Jan. 6, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech opens its ACC home schedule Wednesday night when it welcomes the Syracuse Orange to McCamish Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets are looking to get back in the win column dropping their ACC opener Saturday afternoon, an 83-76 double-overtime decision to No. 14 Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored a team-high 20 and Charles Mitchell grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds as part of a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double, his fourth of the season. Tech jumped out to a 13-2 lead and held led the first 31 minutes of the game, but the Irish came back, taking a six-point lead with 3:00 remaining. Then the Jackets fought back, re-taking the lead on a Chris Bolden three with 2:28 left and again, with 37 seconds left on a Georges-Hunt lay-up. The Irish tied the game on a free throw with 25 seconds left and Georges-Hunt’s attempted game-winning lay-up was blocked. In the first overtime, Tech overcame an early six-point deficit, tying the game on a Demarco Cox tip-in with 11 seconds remaining. In the second five minutes, however, the Jackets were unable to come back from the Irish’s 8-2 opening run. Tech dominated the boards (46-31) and the offensive boards (19-5), and limited Notre Dame, the ACC’s top three-point-shooting team, to 1-for-12 in regulation and 4-for-19 for the game. They also forced a season-high 13 turnovers.
The Orange have posted five wins in its last six games, also winning a dramatic conference opener, surviving Virginia Tech, 68-66, at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. Trevor Cooney had a team-high 18, Tyler Roberson grabbed 17 rebounds in securing an 11-point, 17-rebound double-double and Rakeem Christmas chipped in 17 with nine rebounds for the Orange, who nearly squandered a 22-point lead. Syracuse went on a 21-4 run to build a 40-18 lead with 2:51 left in the half, and led 42-23 at the break. They led 47-30 following a Cooney three-pointer with 15:42 left, but the Hokies wouldn’t go away. After trailing by 11 with 2:21 to play, they went on a 16-7 run to cut the lead to a bucket. After Ron Patterson missed a pair of free throws with 4.0 seconds left, Tech missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer. Syracuse dominated in the paint (26-12), and points off turnovers (13-0 in the first half and 17-7 overall). The Orange nearly hurt themselves by shooting 57.1 percent from the line, missing 10 FTAs in the second half.
Wednesday’s game will be the sixth meeting between the schools but the first on the Georgia Tech campus. Tech holds a 3-2 series edge, 1-0 in Atlanta. The Jackets won the first two games in the series, on March 17, 1985, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s East Region, as the No. 6 Jackets topped the No. 15 Orange, 70-53. The teams didn’t meet again until Dec. 16, 2001, when Tech beat the No. 13/12 Orange, 96-80, in the Delta Air Lines Classic played at Philips Arena. Syracuse won the next two meetings, beating Tech, 92-65, on Dec. 21, 2002, and 80-76, as the No. 9 team on Nov. 27, 2010, in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City, N.J. Last season, Tech regained the series lead, shocking the No. 7 Orange, 67-62, in Syracuse.
The game can be seen on ESPNU with Tom Hart and Len Elmore calling the action and will be streamed online on WatchESPN. It also can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, (680 AM and 93.7 FM, with Brandon Gaudin and Randy Waters on the call), and via Satellite Radio on Sirius (Channel 92) and XM (Channel 193). Tech fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com.
And now, the Starting Five for Wednesday night’s game.
The Last Time We Met: In the first meeting as ACC rivals, unranked Georgia Tech stunned No. 7 Syracuse, 67-62, on March 2, 2014, at the Carrier Dome. Trae Golden scored 16 points, including nailing six straight free throws in the final 35 seconds to ice the game. The Jackets used an early 10-2 run to take a five-point lead and led by eight at the break. They would lead by as much as 12 in the second half. After the Orange cut the lead to 59-54 inside of three minutes, Daniel Miller scored on a dunk leading to Golden’s 6-for-6 from the stripe. Miller had 15 points and six rebounds and Robert Carter Jr. added 12 points and nine rebounds. The Jackets limited Syracuse to 39.1 percent shooting and only 29.4 from behind the arc (5-for-17, 1-for-5 in the first half). Kam Holsey’s nine points off the bench helped the Jackets win that category, 17-4.
Double-Trouble: Marcus Georges-Hunt is coming up big just in time for ACC season and has really hit his stride over the last five games. Georges-Hunt has averaged 17.4 points in that stretch and heads into Wednesday’s game scoring at least 20 points in each of the last two games. The streak started with a 15-point game against Appalachian State at McCamish Pavilion on Dec. 15, in response to back-to-back single-digit games at Northwestern and vs. USC Upstate. Georges-Hunt then scored 14 against Vanderbilt on Dec. 20 at McCamish and had a 13-point night on Dec. 23 at Dayton. He turned it up a notch in ringing out 2014, recording a 25-point outburst against Charlotte at McCamish Pavilion on Dec. 30, then put in 20 in the first game of 2015 and the ACC season, at Notre Dame on Saturday. This stretch is the fourth five-game, double-digit-scoring streak in his career, and is his highest-scoring, 3.0 ppg more than the one he went on to open the 2013-14 season. Over these five games, the junior is shooting 39.2 percent (29-for-74) and 92.9 from the line (26-for-28), having hit 19 straight free throws. Georges-Hunt, who leads the Jackets with 13.5 ppg, has never had a streak of six straight double-digit-scoring games.
Tech Trivia: Marcus Georges-Hunt has scored 20 points in back-to-back games. Who was the last Yellow Jacket to go for at least 20 points in back-to-back games?
If It’s Free (Throws), It’s For GT: Having finished finals may be contributing to success finishing games. In the two games since Finals Week ended the Yellow Jackets are shooting 86.2 percent on free throws (25-for-29). They’re the first two games shooting north of 80 percent from the line this season. Marcus Georges-Hunt is 11-for-11 in those two games as part of 19 straight he’s made over four. Quentin Stephens (3-for-3), Chris Bolden (2-for-2), and Josh Heath (2-for-2) also are perfect, while Charles Mitchell is 3-for-4, and Robert Sampson is 4-for-7. No other Jackets have ventured to the line. Tech probably would like to start getting more players to the line and start getting to the line more, period, as they have been outshot at the foul line by opponents in three of the last four games, 84-52 in that span.
Point Taken: Travis Jorgenson is starting to hit his stride at the point. Over his last five games, the redshirt freshman, who missed all but four games last season after tearing his right ACL, has dished out 24 assists (4.8 apg), while only committing five turnovers. He had 14 assists over his first seven games (2.0 apg). The hot streak began following a season-low one assist in 15 minutes against USC Upstate, Jorgenson has a 2.44-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio in his 11 starts this season, which ranks fifth in the ACC, and he has seen career-bests in playing time over the last five games, averaging 25.2 minutes, including playing a career-high 26 minutes in each of the last two games. He hasn’t played fewer than 24 minutes. Jorgenson surpassed 20 minutes one time in the first seven games.
The Sixth Man: Charles Mitchell has turned up the heat on the offensive glass. Over his last four games, Mitchell, the ACC’s leader in offensive rebounds (4.0 per game), grabbed 20 caroms off the offensive end (5.0 ORPG) and he’s had two of his biggest offensive rebounding games — seven vs. Vanderbilt on Dec. 20 and six on Saturday vs. Notre Dame. The Maryland transfer had only one game with more than five ORBs in the first seven games and, grabbed exactly two offensive rebounds in each of the previous four games prior to this current four-game stretch…Mitchell isn’t the only one hitting the offensive boards. Georgia Tech is 13th in the nation and third in the ACC, pulling in 15.0 offensive rebounds per game with Demarco Cox (2.3), and Robert Sampson (2.2) each grabbing better than 2.0 per game…Tech Trivia Answer: Glen Rice Jr., had back-to-back 20-point games on Jan. 7 and 11, 2012. Rice went for 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, 4-for-7 from three and 4-for-6 from the line in an 81-74 loss to Duke at Philips Arena, then, four days later, scored 22 on 7-for-10 shooting, 3-for-5 from three and 5-for-5 from the line in an 82-71 win over NC State at RBC Center…Georges-Hunt begins play Wednesday five points shy of joining the 1,000-point club. He would be the 43rd player in school history to get there. Daniel Miller was the last to do so, reaching a grand last March 12 against Boston College…Georgia Tech continued its stinginess behind the three-point line against Notre Dame, holding them to one 3PTFGM over the first 40 minutes. Opponents are converting at 27.7 percent (third in the ACC and 18th in the nation). Syracuse is 11th in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage, hitting 29.0 percent of its tries.
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 13.5 ppg
SYRACUSE SCORING LEADER: Rakeem Christmas, 17.3 ppg
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER (ACC): Marcus Georges-Hunt, 20.0 ppg
SYRACUSE SCORING LEADER (ACC): Trevor Cooney, 18.0 ppg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Charles Mitchell, 7.8 rpg
SYRACUSE REBOUNDING LEADER: Rakeem Christmas, 8.9 rpg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER (ACC): Charles Mitchell, 12.0 rpg
SYRACUSE REBOUNDING LEADER (ACC): Tyler Roberson, 17.0 rpg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Josh Heath, 3.5 apg
SYRACUSE ASSISTS LEADER: Joseph Kaleb, 5.1 apg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER (ACC): Travis Jorgenson, 4.0 apg
SYRACUSE ASSISTS LEADER (ACC): Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Joseph Kaleb, Ron Patterson, 3.0 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG: 67.5/76.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 64.1/83.0 ppg
SYRACUSE PPG: 70.2/68.0 ppg
OPP. PPG: 58.4/66.0 ppg
SYRACUSE Player To Watch: Rakeem Christmas: There’s always Christmas cheer in Syracuse with Rakeem Christmas in the middle. The 6-9, 250-pound grad student has been a force on both ends of the floor, averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds over his last five games, and shooting 64.9 percent (37-for-57) and 74.1 percent (20-for-27) from the line. Christmas finished 2014 with a flourish, earning ACC Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 29, when he recorded a pair of double-doubles in wins over Colgate on Dec. 22 (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Long Beach State on the 28th (24 and 10). Christmas ranks in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring (17.3, third), rebounding (8.8, fifth), field goal percentage (.632, third), blocked shots (2.23 bpg, tied for third), offensive rebounds (3.23, sixth), and defensive rebounds (5.62, seventh). He’s easy to find — just look in the lane — and attacks the rim with ferocity, as he has a team-high 18 dunks and 101 for his career (87 more than nearest teammate Trevor Cooney). Christmas neither scored nor shot much in last year’s game with Georgia Tech, scoring three points while taking only two shots (he also was 1-for-2 from the line), but was a force defensively, pulling in nine of his game-high 10 rebounds on the defensive end and blocking four shots.
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