ATLANTA - In a game featuring two of the highest scoring teams in the nation this season, Georgia Tech hosts Georgia in a regionally-televised basketball game at 7 p.m. Friday night at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Tech is home for five games over the holiday season, Friday night's tilt with Georgia being the second of the homestand. Following Friday night's game, Tech breaks for Christmas, then entertains Troy (Dec. 28), St. Francis of Pa. (Dec. 30) and Winston-Salem State (Jan. 3) in succession before resuming conference play.
The Jackets bring a 7-3 overall record into Friday night's game, having split four games to drop out of both national polls since returning from a runner-up finish in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Tech fell at Vanderbilt, 73-64, on Dec. 9 and lost a 90-82 decision at Miami the Sunday before in its first ACC game before breaking back into the win column Monday night in a 92-52 win over Centenary.
Tech is undefeated at home this season (5-0), and are 71-23 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum under head coach Paul Hewitt, including a 42-5 mark in non-conference games. Tech has won 29 of its last 30 non-ACC games at home.
Georgia is streaking since a 70-67 homecourt loss to Western Kentucky on Nov. 14, having won seven in a row. The Bulldogs defeated nationally-ranked Gonzaga (96-83) Saturday night and dispatched Jacksonville (93-77), coached by former Tech assistant Cliff Warren, Tuesday.
Friday's game matches two high-scoring teams that have combined for more than 176 points a game this season. Tech ranks 15th nationally in scoring offense (second in the ACC), while Georgia ranks No. 2 (tops in the SEC).
The Bulldogs also rank third nationally in field goal percentage (Tech is 17th) and eighth in three-point percentage.
"This is a big exciting game for the player, the fans and the coaches," said head coach Paul Hewitt. "We all know that the season doesn't end after this game, but it's a fun game for everyone. You'd rather be involved in a game where people really care than one where people are apathetic. I know one thing, the game is sold out. It's a fun atmosphere to be involved in."
Tech's regular starting lineup this season has included freshman Javaris Crittenton at point guard, sophomore Lewis Clinch and freshman Thaddeus Young on the wings, junior Jeremis Smith at strong forward and freshman Zach Peacock at center.
Clinch and Smith are the only two players to start every game, however. Steadiest among the group has been Clinch, a sophomore who leads the Yellow Jackets and ranks sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring at 17.1 points a game.
Having reached double digits in each game, the 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., also ranks fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage (57.3) and second in three-point percentage (49.1). He has scored at least 20 points four times this season.
The other returning player in Tech's starting lineup is Smith, a 6-8 strong forward from Fort Worth, Texas. Smith, a junior, has improved offensively and is just as tough on the boards and on defense as he was a year ago, averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds. He leads Tech in field goal percentage (66.7 percent) and has six double-digit scoring efforts.
Crittenton, a 6-5 point guard from Atlanta, was a McDonald's All-American his senior year at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy and has averaged 13.9 points (46.7 pct. FG) and 5.4 assists, third-best in the ACC. Young, a 6-8 McDonald's All-American from Mitchell High School in Memphis, Tenn., averages 14.1 points while hitting 50.5 percent of his field goal tries and pulling down 5.2 rebounds per game.
Young has averaged 20.0 points in his last two games. Peacock, a 6-8 all-state performer from Norland High School in Miami, was a surprise inclusion in the starting five at the outset of the season.
Demonstrating the effort and toughness on defense Hewitt wants in the post, Peacock has averaged 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds while making 57.7 percent of his field goals. He scored 13 against Purdue and 12 vs. UCLA out in Maui. Hewitt has built plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, employing a solid nine-man rotation.
Off the bench, four players are averaging double-digit minutes, including 6-10 junior center Ra'Sean Dickey (7.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 56.0 pct. FG), who started Tech's last game against Centenary; 6-5 senior guard Mario West (4.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 60 pct. FG); 6-10 red-shirt freshman forward Mouhammad Faye (4.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and 6-5 junior guard Anthony Morrow (6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg), who scored 14 points off the bench against Centenary.
SERIES WITH GEORGIA - Georgia Tech will attempt to win its 100th game in the series with Georgia, which began in 1906. Tech leads 99-83 and has played the Bulldogs more than any other opponent in its basketball history.
The series has been played alternately on the respective schools' campus since the 1995-96 season, and the Bulldogs have won seven of those 11 games. Tech has won the last two meetings at home, including a 38-point win in December of 2004, 87-49, and four of the five games played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the series moved back to campuses. >