January 8, 2010

Jackets get ready for ACC showdown

The Yellow Jackets will look to rebound from a disappointing 73-66 defeat at the hands of their in-state rival Georgia Bulldogs. Tech got open looks, but there seemed to be a lid over the basket as they only shot 38 percent from the floor, which tied their second lowest output on the season. The guards and small forwards in particular did not shoot the rock very well, going 7 for 24 (29 percent) overall including 3 for 12 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. Tech also extended a lowly streak; they have not won in Athens since 1976.

Coach Paul Hewitt commented on the game by saying, "We just didn't play well and they did. McPhee and Thompkins made some big shots. It was one of those crazy games, with stuff that you expect in a rivalry game. One time there was a mad scramble for the ball where a kid picked it up by the seat of his pants and throws it ahead to Thompkins for the dunk. Another time we had a near steal and then after a mad scramble they get it down the lane for the score and one. Then we had to foul down the stretch."

He also talked about the team's cold shooting by remarking, "Shooting is something that goes hot and cold. We got some good looks early on. If I could do something different, I would have chosen to be more aggressive with the press to try and generate some offense."

The 11-3 Yellow Jackets will look to come out aggressive on Saturday as they square off against their toughest opponent this season, the fifth ranked Duke Blue Devils. The perennial basketball powerhouses have lived up to their reputation so far this season, posting a 13-1 record including wins against three ranked teams.

As always the Blue Devils have a high scoring offense that lives and dies from behind the three point line. So far they have been given the thumbs up as they lead the ACC in scoring with 85.9 points per game, including four 100 point outbursts, and also three point shooting at 42.6 percent. Starting guards Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are dangerous weapons, ranking second and third respectively in individual scoring with 19.7 and 18.5 points per game. The two players have combined to make 66 three-point baskets, only 14 behind the entire Georgia Tech team.

Tech will look to combat Duke's prowess from deep by continuing to play smothering defense. The Yellow Jackets have forced their opponents to commit 17.5 turnovers per game. According to Hewitt, "We've got to contest shots and hope that they miss some. They're going to get some because they take so many and work so hard to get them. They are a great shooting team as a unit, but it's a fickle thing because everybody can have a cold spell."

The Jackets will counter Duke's phenomenal back court with their dynamic duo in the paint. Gani Lawal leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 15.3 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game, totals that also rank tenth and third in the ACC. Diaper dandy, Derrick Favors, has made a huge impact this year. He leads all ACC freshman in scoring at 12.1 point per game and also ranks in the top five among all players in rebounds (8.8 per game) and blocks (2.2 per game).

Duke is not a small team by any means and have four players on their roster at 6'-10" or taller that play at least 10 minutes per game. Nonetheless, Lawal enters the game with confidence. "We should dominate, bottom line," he said. "I don't care who it is, if we are on our game, we should dominate."

Tech will look to avoid their fourth consecutive season starting the ACC slate 0-2 with an important victory this Saturday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Iman Shumpert Update

Iman Shumpert struggled against Georgia, only his second game back from knee surgery, by pairing a 1 for 7 shooting performance with five turnovers. Coach Hewitt has confidence in his star guard.

"I think he is ok," said Hewitt. "He hasn't complained about any soreness and there has been no swelling. From a health standpoint he is alright, but he wants to play better."

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