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Virginia Tech (15-11, 6-6 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (11-13, 4-6 ACC)

Saturday, February 23, 2008, 2:00

TV: RLF Split (click here for station listings)

Roster Card: Click here

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Game Preview:  Virginia Tech will begin a three-game home stand on Saturday with momentum from a big win at Maryland on Wednesday night. The Hokies will take on Georgia Tech, a team that doesn't look like much in the win-loss column. Don't be fooled by looking at their record. They have a good team that has lost a number of very close games, and they also defeated the Hokies earlier in the season.

In the ACC, the focal point is to win your home games, and try to steal a few on the road. For Georgia Tech, it's been the opposite. The Yellow Jackets are just 1-4 at home in ACC play. That one win came against Virginia Tech, and the four losses came by a combined six points. They lost to Florida State by two, UNC by one, Maryland by two and Miami by one. They could have easily won all those games. On the road, GT is 3-2 in conference play, with wins at NC State, Virginia and Wake Forest.

It's hard to say what kind of game the Yellow Jackets will play on Saturday. They have lost three in a row and have not won since February 6. They were supposed to have a home game Thursday night against UVA, but thanks to a leaky roof, the game was postponed. Georgia Tech has not played since Sunday. Will they be rusty, or fresh?

Georgia Tech Starting Lineup
Pos Player Ht Wt Year PPG RPG Assists
G Maurice Miller 6-1 181 Fr. 6.1 2 66
G Anthony Morrow 6-5 210 Sr. 14.1 4.1 23
F D'Andre Bell 6-5 210 Jr. 6.3 1.8 43
F Gani Lawal 6-8 216 Fr. 7.2 3.8 6
F Jeremis Smith 6-8 236 Sr. 9.7 7.1 48

Georgia Tech is a good offensive basketball team. They've scored 80+ points in five ACC games. However, they've struggled to score the last three games. They've been unable to score more than 68 points since they beat Wake Forest over two weeks ago. They have a balanced lineup. Guys coming off the bench like Lewis Clinch, Zach Peacock and Matt Causey are capable of scoring in double figures on any given night.

In the first meeting between these teams, an 81-70 Georgia Tech win, the Hokies did not do a particularly good job with their perimeter defense. Anthony Morrow had a lot of success early in the game, finishing with 17 points. Matt Causey came off the bench to score 30 points, the third-highest number for a non-starter in recorded ACC history. Both players are excellent three-point shooters, Morrow at 43% and Causey at 43.2%.

Morrow is a spot up shooter. Of his 113 field goals this season, 58 have been three-pointers, over half. The Hokies need to stay with Morrow when he runs off screens, and not give him any breathing room. Make him put the ball on the floor. He's not a guy who likes to create his own offense, instead preferring to take the open jumper.

Causey likes to take the outside shot as well, though he has shown better ability to take the ball to the hoop as the season has progressed. Still, he's most dangerous when he's outside the three-point line, and he's got unlimited range. Causey has been inconsistent since he blew up on the Hokies for 30. Sometimes he's great, sometimes he does nothing.

Matt Causey Since the First Virginia Tech Game
Opponent Points FGM FGA 3FGM 3FGA
NC State 18 7 10 1 1
Virginia 18 6 11 2 7
Maryland 12 4 12 2 7
Wake Forest 0 0 3 0 1
Uconn 2 1 9 0 3
Clemson 8 3 7 1 2
Miami 20 6 13 4 7

That's an odd collection of stats. He's scored as many as 20 points, and as few as none. This game could come down to whether or not Causey is on or off, though the Yellow Jackets did manage to win at Wake Forest despite him not scoring at all. He'll likely come off the bench against the Hokies.

Jeremis Smith is Georgia Tech's top inside player. He is a strong, physical player. He is capable of posting a double-double in any game he plays. His matchup with Jeff Allen on the inside should be fun to watch. Both guys are about the same height, with Allen being a little heavier and possessing more natural talent. However, Smith has a ruggedness that you love, and a lot of experience in the ACC.

Perhaps Georgia Tech's main problem is that Smith is their only true banger on the inside. Gani Lawal and Alade Aminu are both solid players, but they don't bring the physical intensity that Smith brings every night. The Hokies should have a good chance to out-rebound the Yellow Jackets, as they did in the first meeting. Tech held a 38-33 advantage on the boards back on January 19.

VT vs. GT



Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG% 41.30% 11 47.70% 2 GT
FG% Defense 44.30% 4 45.70% 9 VT
3-Pt. % 28.40% 12 35.50% 6 GT
3-Pt. % Defense 38.30% 9 32.70% 5 GT
FT% 68.70% 8 67.60% 10 VT
Rebounding Margin +0.4 4 -1.5 8 VT
Turnover Margin -0.25 6 +1 4 GT
Assist/TO Ratio 0.69 11 0.84 8 GT
Scoring Offense 70.3 10 76.9 4 GT
Scoring Defense 74.7 3 77 9 VT
Average -- 7.8 -- 6.5 GT

When you look at those stats, it's hard to put your finger on why Georgia Tech is only 11-13 overall and 4-6 in the ACC. The one thing you can look at is close losses. In ACC play, GT has lost four home games by a total of six points. In out-of-conference games, they've lost to Kansas by five, Winthrop by six and Indiana by four. They are very close to being a winning team. They have plenty of talent, but they haven't been able to close out games.

Georgia Tech has struggled defensively on the road this season, allowing 81 points per game in contests played on the opposing team's home court. They have allowed 80 or more points seven times on the road, including their last four road games. The Yellow Jackets have allowed less than 74 points on the road just once.

Virginia Tech isn't likely to have the offensive firepower to score 80+ on Georgia Tech, but they should be able score enough to win the game. In the last meeting in Atlanta, the Hokies managed 70 points despite a terrible offensive outing by A.D. Vassallo. Vassallo was just 3-of-10 from the field, 0-of-5 from three-point range, and he committed seven turnovers. Expect a much better game from the Hokies' leading scorer on Saturday.

It would be big for the Hokies to get Jeremis Smith in foul trouble early. Jeff Allen is capable of having a lot of success on the inside against Georgia Tech, and Smith's absence would create a big rebounding edge for the Hokies, as well as eliminate the Yellow Jackets' only consistent inside scoring threat.

ACC games can go either way, and this one is no different. What I like is that Georgia Tech hasn't played since Sunday. In VT games this year, it has seemed that if a team has come into the game with a week off, they've shown up a bit rusty. That was the case when Boston College lost to the Hokies in January, and it was the case when VT lost at UNC last weekend. After not playing since Sunday, and spending all week preparing for a game against UVA that was never played, the Jackets could be a bit rusty on Saturday.

Or, they might not. They could come out on fire. If there's one thing I've learned in almost four years of being in the ACC, there is no rhyme or reason to winning or losing in the ACC. You've just got to bring your best, and hope for the best.