Jan. 22, 2008
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech returns to the road this week for a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference games, first against NC State at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. The Yellow Jackets play five of their next six games on the road, visiting Virginia Sunday before hosting Maryland on Feb. 2. Road games at Wake Forest, Connecticut and Clemson follow. This is the only meeting between Tech and NC State this year.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Radio coverage of the game is provided on the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and can be heard in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790), WREK-FM (91.1) and WTSH-FM (107.1). Tech’s broadcast also can be heard on XM Radio Ch. 191.
The Yellow Jackets are 8-9 for the season and 1-3 in the ACC, earning their first conference win Saturday at home against Virginia Tech, 81-70, following losses to Florida State, then-No. 25 Miami and then-No. 1 North Carolina. Four of the Yellow Jackets’ losses this year have come to teams in the current top 25 (No. 1 Kansas, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 7 Indiana, No. 14 Vanderbilt), two of those on the road. The Jackets are 2-4 on opponents’ home courts this year.
NC State, 12-5 overall and 1-2 in the ACC, snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday night with a 79-77 overtime win at home over No. 21 Miami. The Wolfpack had won seven games in a row prior to the start of ACC play, then dropped their first two conference games at North Carolina and Clemson.
Tech has lost 10 straight games to NC State in Raleigh, including seven in a row at the RBC Center. Among teams the Yellow Jackets play on an annual basis, only Georgia (12 in a row) and North Carolina (11 in a row) have longer homecourt winning streaks against Tech.
Tech has played a strong schedule thus far, posting a schedule strength rank of No. 8 according to this week’s RPI rankings. The teams Tech has lost to have a combined record of 127-32, including the aforementioned top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 83-7.
At 8-9, Tech is below .500 through 17 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Yellow Jackets were 7-10 through 17 games that year and fell to 7-13 before rallying to a 15-16 final mark.
Series vs. NC State
> NC State leads the overall series with Georgia Tech, 48-33, but Georgia Tech has won the last two meetings, including a 74-65 homecourt victory in the teams’ only meeting last season … The Wolfpack had won seven straight games in the series until Tech broke the string with a 71-68 victory in Atlanta on Feb. 12, 2006 … The Wolfpack have still won 16 of the last 22 meetings … Prior to that, Tech had won seven in a row.
> Tech has yet to win at NC State’s RBC Center in seven tries, and has lost 10 straight games to the Wolfpack on their home court, dating back to Jan. 24, 1996 … The Jackets are 7-27 against NC State in Raleigh, including a 7-18 mark in Reynolds Coliseum, the former homecourt of the Wolfpack … Tech also has lost its last 12 games to NC State in games played away from Atlanta, including the last nine meetings in Raleigh and two ACC Tournament tilts in Greensboro.
> Tech is 5-9 against NC State under head coach Paul Hewitt, and is 1-0 against Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe.
> Since it joined the ACC, Tech is 25-35 against NC State, including regular-season and tournament.
Quick Look at Tech
Georgia Tech’s starting lineup for the last three games has included freshman Moe Miller at point guard and junior D’Andre Bell at one wing. Miller, who replaced Matt Causey in the lineup, had started Tech’s first two games before injuring his back in the Virgin Islands, and Bell, who replaced Lewis Clinch.
Regardless of which player starts, Miller and Causey both play significant minutes at the point, combining to average 12.5 points and 6.5 assists per game. Despite playing less than 17 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks ninth in the ACC in assists and assist-turnover ratio. He exploded for seven threes and 30 points Saturday against Virginia Tech. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., has accumulated 26 assists and 10 turnovers in the last eight games.
Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 10th in the ACC with 15.0 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 219 for his career, Morrow has hit 46.2 percent of his three-point attempts this season, and has averaged 16.0 points in Tech’s ACC games.
Bell, a 6-5 junior, provides good physical defense on the perimeter and can score at times (15 points vs. Florida State). He averages 5.7 points for the season, 7.0 vs. the ACC, and has shot 48.4 percent from the floor. Bell started four games at point guard in Miller’s absence early in the year and now is playing more on the wing as Miller and Causey have developed into more of a tandem.
Smith, the team captain and a 6-8 forward from Fort Worth, Texas, is Tech’s third-leading scorer at 10.3 points per game and its leading rebounder at 7.4 per game (10th in the ACC), Smith has averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in ACC games thus far, including two double-doubles in the last three games.
Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., averages 6.9 points anf 3.9 rebounds while leading the Jackets in field goal percentage at 62.5 rebounds. Lawal snapped a two-game scoreless streak with 13 points and six rebounds against North Carolina.
Backcourt reserves — Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 12 this year, including 11 at Georgia and 13 at Miami. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game, but has struggled in ACC games (6.3 ppg, 29.2 pct. FG). Six-foot-4 freshman Lance Storrs of Decatur, Ga., averaging 1.8 points per game, had his best game of the season against Centenary (8 pts.), but has played just one minute in ACC games.
Frontcourt reserves — Hewitt can go to 6-8 sophomore Zack Peacock of Miami, Fla., and 6-10 junior Alade Aminu of Stone Mountain, Ga. Peacock is Tech’s fourth-leading scorer (8.2) and rebounder (4.2), and posted his first career double-double (14 pts., 11 reb.) against North Carolina. Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games, has averaged 7.4 points and 4.5 rebounds while hitting 54.5 percent of his shots from the floor. Tech also has 6-11 red-shirt freshman Brad Sheehan of Latham, N.Y., who has not played since Dec. 27.
Last Time Out — Georgia Tech 81, Virginia Tech 70
Georgia Tech wasted all of a 16-point halftime lead, but regained control of the game in the final eight minutes and pulled away for an 11-point win, its first of the season in ACC play after three straight losses.
The Hokies, trailing 39-23 at the half, scored the first 13 points after intermission and eventually tied the game at 55-55 on Malcom Delaney’s three-point basket at 8:27. But Gani Lawal tipped in his own miss on Tech’s next possession, and Virginia Tech was never able to catch up again.
With the Hokies focusing defensive pressure on shooters Anthony Morrow and Lewis Clinch, Matt Causey took advantage by hitting seven threes and 9-of-14 shots from the floor overall and scored 30 points, nearly three times his previous high in a Division I game. The senior from Gainesville, Ga., also made 5-of-7 from the foul line.
Causey scored 18 of his points in the second half, including three of his threes and 5-of-5 free throws. He made two charity tosses to give Tech a 59-55 lead at the 7:36 mark, then drained threes on two of the next three possessions as the Yellow Jackets extended their lead to six. He added an old-fashioned three-point play at the 2:54 mark and two more free throws at the 1:05 mark to help seal the win.
Perimeter Defense Improving
Georgia Tech ranked dead last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in most defensive categories entering conference play, but has significantly improved over the last week.
While Tech remains last in overall statistics, in ACC games only, it ranks fourth in scorig defense (74.2 ppg), eighth in field goal percentage defense (45.3 pct.) and FIRST in three-point field goal defense (22.7 pct.).
Presbyterian and Georgia combined to make 22-of-36 three-point shots against Tech, but the Yellow Jackets’ last three foes (Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech) have combined for only 6-of-44 (13.6 pct.) from bonus distance.
Part of the reason for the improvement is the insertion of D’Andre Bell back into the starting lineup. Bell has averaged 28.5 minutes in ACC games and is the Yellow Jackets’ top perimeter defender.
Tech Carries on Offensively
Head coach Paul Hewitt has said repeatedly this season that his Yellow Jackets can score, but the team’s success will depend on defense and rebounding the basketball.
Tech has failed to score 70 points only three times this season, against Kansas (66), Florida State (64) and Miami (68), but in each case the total exceeded the opponent’s defensive yield for the season. Saturday, the Yellow Jackets scored 81 points against the ACC’s top defensive team in Virginia Tech (59.5 ppg).
> Tech is averaging 76.9 points per game (6th in the ACC), is hitting 46.9 percent of its shots from the floor (3rd in the ACC) and 38.3 percent of its three-point attempts (5th in the ACC). Last season, the Jackets’ season scoring average of 78.6 points per game (3rd in the ACC) and its field goal percentage of 49.0 percent (also No. 3) were the best figures the Jackets have achieved in seven seasons under head coach Paul Hewitt.
> Tech has made 41.0 percent of its three-point shots in ACC games.
> Tech has shot 45 percent or higher from the floor in 12 of 17 games.
Quoting Coach Hewitt
On Tech’s improving perimeter defense
“We think we have a little thing going here with D’Andre Bell. One of the reasons why I think we are playing better basketball is that we’ve been better defending the perimeter, especially with D’Andre out there. What we have to do is get Lewis [Clinch] up to speed coming off the bench. I feel like we just lose too much if we don’t have D’Andre out there on the floor for 25 or 30 minutes.”
On Tech’s point guard play
(After the North Carolina game) “You’ve seen Moe Miller grow up and that’s huge for us because he’s a guy that can really take care of the basketball and make some plays. Matt [Causey] does a great job, but offensively and defensively we are more dangerous with Miller at the point. Now obviously there is no substitute for Causey’s experience down the stretch. Our point guards combined for 10 assists and just four turnovers (against North Carolina). I think that’s a pretty good showing out of that position.”
(Monday) “Matt Causey and Moe Miller are playing pretty well, but we need more help from the other four guys on the floor, making sure they come to meet passes and our offense runs more efficiently. The last four minutes against Carolina might have been the best they’ve played all year, and Saturday against Virginia Tech, they did the things they needed to do to close out the game, as far as making our free throws and not turning the ball over.
On Matt Causey
(After the Notre Dame game) “He’s a fearless kid who, when he sees something out there, he goes after it. He has a lot of courage, and he has a lot of confidence in his teammates.”
(After he scored 30 against Virginia Tech) “I know he can shoot it, and the kid has a lot of courage. He plays really hard, and he’s a fearless competitor. I can’t say I expected him to drop 30 on somebody, but he’s a dangerous shooter and a fearless player.