Rivalry Week

The last time Georgia (5-2) won at Alexander Memorial Colesium was exactly 10 years ago plus one day – December 6, 2000.   You know what happened later that month?  A Florida State offensive coordinator by the name of Mark Richt was hired as the Bulldogs’ head football coach.

So it’s been a while since the Dawgs have taken one in Atlanta.

On Tuesday night, UGA will go up against a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket (4-3) team that has gotten out to a shaky start – losing badly at both Kennesaw State and Northwestern (not exactly basketball powerhouses).

However, the Jackets are 3-0 at home – albeit those wins came against Charleston Southern, Albany and Niagara – and this is a rivalry game, so it’s safe to say that Mark Fox’s team will get Tech’s best shot.

This Georgia Tech team is smaller than some of Coach Paul Hewitt’s past teams, essentially starting four guards along with 6’11” freshman center Daniel Miller (who transferred to Georgia Tech from Georgia).  Brian Oliver is listed as a forward, but the 6’6″ sophomore plays more of a wing position and takes a majority of his shots from beyond the arc.

They are a quick team that does a good job of stepping into the passing lanes and creating turnovers.  Tech is currently leading the ACC in both steals (11 per game) and turnover margin (+5.43).  At the risk of sounding cliche, the Dawgs better be careful with the basketball or they could dig a hole for themselves early in this game.

Despite the Jackets lack of size, they do aggressively get after the offensive glass, averaging nearly 15 offensive rebounds per game – which is tied for 25th in the nation and tops in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Georgia needs to do a much better job of defensive rebounding on Tuesday night than they did in the second half against UAB last Friday (in which the Dawgs surrendered 11 offensive rebounds to the Blazers).

On offense, Georgia Tech has been putting up a lot of outside shots – nearly 21 three-point attempts per game.  Unfortunately for Paul Hewitt, his Jackets are currently pulling anchor in the ACC in both field goal (40.2%) and three-point percentage (26.2%).  Tech hasn’t played a game in a week, so it will be interesting to see how the time off effects their strokes.

The Jackets, similarly to Georgia, have two players that can and will play the point guard position – junior Iman Shumpert and sophomore Mfon Udofia.  Shumpert is the leader of this team, and he’s a smooth ball-handler that nets 13.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.0 apg and 2.9 spg – he does it all for Coach Hewitt.  Both Shumpert and Udofia (9.1 ppg) like to attack the basket off the dribble and can get into the paint and score.

Sophomore forward Brian Oliver leads his team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.4), and he’s the best outside shooter – knocking down 35.7% from beyond the arc on the season.  Fellow sophomore Glen Rice, Jr. is the other Tech starter averaging double figures at 11.1 points per game.

Tuesday night’s game will not be Gerald Robinson, Jr.’s first rodeo against the Jackets.  In 2007, GR2 paced his Tennessee State Tiger team with 24 points in a 99-85 loss to Georgia Tech, and in 2008 he led the Tigers with 16 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in a 63-58 loss to the Jackets.

However, this time against the Jackets GR2 will be bringing the SEC Preseason Player of the Year (Trey Thompkins) and the Elevator From Decatur (Travis Leslie) with him.

I’d like to see Robinson be a little more selfish with the ball when Shumpert is guarding him (which could be often) – GR2 has the ability to take him off the dribble and possibly force Iman into some cheap fouls.

Last week’s win over UAB was the first time this season that Jeremy Price and Trey Thompkins each scored in double figures – Price had 14 and Trey finished with 20.  The Georgia wings fed the ball inside early and often, allowing these two wide-bodies to dominate the smaller UAB bigs.  I’d like to see a similar game-plan on Tuesday night – Tech doesn’t have the size inside to match up with Georgia’s bigs and hopefully Coach Fox has his guys ready to exploit it.

Georgia’s bench played strong for Coach Fox against the Blazers, out-scoring them 13-3 with Sherrard Brantley contributing 8 points.  Fox is going to need more big minutes out of Brantley, Chris Barnes, Connor Nolte and Marcus Thornton on Tuesday – being on the road in a raucous environment means there is a possibility that some of the Georgia starters could land in foul trouble (Jeremy Price).

ESPN college basketball analyst (and quasi-Georgia basketball fan?) Andy Katz said earlier this morning that “Georgia may finally be turning the corner“.

Winning at Alexander Memorial on Tuesday would certainly reaffirm his statement.

This is a monster game for Coach Fox’s Dawgs – playing their in-state rival on the road will be a heck of a challenge.  The AJC’s Jeff Schultz says “this may be as important a game as Tech plays all season” – Hewitt’s job could be on the line.

Tickets are still available for this showdown.

The last time I was on the Georgia Tech campus was Saturday November 28, 2009 – that was a good night.

I’m hoping to see the basketball team do something they haven’t done in a decade – win at Georgia Tech.

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