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Tech Visits FSU Looking for Reversal of Fortune

Feb. 8, 2006

ATLANTA –

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Hoping to snap a seven-game losing streak, three of which have come at home, Georgia Tech begins a stretch of three road games in the next four with an Atlantic Coast Conference contest against Florida State at 7 p.m. Thursday night.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU, with radio coverage provided by the Georgia Tech-ISP Sports Network. Radio coverage can be hear in the Atlanta area on WQXI-AM (790) and WTSH-FM (107.1), and nationally on XM Satellite Radio Ch. 191.

Tech (9-11 overall, 2-7 ACC this season) has not won since an 85-69 decision over Centenary on Jan. 10, which followed a 2-0 start in the ACC. Tech’s current seven-game slide matches its longest conference skid under head coach Paul Hewitt, when the Yellow Jackets dropped their first seven league games before recovering to finish 7-9. Overall, it is the longest losing streak for the Jackets since the end of the 1996-97 season. Tech has not lost eight in a row since the 1980-81 season, in its final year under Dwane Morrison.

Florida State (13-6, 4-5 ACC) has lost three of its last five games, including a pair of overtime defeats to Duke and Miami.

The Yellow Jackets’ have fared better on the road than at home during this stretch, having lost four road games by an average of 6.8 points, the last two by a total of three, 66-64 at Boston College and 63-62 at Virginia Tech. Tech played well defensively against those two teams, holding them to 40 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent from three-point range.

In those two games, Tech has rallied from deficits of 10 at Virginia Tech, to tie the game with a chance to win at the end, and from 12 at Boston College to within two at the end.

However, Tech continues to short-circuit itself on offense with turnovers (18.3 per game over the last seven) and second-half scoring droughts (one field goal over an 11:35 stretch against Maryland, one over a 12:53 stretch against Clemson, scoreless over a five-minute stretch at Virginia Tech, one FG over a 9:27 stretch against Miami). In an effort to reverse the trend, head coach Paul Hewitt will insert three different players in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game, creating the Yellow Jackets’ sixth different starting lineup this season. Sophomore guard Anthony Morrow and sophomore center Ra’Sean Dickey remain in the lineup, and will be joined by junior guard Mario West, senior forward Theodis Tarver and freshman guard Lewis Clinch.

Clinch will become the ninth player to start a game this season, and the eighth player to start an ACC game, while Morrow will be the only player to start every game.

The brightest spot for Georgia Tech over the last several games has been the emergence of sophomore center Ra’Sean Dickey, who has averaged 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds over his last eight games, shooting 64.9 percent and posting three double-doubles.

The 6-9 native of Clio, S.C., paced Tech with 21 points at Virginia Tech and 18 at Boston College, sinking 16-of-20 shots from the floor. Dickey is averaging 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds for the season, leading Tech in field goal percentage at 60 percent. In conference games, he has made 61.3 percent, which leads the ACC.

Anthony Morrow, the ACC’s second-leading three-point shooter, and Jeremis Smith, the conference’s second-leading rebounder, have formed a potent inside-outside combination for the Yellow Jackets this season and have been the only Tech players to start all 20 games.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., has averaged 16.8 points a game overall. He is second in the ACC with a 42.4-percent success rate from three-point range and is third in the conference in three-point field goals (2.80 per game). One of three Tech players averaging in double figures, Morrow has averaged 15.9 points and shoots 40.7 percent from three-point range in ACC games.

Smith, from Fort Worth, Texas, has transformed himself into a force in the paint on both ends of the floor this season, posting eight double-doubles. Fully recovered from a dislocated kneecap that sidelined him for 17 games last year, Smith averages 12.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while hitting 48.0 percent of his field goal tries.

Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has started 18 of Tech’s 20 games at point guard, and ranks eighth in the ACC in assist average with 3.85 per game while averaging 9.2 points. D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 wingman from Los Angeles, Calif., has started Tech’s last 11 games at the other wing spot, averaging 5.5 points in those games, and averages 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds for the season.

Mario West, a 6-4 junior from Douglasville, Ga., who is Tech’s best on-the-bal defender, returned from six-game absence caused by a sprained toe when Tech played Clemson on Jan. 21. Averaging 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds this season, West has averaged nearly 17 minutes in the last four games and will be in the starting lineup Thursday for the first time since Dec. 28.

Off the bench, freshman Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has played well since missing five games with a stress fracture in his left leg. He scored a career-high 16 points at Boston College and averages 7.3 points for the season.

Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 senior, is Tech’s top post reserve when he doesn’t start, having started eight games this season while averaging 3.7 points and 3,0 rebounds.

Comments from head coach Paul Hewitt

“We’ve obviously been playing some inconsistent basketball over the last couple of weeks. We did a decent job at Boston College and Virginia Tech, but didn’t match Miami’s intensity in the second half on Saturday. We’ve got a couple of days her to get ourselves together before we go to Tallahassee.”

[On FSU’s Al Thornton] – “He’s really playing well. He had a big game against us last year down in Tallahassee. He’s an outstanding player. The thing you like about him, is that he’s gotten better very year. He’s obviously listened to him coaches and worked on his game. He’s going to be tough to handle because of his size and versatility.”

[On the losing streak] – “We’re trying to stay as upbeat as possible. That’s the only choice we have. Playing college basketball is a great opportunity for our players. I’ve been lucky as a coach, starting out as a JV coach at Westbury High School on Long Island and now as a coach in the ACC, this is a great opportunity. So, I can’t look at it as because we’re in this losing streak, it dulls your effort or what you do to prepare. That’s the same thing I expect out of my players.

“Are we disappointed? Absolutely, we’re disappointed. Should we be playing better? No question. But it’s about being fortunate enough to have another game to prepare for. That’s the only thing you can think, that you have another game to play.”

[On Leonard Hamilton] – “If you keep your group together and you gather experience, you put yourself in position to win some games. The coaches in this league, as we all know, is outstanding. Leonard Hamilton is a proven winner. He knows how to develop a team, and given time and facilities, he’s going to do it.”

[On Ra’Sean Dickey] – “From a mental standpoint, he’s coming into the games more prepared and understanding what teams are trying to do. He still has things to work on. He’s turning the ball over too much. He’s the first to tell you that. But he seems to be more prepared for what teams are going to do, and that’s why you’ve seen his numbers improve.”

[On Dickey’s high school reputation as being inconsistent in his effort] – “I think that’s a fair observation. Ra’Sean is a bright enough kid to know he’s got to become more consistent in that area. At the same time, he’s a young player with an awful lot of talent. He’s a very good student, and I tease him sometimes that he’s got more passion for his books than he does about basketball. I tell him, don’t lose your passion for your books, but I want to see more of that on the court. But you see him getting better. He’s taking better care of the basketball, and over the last eight or 10 ball games, he’s done a nice job.”

[Is this a group of players you are confident can be competitive in the ACC?] – “Of course, I do, but when you’re going through what we’re going through, it’s hard to look ahead. You just try and worry about that next ball game. As I said from the beginning of the year, this is a talented group. I don’t particularly think I’ve done a great job in terms of reaching them in some areas, but we’re all growing together.”

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