.4 percent and ranks sixth in overall field goal percentage at 47.8 percent. Lewis, who scored 25 points Saturday against Virginia and averages 17.7 points per game in league play, ranks 16th in the ACC overall at 13.4 points per game and fourth in three-point percentage (41.2).
Jack, who averages 8.0 points and 6.1 assists (fifth in the ACC), averaged 12.5 points and 7.5 assists in Techs two wins last week. Schenscher averages 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds for the season and is hitting 50 percent of his field goal tries.
“Balance has always been very important to me,” said Hewitt. “Our guys understand the value of taking good shots and moving the ball around and see who else might have the hot hand. If you try to rely on or two guys to carry the load for you and one has an off night, it can knock you out. Jarrett has made all the difference in the world to us offensively right now. His assist numbers are still good, but he’s scoring more now, which makes him all the more dangerous.”
Tech gets help off the bench from 6-8 sophomore post-man Ed Nelson, Tech’s fourth-leading scorer at 7.5 points along with 6.9 rebounds (2nd on the team, 7th in the ACC). Ismail Muhammad, a 6-6 sophomore forward averaging 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds, and Anthony McHenry, a 6-7 sophomore averaging 2.4 points and 1.7 rebounds, provide excellent defense on the wing.
“As we get more mature, our help defense has gotten better,” said Hewitt. “We have guard the ball individually very well, and we’ve guarded the post pretty well. What I’ve seen the last few games is our help defense, when the ball goes into the post, is much improved.”
Edward Scott, a 6-0 senior, leads Clemson in scoring at 16.6 points a game and is second in the ACC in assist-turnover ratio. Chey Christie, a 6-4 sophomore guard, averages 10.9 points a game, and Sharrod Ford, a 6-0 sophomore forward, averages 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. All three of those players have started every Clemson game. The rest of the Tiger lineup includes Olu Babalola, a 6-6 sophomore forward averaging 8.0 points per game, and either 6-7 junior Chris Hobbs (7.6) or 6-8 senior Ray Henderson (7.0) in thye post.
“Edward Scott is a talented player,” said Hewitt. In my mind, though, the thing that makes them go is the play of guys like Chris Hobbs, Ray Henderson and Sharrod Ford. They allow Ed Scott to do a lot of things he does and give him some freedom.”
TECH SERIES VS. CLEMSON
oGeorgia Tech and Clemson split the regular-season series last season, leaving Tech with a 50-49 all-time lead in the series. The Tigers defeated Tech, 83-76, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 5, while the Jackets returned the favor, 74-50, on Feb. 6 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
oTony Akins scored 20 in the first meeting, but Clemson dominated the Jackets inside with 25 points and 10 rebounds from Chris Hobbs and outrebounded Tech, 43-35. In the second meeting, the Jackets took a 35-33 edge on the boards and shot 51.9 percent, led by B.J. Elder’s 19 points.
oTech has won its last two games at Littlejohn Coliseum after dropping seven in a row prior to 2001, but still has a 6-24 record in the building and a 13-31 mark all-time at Clemson. Tech was Clemsons opponent in the first game ever played at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tigers won, 76-72, on Nov. 30, 1968.
oTech has won its last two games at Littlejohn largely because of hot perimeter shooting. The Yellow Jackets have connected on 51.9 percent of its three-point attempts (28-of-54) and 54.9 percent overall (62-of-113) in the two games combined. Tech was 11-of-23 from three-point range in last years 74-50 win, and hit a school-record 17 threes in 31 attempts the year before in the Jackets 111-108 victory.
oTech swept a season series from the Tigers last year for the first time since the 1985-86 season. Since the 1987-88 season, the teams have split their regular-season series every year except 2000-01 and 1996-97, when Clemson swept Tech.
oThe 99 all-time meetings are 28 more than Tech has with any other ACC member. The home team has won 25 of the last 31 regular-season meetings.
oTech’s 111-108 win on Jan. 24, 2001, was one of the wildest games in the Jackets ACC history, matching a win at Florida State by the same score in 1999 for the most points Tech has scored in a conference game. The teams combined for 31 three-point field goals, with the oddity that Tony Akins did not make one of them and went scoreless in the game.
POINT TO PROVE ON THE ROAD
The Yellow Jackets have played eight games away from Alexander Memorial Coliseum this season and lost seven of them, including an 0-6 record on opponents home courts. Techs only win away from home this season is a 67-53 decision against Marist at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 7.
But Tech has accomplished much away from home since Paul Hewitt became head coach, most notably wins over UCLA and Kentucky on neutral courts in his first season, along with snapping a 16-game ACC road losing streak at Virginia and winning at Clemson for the first time in eight years.
Tech has been a much better road team under Paul Hewitt, posting a 13-19 mark (including neutral games) in his first two seasons following a 7-29 mark away from home in its last two years under Bobby Cremins. The Jackets road losses this season have included No. 17 Minnesota, Syracuse, No. 22 Maryland, No. 19 Wake Forest and No. 3 Duke.
By the numbers, Tech is shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor and 27.4 percent from three-point range in road games this season. The Jackets have a minus-3.8 turnover margin on the road, and has been on the short end (149-126) in free throw attempts. Its hosts on the road have hit 45.2 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from behind the arc.
A BETTER START
Georgia Tech has won 11 of its last 16 conference games and has its best seven-game record in the league since 1995-96, when Tech finished first with a 13-3 regular-season mark.
The Yellow Jackets finished the 2001-02 ACC slate at 7-9 after dropping their first seven, which was the biggest turnaround in conference history. Techs seven ACC wins broke the previous record of four straight wins by a team beginning the season 0-7 or worse, held by NC State in 1996-97 and Florida State in 2001-02. Tech wound up defeating every team in the ACC during the season except Duke and Maryland, who handed the Jackets their only two losses after January.
TRIO FUELS TECH OFFENSE
When Georgia Tech has B.J. Elder, Chris Bosh and Marvin Lewis going at the same time, the Yellow Jackets have been hard to stop. Saturday, Tech managed to stay hot even when one of the three was held in check. Elder scored just six points in the game, but the Jackets still scored 80 and won by 20.
All three players rank among the top 16 in the ACC in scoring average. Bosh and Elder rank first and sixth, respectively, in field goal percentage, and Elder and Lewis rank No. 1 and 4 in three-point percentage (42.9 percent combined) while ranking fourth and eighth in three-pointers made per game (4.7 combined).
In the eight games since Tulane (the end of a three-game losing streak), Tech has averaged 77.2 points, shot 45.7 percent from the floor, 40.3 percent from three-point range and 72.6 percent from the free throw line. Tech has a plus-8 turnover margin and has assisted on 63.7 percent its baskets.
Individually, Bosh has averaged 17.8 points a game, Lewis 17.0 and Elder 15.8 in that stretch. They have combined to shoot 52.9 percent from the floor, 46.6 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the line.
PUTTING THE CLAMPS ON
Georgia Tech has tightened its defense of late, holding six of its last eight opponents at 40 percent or under from the floor. Techs field goal percentage defense (41.3) and its three-point percentage defense (34.6) against ACC foes is third-best in the league.
In spite of allowing 91 points and 50.8 percent shooting by Duke in Durham, Tech has limited its last eight foes to 40.2-percent from the floor, 32.7 percent from three-point range and 66.1 points per game.
Tech has managed to shut down five of the ACCs top scorers in that stretch: NC States Julius Hodge (No. 1, 19.2 ppg before Tech), Florida State’s Tim Pickett (No. 4, 18.0 before Tech), Duke’s J.J. Redick (No. 6, 17.2 before Tech), North Carolina’s Rashad McCants (No. 2, 19.4 before Tech), and Virginia’s Travis Watson (No. 11, 14.9 before Tech). The Jackets held Hodge to just nine points (1-6 FG), Pickett to 13 (5-16 FG, 3-11 on threes), Redick to 11 (2-of-10 FG, 1-6 on threes), McCants to 12 (5-18 FG, 2-7 on threes) and Watson to four (2-8 FG).
Worth noting: Tech ranked at the bottom of the ACC standings in every defensive category back in December, but has improved itself over the month of January. In all games, Tech now ranks sixth in scoring defense (69.1), fourth in field goal percentage defense (40.9) and seventh in three-point percentage defense (34.6). In ACC games only, Tech ranks fifth, third and third, respectively, in those categories.
TOEING THE LINE
After a poor start this season, Tech has made 72.6 percent of its charity tosses (138-of-190) in the last eight games. The Yellow Jackets have ranked last in the ACC in free throw percentage all season until now, coming in eighth currently.
The Jackets have connected on 73.6 percent in ACC games, the third best figure among the leagues teams. Three Tech players rank among the conferences top 15 in free throw percentage in ACC games only — Marvin Lewis (eighth, 81.1 percent), Chris Bosh (10th, 80.0) and B.J. Elder (14th, 76.9).
LEWIS BACK ON THE UPSWING
Marvin Lewis, Tech’s most experienced player and its best outside shooter, got hot and then got cold, now is hot again.
Lewis scored 25 points Saturday against Virginia (his third highest game of the season), 18 against North Carolina and 14 against Duke in the last eight days following a two-game swoon in which he scored a total of 11. In last weeks wins over North Carolina and Virginia, the 6-4 junior made 12 of 24 field goal attempts, 8-of-15 from three-point range and 19-of-24 from the free throw line.
The swings were even more dramatic in his three-point shooting, where he had hit a trey in 13 straight games before Wake Forest, then went 0-for-11 in the next three games. At Duke, he failed to attempt a three-pointer for the first time in his career.
In ACC games, Lewis has averaged 17.7 points, hit 56.7 percent of his field goals and 52.9 percent of his three-point attempts in ACC games.
Lewis also has done a better job of getting to the foul line to take advantage of his accuracy there, the best on the team. After a six-game stretch with no free throws, Lewis is 33-of-40 (82.5 percent) in his last eight games.