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Tech Visits Virginia Looking for Third Straight Win

Jan. 25, 2008

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech plays the second of two road games this week on Sunday when the Yellow Jackets visit Virginia for a 4:30 p.m. nationally-televised game at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. Tech is in the midst of a stretch where it plays five of six games on the road. The Jackets host Maryland on Feb. 2, then follow with road games at Wake Forest, Connecticut and Clemson.

The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net (FSN). 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). The game can also be heard on XM Radio Ch. 192.

The Yellow Jackets are 9-9 for the season and 2-3 in the ACC, with consecutive victories over Virginia Tech (81-70 last Saturday) and NC State (77-74 Wednesday in Raleigh). The Jackets are 3-4 on opponents’ home courts this year, the most road victories for Tech since the 2004-05 season, and are 5-5 away from Atlanta.

Virginia, 11-6 overall and 1-3 in the ACC, has lost four of its last five games, including a 69-67 loss at Florida State Wednesday night. The Cavaliers’ lone win during that stretch was an 84-66 win over Boston College.

Tech has played a strong schedule thus far, posting a schedule strength rank of No. 7 according to this week’s RPI rankings. The teams Tech has lost to have a combined record of 133-33, including four losses to top-25 teams who have a combined mark of 86-8.

Series vs. Virginia

> Georgia Tech has won six of the last eight, 10 of the last 13, and 17 of the last 22 meetings with Virginia. Tech also has three wins in its last five trips to Charlottesville, but dropped last year’s game, 75-69, in the Yellow Jackets’ first appearance at John Paul Jones Arena.

> Since Tech joined the ACC, the Yellow Jackets are 34-27 against Virginia.

> The Yellow Jackets were 10-16 against Virginia at University Hall, the Cavaliers’ former homecourt, Tech’s best winning percentage on an ACC foe’s home court.

> Tech is 1-1 against Virginia teams coached by Dave Leitao, and is 9-3 against Virginia under Paul Hewitt, including all three meetings in Hewitt’s first season of 2000-01.

> Tech and Virginia have played to overtime five times since the 1983-84 season, including a 72-71 triple-overtime win for Tech in Atlanta on Jan. 23, 1984, and an 88-85 double-overtime triumph for Virginia in Charlottesville on Jan. 22, 1995. Six of the last eight meetings have been decided by six points or less, and 24 of the teams’ 57 meetings since the Jackets joined the ACC have been decided by five points or less.

> The Jackets have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two teams in the Thrillerdome, including a 63-54 victory last season. The lone Cavalier win occurred Jan. 22, 2002. Overall, Tech is 21-5 against the Cavaliers in Alexander Memorial Coliseum, 22-7 on all home courts and 24-8 in games played in the city of Atlanta.

> In the ACC Tournament, Tech and Virginia are even at 4-4, including a 70-61 Jacket victory in the 1990 final in Charlotte.

Quick Look at Tech

Georgia Tech’s starting lineup for the last four 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, has started four games at point guard earlier in the season.

Seniors Anthony Morrow (wing) and Jeremis Smith (big forward) have started all 18 games for the Yellow Jackets, while freshman Gani Lawal has started the last 11 games at center.

Regardless of which player starts, Miller and Causey both play significant minutes at the point, combining to average 12.9 points and 6.7 assists per game. Despite playing roughly 17 minutes a game, the 6-0 Causey ranks eighth in the ACC in assists and sixth assist-turnover ratio. He has been Tech’s top scorer the last two games with 30 against Virginia Tech and 18 at NC State. Miller, a 6-1 rookie from Memphis, Tenn., has accumulated 28 assists and 12 turnovers in the last nine games.

Morrow, a 6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C., who is the Yellow Jackets’ top returning scorer from 2006-07, currently ranks 12th in the ACC with 14.7 points a game. One of Tech’s best all-time three-point shooters with 220 for his career, Morrow has hit 46.2 percent from that distance this season, and has averaged 14.6 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, 13 at NC State). He averages 5.9 points for the season, 8.2 vs. the ACC, and has shot 48.6 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 7.2 per game (11th in the ACC), Smith has averaged 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in ACC games thus far, including two double-doubles in the last three games.

Lawal, a 6-8 rookie from Riverdale, Ga., averages 7.3 points anf 3.9 rebounds while leading the Jackets in field goal percentage at 62.1. Lawal snapped a two-game scoreless streak by averaging 11.6 points in Tech’s last three games against North Carolina, Virginia Tech and NC State.

Backcourt reserves — Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has reached double-digits in scoring in 12 games this year, including 11 points at Georgia and 13 at Miami. He is Tech’s second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, but has struggled in ACC games (6.0 ppg, 30 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 (7.8) and rebounder (3.9), and posted his first career double-double (14 pts., 11 reb.) against North Carolina. Aminu, who started Tech’s first seven games, has averaged 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds while hitting 55 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 77, NC State 74

Georgia Tech scored on its last seven possessions of the game and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 40 seconds to hold off NC State Wednesday night, snapping a 10-game losing streak against the Wolfpack in Raleigh and recording its first win in the RBC Center.

It also was Tech’s first ACC road win, an accomplishment the Yellow Jackets did not achieve until Feb. 13 last season at Florida State.

For the second straight game, Matt Causey was Tech’s catalyst, scoring a team-high 18 points with five assists, four steals and just one turnover. He scored 13 of his points in the second half, including a key three-point play at the 4:13 mark to put Tech ahead and a game-tying layup at the 2:53 mark. He assisted on D’Andre Bell’s dunk at the 2:20 mark that gave the Jackets a permanent lead.

Tech shot 59.2 percent in the game, a figure which matched the team’s high for an ACC game under head coach Paul Hewitt. Bell and Gani Lawal scored 13 points each for the Jackets, and Jeremis Smith chipped in with 10.

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 third in scoring defense (74.2 ppg), eighth in field goal percentage defense (46.0 pct.) and FIRST in three-point field goal defense (24.1 pct.).

Presbyterian and Georgia combined to make 22-of-36 three-point shots against Tech, but the Yellow Jackets’ last four foes have combined for only 13-of-61 (21.3 pct.) from bonus distance (Miami 2-19, North Carolina 2-10, Virginia Tech 4-15 and NC State 5-17).

Tech also ranks fourth in steals (fifth in all games) and seventh in blocked shots (11th in all games) against the conference.

Part of the reason for the improvement is the insertion of D’Andre Bell back into the starting lineup. Bell has averaged 29.6 minutes in ACC games and is the Yellow Jackets’ top perimeter defender.

Worth noting: In the last five minutes of ACC games, Tech’s opponents are 0-for-13 from three-point range. In all games, last five minutes, opponents are 9-of-44 (20.5 percent).

Also worth noting: In the last nine games of the season, Georgia Tech has averaged 10.8 steals and 3.9 blocked shots per game. In the first nine games of this season, Tech averaged 6.8 steals and 1.8 blocks.

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 47.4 percent of its shots from the floor (3rd in the ACC) and 38.4 percent of its three-point attempts (5th in the ACC). In ACC games only, the Jackets rank sixth, third and second in the same categories.

> Tech has made 40.9 percent of its three-point shots in ACC games and ranks fifth in three-pointers made against the league (7.2 per game).

> Tech has shot 45 percent or higher from the floor in 13 of 18 games, including a Paul Hewitt-era high against an ACC team of 59.2 percent at NC State.

> 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.

Cause(y) and Effect

Is Matt Causey currently enjoying his 15 minutes of game, or will it last longer?

Georgia Tech’s senior guard has been a big catalyst off the bench in the Yellow Jackets’ last two games, an 81-70 win over Virginia Tech and a 77-74 win at NC State. He has led the Jackets in scoring in both games, but in completely different ways.

Just 6-feet tall officially, Causey took advantage of Virginia Tech’s defensive focus on wing guard Anthony Morrow and Lewis Clinch to pour in 30 points against the Hokies. It was the third-highest scoring game by a non-starter on record in ACC history. Causey went 7-of-12 from three-point range in the game, 9-of-14 overall, and made 5-of-7 free throws.

Wednesday at NC State, Causey took just one three-point shot (he made it) and went 7-for-10 overall on a variety of drives to the hoop for layups and short shots to score 18 points. He also had five assists, four steals and just one turnover.

Prior to these two games, his biggest splash was an 11-point performance in a win against Notre Dame in the Paradise Jam (Nov. 19). In that game, he knocked down a trio of three-point baskets in the final 5:11, including the game-winner with less than two seconds left.

The Gainesville, Ga., native, who has no cartilage in his left knee, has overcome a dislocated kneecap, a dislocated shoulder and a dislocated jaw this year and has yet to miss a game.

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