Jan. 4, 2007
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech resumes conference play Saturday with a 4 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference contest against 23rd-ranked (AP) Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum, the Yellow Jackets’ first road game since a Dec. 9 loss at Vanderbilt. The Yellow Jackets have won five straight games, looking for a sixth, and also are looking for their first win on an opponents’ home floor since Feb. 26, 2005.
Saturday’s game will be televised regionally across the ACC’s regional cable network, including FSN South in the Southeast. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network, airing in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1).
Tech has not won five straight games since early in the 2004-05 season, and has lost 13 straight contests on opponents’ home courts, dating back to a 76-72 triumph at Miami late in the 2004-05 season. Tech has dropped both of its road games this season, Dec. 3 at Miami (90-82) in the Jackets’ ACC opener and Dec. 9 at Vanderbilt (73-64).
The Jackets bring an 11-3 overall record into Wednesday’s game, having won six of eight games since returning from a runner-up finish in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Tech’s wins have come against Centenary, Georgia, Troy, Saint Francis and Winston-Salem State, all at home by an average of 34.8 points. Tech’s win over Winston-Salem State gave it 11 wins this season, matching the win total for all of 2005-06.
Clemson is undefeated at 15-0 following its 68-66 win at Florida State Wednesday night, the ACC opener for both teams. Tech holds a 55-52 all-time lead in its series with the Tigers, who won both meetings last year.
Since returning from Maui, Tech has played eight teams with an average RPI of 208, according to CollegeRPI.com. Tech’s next five games are against teams with an average RPI of 10.6, including three in the top 10 (No. 7 Clemson, No. 3 Duke and No. 5 North Carolina). They have a combined record of 66-7.
Series vs. Clemson
> Overall, Tech holds a 55-52 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 107 all-time meetings are 28 more than Tech has played with any other ACC member.
> Tech has won five of the last seven meetings and nine of the last 13 in the series. But the Yellow Jackets trail 27-29 to the Tigers since joining the ACC, and Clemson scored its first season sweep of Tech since the 1996-97 season.
> Last season: Georgia Tech scored just six points in the final 14 minutes and committed 27 turnovers in dropping a 73-63 decision to the Tigers on Jan. 21 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Four Tech players scored in double figures, led by Anthony Morrow’s 16, while Akin Akingbala led four Tigers in double digits with 19. In the regular-season finale in Clemson, the Tigers broke open a one-point game at the five-minute mark with an 18-3 run to take a 95-82 win. Vernon Hamilton scored 24 points, while Akin Akingbala and Shawan Robinson scored 22. Lewis Clinch led Tech with 22.
> The Yellow Jackets have won eight of the 12 games between the two teams since Paul Hewitt became Tech’s head coach, with a 4-2 record at home and a 4-2 mark at Clemson. Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell is 2-4 vs. Tech.
> Tech is just 15-33 all-time in games played at Clemson, including an 8-26 mark in Littlejohn Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets have won four of the last six games at Littlejohn, but lost seven in a row at Clemson prior to that.
Quick Look at Tech
Red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye became the eighth Georgia Tech player, and fourth freshman, to start a game when he took the floor for the opening tip against Saint Francis. Faye, a 6-10 forward, replaced Lewis Clinch in the starting five and joined point guard Javaris Crittenton, wingman Thaddeus Young, strong forward Jeremis Smith and center Ra’Sean Dickey.
Faye’s biggest contributions come on defense, where his 7-foot-3 wingspan has caused havoc in Tech’s press and in halfcourt defensive situations, and also can handle, pass and shoot the ball. The Dakar, Senegal, native has averaged 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his two starts, and 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds for the season.
Young, a 6-8 small forward, has assumed the team lead in scoring at 14.2 points per game (18th in the ACC) with five double-figure games in the last six. The Memphis, Tenn., native established a career high with 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Georgia, his third double-double of the season. Young, who went 9-for-11 from the foul line to help seal the win over the Bulldogs, is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from three-point range this season.
The insertion of Faye means Smith, a 6-8 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, is the only Tech player to start every game. Smith has improved offensively and is just as tough on the boards and on defense as he was a year ago, averaging 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (65.1 percent) and has eight double-digit scoring efforts.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, has averaged 13.3 points (48.4 pct. FG) as well as 6.0 assists, second-best in the ACC. Crittenton has made 44.4 percent of his three-point tries during Tech’s winning streak, and has averaged 7.0 assists, including 27 assists and just one turnover in the last three games.
Put back in the starting lineup for the Centenary game, Dickey has posted three double-figure efforts in the last four games and has averaged 11.3 points and 7.8 rebounds over that stretch. The 6-10 junior from Clio, S.C., averages 8.2 points and 6.1 rebounds this season, hitting 58.1 percent of his shots from the floor while adding a team-high 20 blocked shots.
Hewitt has built plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, playing 11 players more than 10 minutes a game during the current winning streak, and has shifted the focus of Tech’s playing rotation to defense, giving Faye and reserve wingman D’Andre Bell more court time over the last five games.
Clinch, a 6-3 sophomore from Cordele, Ga., ranks 22nd in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring at 14.2 points a game, while hitting 53.2 percent of his field goals and 47.6 percent of his three-point tries. Mario West, a 6-5 senior guard (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 54 pct. FG), has been the Jackets’ catalyst on defense and logged important backup minutes at point guard.
Also averaging double-digit minutes are Peacock, a 6-8 all-state performer from Miami who started the first nine games (7.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 56.5 pct. FG), 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (7.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg), and 6-5 sophomore Bell (1.2 ppg, 0.8 rpg).
Game-Time Decision for Peacock
Freshman center Zach Peacock suffered a fractured right cheekbone late in Saturday night’s game with Saint Francis and missed Wednesday’s game with Winston-Salem State. A closer examination of Peacock’s injury Tuesday revealed no need for surgery, however, and he was fitted for a protective face mask.
Peacock practiced Thursday and has a good chance to be on the floor for Tech’s game at Clemson. The 6-8 Miami, Fla., native suffered the fracture when he and teammate Paco Diaw both dove on the floor for a loose ball with 2:23 remaining, and Diaw’s knee struck Peacock’s cheekbone.
Peacock played in all 13 Tech games before his injury, starting the first nine, and has averaged 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes against Saint Francis, which the Yellow Jackets won 87-43.
Quoting Coach Hewitt
On getting back into ACC play and beyond – “From here on out, as I told the guys last night, every game is a one-possession game. You don’t know which possession it will be, but you have to win every one of them. You can make an argument that our next five games in the ACC are against the toughest teams.”
On Clemson and head coach Oliver Purnell – “He’s built a ball club with defense first. They’re a long, active team, and the two stats that stand out to me are the differential in steals and the number of offensive rebounds they have. That’s where they have really created a separation from their opponents. They’ve beaten some good teams – South Carolina, Mississippi State. They went on the road and whipped Minnesota, then going on the road last night at Florida State.”
Keys to success against Clemson – “We need to limit their second-chance points and take care of the ball. If you look at our basketball team, the one area of our team where people will test us is, looking at guys 6-8 and 6-10 on the perimeter (Young and Faye), can we handle the ball? I know they can handle the ball. They’re both very good passers, along with Javaris. Proving we can handle the ball will be big. For the next two games, we’re going to face pressure.
On Tech’s size on the perimeter – “You saw it in the Georgia game. They’re a very athletic team. You saw it with D’Andre (Bell), Mouhammad (Faye) and Thaddeus (Young) out there on the perimeter. They can clog things up.”
On Tech’s expanded bench – “Guys have proven through their work in practice that they deserve a chance. If they come out in practice and play with the intensity that D’Andre or Mouhammad play with, you give them a chance. It makes your basketball team deeper and stronger.”
Defensive Focus Returns
Georgia Tech’s defensive intensity and execution has picked up since the team’s back-to-back losses to Miami and Vanderbilt in early December. The Yellow Jackets have allowed an average of 53.0 points in the last five games, holding Georgia nearly 20 points below its average in a 78-69 win and Troy more than 20 points under its norm in an 85-55 win.
After allowing four straight opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor (through Vanderbilt on Dec. 9), Tech has allowed the last five foes just 32.4 percent from the floor, and only 24.8 percent from three-point range. That includes a 38.2-percent night by Georgia.
Tech has forced 108 turnovers in the last four games (21.6 average), and taken 66 steals (13.2 average). For the season, Tech leads the ACC in steals at 10.7 per game and ranks ninth nationally in that category.
The starting guards of Tech’s last three opponents have shot 19-for-81 (23.5 percent) from the floor overall and 8-for-41 (19.5 percent) from three-point range. They have collected 29 assists to 46 turnovers combined.
While senior guard Mario West has been Tech’s defensive catalyst all along, Tech’s improvement on defense can, in part, be traced to the emergence of D’Andre Bell and Mouhammad Faye in the Yellow Jackets’ playing rotation. Bell, who started 11 games last year, has averaged 14.4 minutes in Tech’s last five games and Faye more than 18, and they have combined for 11 steals and five blocked shots and numerous deflections.
Offense Continues to Impress
The Yellow Jackets remain No. 2 in the ACC in scoring offense (85.1 ppg) and field goal percentage (50.5 pct.) and rank fourth in three-point field goal percentage (38.7 pct.) and second in rebound margin (plus-9.1). Nationally, Tech is 11th, 17th, 66th and 18th, respectively, in those categories. Tech also ranks third in the ACC in assists per game (17.4) and second in offensive rebounds (15.1).
> Clinch, Young and Crittenton have combined to make 64-of-146 three-point attempts (43.8 percent).
> Tech has had more assists than turnovers in nine of 14 games, and is on the plus side for the season. Last year’s Tech team had an assist-turnover ratio of 0.83-1 for the season, and in only six of 30 games did the Yellow Jackets have more assists than turnovers.
> During Tech’s current winning streak, the Yellow Jackets have assisted on 63.3 percent of their field goals.
> Tech has made 50 percent or more of its field goals in 13 of its last 22 games dating back to last season, including eight of 14 games this year.
> Tech’s two primary point guards, Javaris Crittenton and Mario West, combined for 36 assists and TWO turnovers in the Yellow Jackets’ last three games. Adding in the late minutes played by D’Andre Bell at point guard, Tech played the three games with just THREE turnovers from the position.
> Mario West does not have to score to contribute on many levels for Georgia Tech. After scoring 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting against Georgia, the 6-5 senior went scoreless against Troy but dealt five assists and grabbed five rebounds. During Tech’s winning streak, West has 13 assists, four turnovers and 14 steals.
> Ra’Sean Dickey notched the seventh double-double of his career against Troy (10 points and 10 rebounds). He has averaged 11.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in Tech’s last four games.
> Anthony Morrow has averaged 12.2 points, shot 55 percent from the floor, and gone 15-for-31 (48.4 pct.) from three-point range in Tech’s last five games. Morrow became Tech’s first reserve to lead the team in scoring this season when he scored 21 against Winston-Salem State.
> Thaddeus Young has 11 assists and just six turnovers in the last five games.
> Over his last 22 games, including the last eight of his freshman year, Lewis Clinch is 45-of-93 (48.4 percent) from behind the three-point arc.
> After going 19-for-24 from the foul line in Tech’s Maui wins over Purdue and Memphis, Javaris Crittenton is just 18-for-28 in the nine games since.
> Ra’Sean Dickey had a career-high three assists each against Georgia and Troy, and has 19 dimes this season after collecting just 17 all of last year and 20 for his first two years combined.
> Backup point guard Mario West has 11 games this season with one turnover or less (eight with zero).
> Sophomore Alade Aminu notched the first double-figure game of his career against Saint Francis (10 pts, 6 reb). He has played 14 minutes on average in Tech’s last four games, averaging 5.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
> Tech has more starts by freshmen than any other ACC school (37) this season, and the second fewest by seniors (2).
> Eleven of Tech’s 13 players have averaged more than 10 minutes a game during Tech’s current five-game winning streak.
> Tech’s rate of 10.7 steals per game is its highest under Paul Hewitt, leads the ACC and ranks ninth nationally. The Jackets picked Saint Francis for 21 steals Saturday night, three shy of the school record.