March 3, 2007
Winners of six games in the last eight since the start of February, Georgia Tech closes out its regular-season schedule Sunday at 3 p.m. against Boston College at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, the only regular-season meeting between the two teams. A win would give the Yellow Jackets an 8-8 record in the ACC and 20 overall wins for the third time in the last four years.
Sunday’s regular season finale against the Eagles can be seen nationally on Fox Sports Net, and throughout the Southeast on FSN South. Radio coverage for both games is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network and heard locally on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1). A broadcast of the game can also be heard nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 192.
Tech is 19-10 overall, 7-8 in the ACC, following Wednesday’s 84-77 victory over No. 8 North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets’ overall mark is an eight-win improvement over last year’s record and identical at this point to that of the 2004-05 team that reached the finals of the ACC Tournament and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Following a 2-6 start in ACC in the first half of its ACC schedule, Tech can complete its most dramatic turnaround since the 2001-02 team finished 7-9 in the conference after an 0-7 start, if the Jackets defeat the Eagles.
Tech is in seventh place in the conference standings, a game behind Duke (8-7) and a game ahead of Clemson and Florida State (both 6-9). A Tech win Sunday and a Duke loss to North Carolina would tie the Yellow Jackets and Blue Devils for sixth place. In that event, the Jackets would win a tiebreaker for the No. 6 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament by virtue of their win over the Tar Heels Thursday night.
Boston College, 19-9 overall, 10-5 in the ACC, entered the weekend tied for second place with North Carolina and Virginia Tech, which hosts Clemson on Sunday. Virginia, pending a Saturday visit to Wake Forest, is alone in first place at 11-4.
Sunday’s game marks the final regular-season game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum for Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard from Douglasville, Ga. It also is the 17th home game for Tech this season, tying a school record. One more win for Tech also will give the Yellow Jackets the 12th 20-win season in their history.
Mario West Plays Final Home Game
Senior guard Mario West is playing his last game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum Sunday against Boston College, the 101st game of a career in which he developed from a walk-on red-shirt to one of the best perimeter defenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He will make his fourth start of the season and 21st of his career Sunday.
The 6-5 senior is the last active player on Georgia Tech’s 2003-04 team that reached the National Championship game in San Antonio. He joined the team as a walk-on in 2002, earned a scholarship for the 2003-04 season, and made his name as the Yellow Jackets’ defensive catalyst, accumulating 115 steals to rank among Tech’s all-time top 20. Over four seasons, he has played in 100 games for the Yellow Jackets, starting 20, and helped Tech to 78 victories and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
A Dean’s List student who graduated last May with his bachelor’s degree in Management, West has been taking classes toward a certificate in Economics.
Jackets Set Thrillerdome Record
Georgia Tech is making history on its home court Sunday, playing its 17th game of the season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, matching the most played in any of the previous 50 seasons the Yellow Jackets have called the building home. At 15-1 following Thursday night’s 84-77 defeat of No. 8 North Carolina, Tech already has won more games in the Thrillerdome this season than ever before.
Tech’s previous high for homecourt victories in the Coliseum was 14 in 1963-64 (14-0) and 1994-95 (14-2), and the Yellow Jackets last played 17 games in the venerable on-campus home in 1997-98 (11-6 record).
Crittenton Makes Case for Rookie of the Year
Freshman Javaris Crittenton has effectively taken over the Yellow Jackets’ floor leadership over the last month of the season, the driving force behind Tech’s run of six wins in eight games since the beginning of February.
Currently, IN ACC GAMES ONLY, Crittenton is the highest-ranked freshman in scoring (16.0 ppg, 8th among all players) and steals (2.13 per game), No. 2 in assists (5.07) and free throw percentage (83.8 pct.).
> The 6-5 freshman has averaged 18.3 points during the last eight games, including 13 points and a career-high 11 assists Thursday night against North Carolina. He carried the Jackets with 29 points in their 63-57 win at Florida State, and had 22 points with nine assists and six rebounds in a 75-61 win against Wake Forest. Crittenton also scored 26 points against Clemson and 21 against NC State.
> During the last eight games, the Atlanta native also has hit 45.8 percent of his field goals (32.3 pct. from three-point range), averaged 5.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds, taken 19 steals and gone 38-for-45 (84.4 pct.) at the free throw line.
> Crittenton also put together a three-game stretch of ACC games against Clemson, Duke and Florida State in early January in which he averaged 18.7 points (59.4 pct. FG) and 5.3 assists. Tech defeated Duke and FSU and lost to Clemson on a last-second shot.
> Six of Crittenton’s seven 20-point games this season have come in ACC games (the other was Purdue on Maui), and Tech has won six of those seven games.
Series vs. Boston College
> This is the only regular-season meeting between the two teams this year, and only the second visit ever for the Eagles to Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
> The teams split two meetings in 2005-06, each team winning at home. Tech won the first meeting on Jan. 8, 60-58. Jeremis Smith led the way for Tech with 16 points, while Anthony Morrow scored 15. Craig Smith paced the Eagles with 26 points. The Eagles avenged the defeat by outlasting Tech, 66-64, on Jan. 29 in Chestnut Hill. Craig Smith again paced BC with 25 points, while Ra’Sean Dickey led Tech with 18.
> The three meetings in Boston have been played at different venues. Last year’s Jan. 29 game was Tech’s first visit to the Conte Forum, BC’s current home courts. The first game in the series on Dec. 31, 1946, was played at Boston Arena, and the teams also played in the Boston Garden on Jan. 19, 1980.
> Prior to last year, the teams met four times on neutral floors, including one outside the United States, a 65-62 overtime win for the Yellow Jackets in the 1986 Suntory Ball in Tokyo, Japan.
> The teams have met twice in NCAA Tournament competition, both of them won by Tech. The Yellow Jackets downed the Eagles, 103-89, in the 1996 Southeast Regional second round in Orlando, and eliminated the Eagles two seasons ago, 57-54 in the second round in Milwaukee.
Tech and the RPI
> Georgia Tech has an RPI ranking of No. 41 following Thursday night’s win over North Carolina and the 28th-toughest schedule in the country.
> The Yellow Jackets are 7-8 vs. teams in the top 50 of the current CollegeRPI.com ratings, and 8-8 vs. the top 100. Only six teams in the country have more wins against the RPI top 50 than does Tech, including North Carolina, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Duke and Maryland, all of whom the Yellow Jackets have played. Boston College and Maryland also have seven.
> Only nine teams in the country have more wins against the RPI top 50 than does Tech, including North Carolina, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Duke and Maryland, all of whom the Yellow Jackets have played.
> Tech has moved up 16 spots (60 to 41) in the RPI in the last month.
> Tech is 4-5 against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25, defeating No. 11 Memphis, No. 11 Duke and No. 25 Clemson (Feb. 3) and No. 8 North Carolina (Mar. 1), while losing to No. 5 UCLA, No. 23 Clemson (on Jan. 6), No. 4 North Carolina (Jan. 20), No. 24 Virginia Tech and No. 24 Virginia.
Quick Look at Tech
Georgia Tech has utilized the same starting lineup for its last seven games, led by freshmen Javaris Crittenton at the point guard spot and Thaddeus Young at the samll forward. Juniors Anthony Morrow, Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey have filled the off-guard, big forward and center positions.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, is the trigger man, averaging 14.5 points (16th in the ACC) as well as 5.6 assists per game (third in the ACC), while hitting 38.3 percent of his three-point field goal tries. Crittenton has averaged a team-high 16.0 points in Tech’s ACC games, eighth-best in the ACC) and tops among league freshmen, while topping the Jackets in minutes played (33.9 per game) in conference games.
Young, a 6-8 small forward, has averaged 19.0 points and 5.7 rebounds while hitting 56.1 percent of his shots over Tech’s last three games, including a career-high 25 points Thursday night against North Carolina. The Memphis, Tenn., native averaged 14.2 points per game for the season, including a 13.3 average and a 49.7-percent field goal success rate in ACC games.
Tech’s third perimeter player is Anthony Morrow, a 6-5 junior who has reached double figures in 12 of Tech’s last 17 games, including 18 points Thursday night against North Carolina. Morrow has started the last eight games since Feb. 3 against Clemson, and is Tech’s third-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) in ACC games. The Charlotte, N.C., native averages 9.5 points per game for the season.
Tech’s inside game is carried by two veterans in Jeremis Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, and Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C. Smith, the only Tech player to start every game this season, gives Tech muscle inside on defense and on the boards, averaging 8.2 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds. He has made 57.9 percent of his field goal tries this season and has averaged 7.2 boards over Tech’s last four games.
Since returning to the starting lineup for the Centenary game on Dec. 18, Dickey has posted nine double-figure efforts and has made 63.9 percent of his field goal attempts in ACC games (team-high 59.5 percent overall). Dickey averages 9.3 points per game against the conference, 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds overall this season.
Off the bench, Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard from Douglasville, Ga. (4.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.7 steals), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard, and has come through on the offensive end in three of Tech’s bigger wins this season. Tech has gotten a big lift recently from 6-10 post player Alade Aminu, a sophomore from Stone Mountain, who has averaged 4.9 points over the last eight games after not having appeared in any of Tech’s first eight ACC games.
Also averaging double-digit minutes is 6-8 freshman Zach Peacock of Miami, who started the first nine games of the season and averages 5.7 points and 3.0 rebounds as Tech’s backup center and power forward, and 6-5 sophomore D’Andre Bell of Los Angeles, who gave Tech a spark in the last seven games with excellent defense and 2.7 points a game. Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye, a 6-10 forward from Dakar, Senegal, has been slowed recently by a bout of the flu, but his biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations.
In Like a Lion
Georgia Tech enjoyed its best February since the 2001-02 team closed out the regular year with eight wins in 10 games, including seven-of-nine in the ACC. Tech’s 5-2 record for February was its best since that year and better than any of the Yellow Jackets three NCAA Tournament teams under Paul Hewitt.
Tech’s 2004 Final Four team was 4-4 in February before making its remarkable March run, and the 2004-05 group went 4-3 in February. The 2001 NCAA team was 4-4 during the month.
Tech’s record for March under Paul Hewitt is 19-12.
Market Fluctuations Tied to Defense
Tech has seen its season cycle up and down like the stock market, with its fortunes tied primarily to defense. Tech has allowed just 65.0 points a game during its last eight games, which followed a streak of four straight losses in which it allowed 78.8 points per game.
The Yellow Jackets began the season with five straight wins (67.8 ppg), including wins over Purdue and No. 11 Memphis in the first two rounds of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Then came three losses in the next four games to UCLA (Maui championship game), Miami and Vanderbilt as Tech approached fall semester final exams (81.0 ppg).
Coming out of finals, Tech won seven of its next eight games, including homecourt wins over state-rival Georgia, 11th-ranked Duke and Florida State, (60.4 ppg allowed).
Quoting head coach Paul Hewitt
On Tech’s current level of play – “We’ve been saying for the last month that our team is playing much better. There are obviously a lot of good teams around the country. We just hope that we give ourselves a chance to play against those best teams. I feel very confident about how this team is playing. We had a hiccup at Virginia, up seven with 3:41 to go and they made some plays and we didn’t. But that didn’t take away from the effort that we put out there. We did a good job closing [the North Carolina] game out – we made our free throws, rebounded and took care of the ball. We got a win those kids definitely deserved. They earned that win. They did a great job.”
Roy Williams says if Tech’s not in the NCAA Tournament something is wrong – “I appreciate his comments, but we feel like we’ve got more work to do because of the whole we dug for ourselves. But I do stand by what I say – I do feel that we’re playing as well as anybody out there right now. And I don’t say that if I don’t think it’s true. I’ve been saying for the last month, `Just give yourselves a chance to get to that tournament and let’s see what happens.’ This was a big step in that direction, but we’ve got to follow it up with a good game Sunday. We’ve got to. We can’t afford any slip-ups now because we’ve left ourselves no margin for error.”
On Thaddeus Young – “He’s getting more and more aggressive. He’s an unselfish basketball player in an age where everybody thinks me, me, me, and he’s getting criticized for it … by some of the national people who don’t even watch us and don’t understand how good this kid is, and how good a teammate he is. He’s averaging almost 14 points a game, almost five rebounds, and he’s as unselfish as there is. Do I want him to shoot more? Absolutely. But I love his game. He’s a terrific player.”