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Yellow Jackets Hold Off Canes In ACC Opener

Jan. 6, 2005

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By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA Will Bynum made sure Georgia Tech didn’t miss B.J. Elder too much.

Bynum scored 21 points while his injured teammate watched from the bench, and the ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets ruined Miami’s Atlantic Coast Conference debut with an 80-69 victory Thursday night.

Georgia Tech (10-2, 1-0) bounced back from an overtime loss at No. 2 Kansas, the game Elder left after hurting his left hamstring. The team’s second-leading scorer is likely to be out through the weekend.

“With B.J. out, I had to be more assertive,” said Bynum, who did more than just score – he also had seven assists.

“I like those seven assists better than the 21 points,” he said. “And no turnovers.”

The Yellow Jackets built a 14-point halftime lead and held off Miami’s surge in the first 5 minutes of the second half.

Luke Schenscher scored 15 points and Jarrett Jack, who had a huge game against Kansas, chipped in 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

Not surprisingly, Georgia Tech seemed to have a bit of a letdown after squandering a 16-point lead to Kansas last Saturday. The Yellow Jackets lost 70-68 in overtime, falling to the team they beat last year to reach the Final Four.

“I was glad to get back on the court,” coach Paul Hewitt said. “It was probably the hardest, toughest regular season loss I’ve ever experienced.”

The Hurricanes (9-3, 0-1) moved from the Big East to the ACC this season – a football power hoping to make a mark in a league known for basketball. They came into their conference debut with an eight-game winning streak, including an upset of Florida, but couldn’t keep it going despite Guillermo Diaz’s 27 points.

“We had a lot of energy,” Diaz said. “We expected to win.”

Good thing the Yellow Jackets had Bynum. The senior guard went 8-of-15 from the field and kept the Hurricanes off-balance defensively.

When they got in his face, he sliced to the basket to set up a shot for himself or a teammate. When Miami backed off, Bynum went to his jumper, making a couple of 3-pointers.

“He’s becoming a complete player,” Hewitt said. “Last year, there were times when I wasn’t comfortable putting him out on the floor for extended minutes if he wasn’t scoring.”

“He’s [Will Bynum] becoming a complete player.” Paul Hewitt

The Yellow Jackets led 46-32 at halftime, seizing control with a 14-1 spurt. They got big contributions from their freshmen – Anthony Morrow hit a couple of 3-pointers, while Ra’Sean Dickey converted a three-point play and assisted on one of Morrow’s long-range jumpers.

Morrow finished with 11 points in a season-high 24 minutes, while Dickey made the most of his 9 minutes – six points, six rebounds and two assists.

Looking for the bright side to Elder’s injury, Hewitt believes it can give the Yellow Jackets a chance to develop more depth for the brutal ACC schedule.

“Obviously, B.J. is very, very important to us because he can carry us on any given night,” Hewitt said. “While he’s out, other guys are going to have an opportunity to gain some valuable experience that should help us as we move through the season.”

Miami got back in the game with a 15-2 run to start the second half. Diaz got it going by swishing a 3-pointer, and Anthony King pulled the Hurricanes to 48-47 when he spun around Schenscher for a lay-in.

Georgia Tech was clearly flustered.

Isma’il Muhammad was called for an intentional foul when he knocked down Diaz from behind as the Miami player attempted a layup. Bynum went in boldly for a dunk, only to get stuffed by King. Finally, Muhammad missed one of his trademark dunks, looking around incredulously for a foul call that never came.

But the Yellow Jackets never surrendered their lead. Bynum hit a shot in the lane, the first of five straight Georgia Tech points. Miami’s momentum was stymied, and Jack finished off the Hurricanes when he sank a 3-pointer with 2:25 remaining to make it 75-64.

“It’s very important that we kept the lead,” Tech’s Anthony McHenry said. “When the lead changes, the momentum changes. It can be devastating to a team.”

Diaz did everything he could to pull off the upset. The sophomore guard hit several acrobatic shots that drew gasps from the crowd at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, equaling his career high for points.

But Miami couldn’t overcome 37 percent shooting (27-of-73).

“We know we can compete with anybody in the ACC the way we played in the second half,” said Robert Hite, who added 13 points for the Hurricanes. “We were right there.”

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