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Tech Visits Tar Heels in Battle of Top-10 Teams

Jan. 11, 2005

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech, ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today rankings, has its next two Atlantic Coast Conference games on the road. The Yellow Jackets visit No. 3 North Carolina Wednesday night in a clash of top-10 teams, then visit NC State on Sunday evening. It is the second road game for Tech this season against a top-10 team, and third game on the road against a top-25 opponent.

Wednesday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN, Tech’s fourth appearance on the network this year. Radio coverage is provided by the Georgia Tech/ISP Sports Network, and the broadcast airs in Atlanta on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1). Westwood One/CBS Radio is carrying the game nationally.

Tech (11-2, 2-0 ACC) has won its first two ACC games for the first time since the 1995-06 season, when the Yellow Jackets started 3-0 en route to the conference regular season title with a 13-3 slate. The Jackets have shaken off a disappointing New Year’s Day loss at No. 2 Kansas with homecourt victories over Miami (80-69) and Virginia (92-69) by an average of 17 points. Tech began this season 7-0 and has won four of its last six games, falling to No. 22 Gonzaga on Nov. 18 (85-73) and Kansas.

North Carolina (13-1, 2-0 ACC) has won 13 in a row since a season-opening loss to Santa Clara, including conference victories over Virginia Tech (85-51) and Maryland (109-75). The Tar Heels lead the ACC in scoring (93.9 points per game), scoring margin (25.1 points per game), field goal percentage (52.9), three-point percentage (44.4) and free throw percentage (72.6).

Tech, on the other hand, leads or is close to the lead in several defensive categories, including points allowed (second, 58.1), field goal percentage defense (first, .346) and three-point defense (first, .270), rebounding (second, 42.5 per game) and defensive rebounds (second, 29.5 per game).

Tech began the season with its highest national ranking since the 1985-86 squad held the top spot in the preseason AP poll. Tech has been nationally ranked for 27 consecutive weeks dating back to last Dec. 1, when the Jackets were No. 13 following their Preseason NIT championship.

The Yellow Jackets have played their last two-and-a-half games without 6-4 senior guard and leading scorer B.J. Elder (Madison, Ga.), who was averaging 13.2 points a game until he strained his left hamstring muscle in the first half of the Yellow Jackets’ loss at No. 2 Kansas on New Year’s Day. A preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards, Elder was shooting 43.2 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three-point range, and is questionable for Tech’s two games this week.

In his absence, Tech has gone with a starting lineup led by 6-3 junior Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington, Md.), who tops Tech in most every offensive category. Also a preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards and called by some the best point guard in the nation, Jack ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring (14.8 ppg), fifth in assists (4.73 per game) and third in every shooting percentage category (58.0 FG, 47.9 3FG, 87.0 FT).

He is joined in the lineup by a quartet of seniors in 7-1 center Luke Schenscher (Hope Forest, South Australia), averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game; 6-7 forward Anthony McHenry (Birmingham, Ala.), Tech’s underrated power forward averaging 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game; 6-6 forward Isma’il Muhammad (Atlanta, Ga.), averaging 9.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; and 6-0 guard Will Bynum (Chicago, Ill.), averaging 11.3 points and 3.3 assists.

Jack and Schenscher have started every game, while Muhammad, McHenry and Bynum have taken turns coming off the bench. Elder had started every game until sustaining his injury.

Schenscher, who ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding and third in blocked shots (2.31 per game), is hitting 56.5 percent of his shots from the floor (10-of-16 against Miami and Virginia) and has averaged 11.6 points over his last five games. Bynum led Tech with 21 points against Miami (8-of-15 FG), and has 11 assists with just two turnovers in his last two games. Muhammad has made 47.0 percent of his field goals and ranks 16th in the conference in rebounding.

Tech’s freshman class, rated No. 2 in the ACC by Bob Gibbons, has played more and more of late, with 6-9 center Ra’Sean Dickey (Clio, S.C.) and 6-5 wingman Anthony Morrow (Charlotte, N.C.) giving the Yellow Jackets a huge lift in their first two ACC games.

Morrow scored 11 points against Miami and 13 against Virginia (in just 14 minutes), hitting 6-of-12 three-point field goals and 7-of-14 shots overall in the two wins, helping him earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors. He has shot 46.5 percent from behind the arc this season, ranking fifth in the ACC, and is 14-for-23 from that distance in the last four games.

Dickey, who has shot 65.9 percent from the floor to lead the team this the season, has entrenched himself as Tech’s No. 2 center behind Luke Schenscher. Despite foul trouble that limited him to nine minutes against Miami, he scored six points and grabbed six rebounds. He scored 13 points (5-5 FG) with five rebounds in just 13 minutes against Virginia.

Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard from St. Matthews, S.C., has not scored in either ACC game, but played 14 minutes against Virginia, dishing three assists against just one turnover.

Theodis Tarver (Monroe, La.), a 6-9 junior who has shown no ill effects from the dislocated knee that kept him out of 13 games last season, is logging more minutes at the power forward position in the absence of freshman Jeremis Smith. He played his best game of the season against Virginia with six points and five rebounds. Mario West, a 6-4 guard from Douglasville, Ga., gives the Jackets a lift defensively on the perimeter. He had the best offensive game of his career against the Cavaliers with seven points.

QUOTING HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt

On Anthony Morrow – “He plays with a tremendous amount of confidence. Obviously, he’s an outstanding shooter. He’s benefited from playing for Jerry Faulkner (at Charlotte Latin HS). Anthony knows the game very well, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s adjusted fairly well to college basketball. He comes in and when an opportunity is there, he doesn’t hesitate to take a shot or try and make a play.”

On the team’s response to Elder’s injury – “We’ve got outstanding leadership at the point guard position. Jarrett Jack won’t allow these guys to even think about whether somebody is hurt or not at 100 percent. He does a great job of talking to these guys on the court and in the locker room about taking care of their responsibilities. He does an outstanding job of making these guys understand that, regardless of who is out on the court, we have enough talent that, if we play hard enough, we can be successful.”

On games at Kansas and Carolina telling enough about the status of Tech’s team – “It’s really early yet to start considering that. There’s a lot of basketball left to play. Playing at Kansas certainly made me realize that Anthony Morrow was a guy that can come in and play, and some of our younger guys are ready to contribute. But we’re not playing as well as we need to be, or need to play in order to be one of the top teams in the country.”

“We’re not as good offensively, not as consistent as we can be. With that said, I think we are a little more versatile than we were last year, especially with a guy like Will Bynum who can shoot the ball and score off the dribble. Morrow, as I mentioned, can shoot the ball and score off the dribble. Ra’Sean Dickey gives us a much stronger inside scoring presence off the bench than we had last year. But there are times in games when the ball stalls and doesn’t move as well as when we had an older, more veteran team as we had last year.”

On Ra’Sean Dickey’s knee injury – “We think he will be (available for the North Carolina game). He definitely sprained it. There was no swelling, but they looked at it and though everything was solid. We do anticipate that he will play. He said he felt fine, but obviously we will be careful.”

TECH VS. NORTH CAROLINA

> North Carolina has an overwhelming 55-18 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, and a 41-16 advantage since Tech joined the ACC. The Tar Heels have won 15 of the last 19 meetings. Tech, however, won two of the three meetings between the two teams last season, the first time the Yellow Jackets won the season series with the Tar Heels since 1996.

> Tech’s last win in the Tar Heels’ home arena was a 92-83 overtime triumph on Feb. 10, 1996, and the Jackets have lost eight straight in the Smith Center since then. The closest calls for Tech in the last eight meetings in Chapel Hill were a two-point loss in 2000 and a one-point defeat in 2003. Counting regular-season games in Greensboro, Tech is 4-23 on the road against UNC. Tech is 4-15 in the Smith Center.

> Last season: The teams split the regular season series, but the Yellow Jackets took the rubber match in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels won the first meeting, 103-88, in Chapel Hill on Jan. 11. Tech won the return meeting in Atlanta, 88-77. In the ACC Tournament, Jarrett Jack scored the game-winning bucket with 1.4 seconds left for an 83-82 Tech victory.

> Tech is 4-6 against UNC under Paul Hewitt, is 2-1 against the Tar Heels under Roy Williams, and 2-2 against Williams all-time.

> Tech’s greatest success in its series with North Carolina occurred during the middle 1990s when the Jackets won five of seven meetings, including three straight wins over No. 1-ranked Tar Heel teams during the 1993 and 1994 campaigns.

LEFTOVERS FROM THE VIRGINIA GAME

> Anthony McHenry matched his career high with 13 points, nearly doubling his previous best ACC game (7 pts. vs. Duke last year in the ACC Tournament). He went 5-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-3 from the line, grabbed seven rebounds, had two assists and blocked three shots.

> Tech’s 14 blocked shots in the game were an all-time best in an ACC game, and one off the school record. Luke Schenscher swatted away five, McHenry three, Ra’Sean Dickey and Anthony Morrow two each, Theodis Tarver and Keith Jones one each.

> Schenscher’s 15 rebounds were a team-high for the season and two off his career-best (17 vs. UNC in last year’s ACC Tournament).

> Jarrett Jack’s five three-point field goals beat his previous career best by two. He went 5-for-7 in the game and is shooting 47.9 percent from that distance this year.

> Tech grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and turned them into 20 points. Virginia took 24 offensive boards, but scored only 12 points on second chances.

> Tech had two double-figure scorers off the bench in Ra’Sean Dickey and Anthony Morrow, who scored 26 points combined in 27 total minutes.

TECH STOCK TIPS

> The Tar Heels come into Wednesday’s game having scored 100 points in three straight games, and are the only team to score 100 against the Yellow Jackets in the last two seasons (a 103-88 win last Jan. 11 in Chapel Hill). North Carolina has scored 100 against Tech three times in the series since the Jackets became a member of the ACC. Tech has allowed 100 points four times in four-plus seasons under Paul Hewitt.

> North Carolina has averaged 79.0 points per game against Tech in 10 meetings since Paul Hewitt became the head coach. That ranks fourth among ACC teams against the Jackets (Duke 87.8, Wake Forest 80.0, Maryland 79.4).

> If Tech can defeat North Carolina, it will have won 12 of its last 18 ACC games and be above .500 all-time in the ACC under Paul Hewitt for the first time (Tech is 33-33 in regular season games).

> Tech and North Carolina are the two most experienced teams in the ACC. Tech has the most starts by seniors, with 52, along with 13 starts from junior Jarrett Jack (total of 65). The Tar Heels have a total of 69 starts from juniors and seniors combined.

> Tech’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks No. 74 in the latest RPI Report. Its overall schedule strength ranks No. 26. Among the best on Tech’s schedule were Kansas (No. 1), Gonzaga (No. 11), Michigan (No. 47) and Arkansas-Little Rock (No. 65). None of Tech’s non-conference foes ranks lower than No. 243 (James Madison).

> In its two losses this season, Tech has shot just 40.3 percent from the floor overall, but has made 37.8 percent of its three-point attempts. Conversely, Tech has allowed the two opponents (Gonzaga and Kansas) to shoot 43.6 percent from three-point range.

> Away from home this season, Tech has shot 40.6 percent from the floor, its opponents 40.8 percent. Tech has shot only 31.0 percent from three-point range, its opponents 40.7 percent.

> In the last seven games, Tech has been to the free throw line 24.7 times on average, compared with 17.3 times over the first four games.

> Since going 0-for-2 from three-point range against Air Force, breaking a 546-game streak with at least one three, Tech is 55-for-147 (37.4 percent) in the last seven games. Tech is 22-of-54 (40.7 percent) in its last three games.

> Tech’s three freshmen are averaging 13.8 points a game combined.

> Tech has played only two games closer than 11 points, a 60-59 victory at Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 22 and a 70-68 loss at Kansas. The average margin of the other games has been 27.3 points.

> Tech’s top five scorers are all shooting better than 43 percent from the floor, two higher than 50 percent. Jarrett Jack leads at 58.0 percent, Luke Schenscher (56.5 percent) and Isma’il Muhammad (47.0) percent are next. Only Jack meets the NCAA minimum of five field goals made per game to be ranked among the conference or national leaders (an indication of Tech’s offensive balance).

> Tech has 235 assists on 374 field goals, a rate of 62.8 percent, and ranks second in the ACC in assist average (18.1 per game). The Jackets’ season lows in assists, not coincidentally, have come against Gonzaga and Kansas (11 each).

> Tech has been outrebounded in only four games, but two of those instances, Gonzaga and Kansas, have resulted in losses.

DEFENSE STILL STIFF FOR TECH

Defensive pressure, both half-court and full-court, was the catalyst for Georgia Tech all last season and has remained so throughout the 2004-05 campaign. Tech has allowed its opponents to shoot just 34.6 percent (only Michigan and Gonzaga have managed 40 percent), which is the best in the ACC.

> Tech ranks second in the ACC in scoring defense at 58.1 points per game, having led the league all season until now. The Yellow Jackets have held five opponents under 50 points, and seven foes have failed to score 60.

> For the season, Tech has allowed teams to shoot just 27.0 percent from three-point range, the lowest yield in the ACC. The Jackets have held six teams to 25 percent or less. Kansas has had the best success against Tech, making 12 of 26 (46.2 percent), even thought the Jayhawks made just 39.1 percent of their field goal attempts overall.

> In the NCAA, Tech ranks second in field goal defense, sixth in scoring defense and eighth in blocked shots. The NCAA does not rank teams according to three-point percentage defense.

> Tech has held foes to less than 20 points in a half four times, including 12 by Air Force in the first half, and 14 by James Madison in the first half.

> Tech has forced 16.2 turnovers per game thus far, blocked 7.0 shots (second in the ACC) and taken 8.3 steals per game (sixth). Its rebound margin of plus-6.3 is fifth-best the ACC, and its rebound average of 42.5 is second-best.

> Tech has allowed only 17 teams in its last 47 games to shoot 40 percent or better from the floor. Only four have reached 50 percent. Kansas, which shot only 39.1 percent overall on Jan. 1, became only the fourth opponent under Paul Hewitt to beat the Jackets while failing to reach 40 percent in a game.

> Tech’s stout defense is not a new phenomenon. The Yellow Jackets ranked first in the ACC in field goal percentage defense in all games (38.8 pct.) last season, were first in league games only (40.8 pct.), and were the sixth-best in NCAA Division I basketball. Tech also led the ACC in both three-point percentage defense in all games (29.7 pct.) and was first league games only (32.2 pct.).

BENCH COMING AROUND FOR TECH

For proof of the importance of Georgia Tech’s bench, look no further than the fact that the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer came off the bench 10 times in 2003-04. Tech has 321 points from its reserves in 13 games this season (24.7 per game).

> Tech’s freshmen have increasingly given the Jackets better scoring off the bench as the season has progressed. They are averaging almost 14 points a game.

> Tech had a double figure scorer off the bench 29 times last season, including five in the NCAA Tournament, and has eight so far this season, including a career-best 28-point performance from Will Bynum against Gonzaga and four from freshman Anthony Morrow.

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