Starting Five: No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. No. 7 Clemson
Preview of Wednesday night’s ACC Tournament first-round game between the Yellow Jackets (18-13, 8-10) and Tigers (17-13, 10-8)
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
- Georgia Tech takes the momentum gained from its strong second half of the ACC season into the postseason, as the tenth-seeded Yellow Jackets take on No. 7 Clemson. Tipoff at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., is set for 7 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets made it five wins in six games to close the 2015-16 regular season, knocking off Pittsburgh, 63-59, Saturday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion. Adam Smith scored a team-high 23 points and Nick Jacobs added a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double as the Jackets came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to celebrate Senior Day in style. Smith hit five of seven three-point attempts, including a big three with 6:24 left to give the Jackets the lead for good and scored eight of Tech’s final 10 points to put the game on ice. Smith hit 13 three-pointers in the two games against the Panthers, while Pittsburgh went 0-for-11 from three-point range. The Jackets, who committed seven first-half turnovers, controlled the ball better in the second half, finishing with 12 for the game and controlled the boards, outrebounding the Panthers, 41-33, 12-9 off the offensive glass. Jacobs had a game-high four ORBs, with Charles Mitchell and Quinton Stephens each grabbing two.
The Tigers had a cathartic win in their season finale, beating Boston College, 66-50, at Conte Forum. The win gave them their fifth 10-win season in ACC play and snapped a three-game-road and three-game overall losing streak. Jaron Blossomgame scored a team-high 16, leading a trio of double-figure scorers, and Donte Grantham had a monster game, with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds and two steals. Avry Holmes added 11 points. The Tigers hit nine three-pointers on the day, eight in the first half and used a 16-3 run late in the half to get some distance from the stubborn Eagles. Clemson led 38-31 at the break and by as much as 25. The Tigers cooled from behind the arc in the second half (1-for-10), but shot 50 percent overall and limited the Eagles, who finished winless in ACC play, to 36.9 percent shooting, 19 percent from three.
Tonight's game will be the fifth time the teams have met in ACC Tournament play, the second time in the last three years in the ACC Tournament and the third time in the first round. Georgia Tech has won three of the four previous meetings and both first-round games. The Jackets have won two of three in the series after dropping 10 straight to the Tigers.
The game can be seen locally on WATL in Atlanta, with Tim Brando and Dan Bonner calling the action and nationally on ESPN2, with Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas on the call. It can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, WYAY (93.7 FM) and 680 The Fan (680 AM), with Brandon Gaudin and Randy Waters on the call. You can hear Brandon and Randy via satellite radio, on Sirius and XM (Channel 81 on each). Fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and the GT Gameday App.
And now, the Starting Five for tonight’s ACC Tournament game.
The Last Time We Met (in the ACC Tournament)...: No. 11 Georgia Tech played overtime for the second consecutive night but was unable to pull out a second consecutive win, falling to No. 6 Clemson, 69-65, on March 13, 2014, at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. Trae Golden scored a game-high 23 points and Robert Carter, Jr. added 13 points and nine boards. The Yellow Jackets led by two after a first half that saw six ties and six lead changes and used a 15-7 run to jump out to a nine-point lead inside of eight minutes. Clemson answered with 15-2 run to take a four-point lead with fewer than 90 seconds left but Tech fought back. Jumpers by Golden and center Daniel Miller, the latter with .9 seconds left, forced overtime. The extra session saw two ties and two lead changes, but the Jackets then ran out of gas. The Tigers took the lead with 44 seconds remaining on a Damarcus Harrison jumper and Harrison hit four straight free throws down the stretch to close it out. The game saw 15 blocked shots, including three by Daniel Miller, while Clemson got six from freshman Landry Nnoko. Jackets freshman Corey Heyward set his career high for steals with three. The Jackets committed more turnovers (10) than they had assists (9) and missed nine of 20 free throw attempts.
Best of Three: As in the first two games, tonight’s rubber game between Georgia Tech and Clemson likely will be decided by the play of Tech’s back court of Marcus Georges-Hunt and Adam Smith. In the first game, a 66-52 Clemson victory, Georges-Hunt and Smith were limited to 22 points. In the second game, the Jackets prevailed 75-73, with Georges-Hunt and Smith scoring 45. The Clemson victory was the last time Georges-Hunt was held to as few as two field goals in a game (2-for-7) and the second and final game he shot below 30 percent (28.6, on 2-for-7) and was shutout from three (0-for-1) in an ACC game. Coincidentally, the other game was against Virginia (16.7 on 1-for-6 and 0-for-2 from three), Tech’s opponent Thursday should they advance. Smith, went 3-for-11, 0-for-3 from three in that initial meeting. It was the last time he was shut out from three in an ACC game (0-for-3). In the rematch, Georges-Hunt scored 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting, 1-for-2 from three and 8-for-9 from the line, while Smith had 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting, 4-for-7 from three and 2-for-2 from the stripe. Both came on strong in the second half, with Smith going for 15 on 5-for-9, 3-for-4 from three, while Georges-Hunt added 12 on 4-for-5 and 4-for-5 from the line and playing stellar defense on Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame.
Tech Trivia: Who holds the Georgia Tech ACC Tournament single-game record for assists?
Spreadin’ It Around: While Georges-Hunt and Smith lead the way, Georgia Tech has had plenty of options this season. The Jackets had four players finish the ‘15-16 season averaging double-digit scoring. Georges-Hunt (16.6 ppg) and Smith (14.6), were joined by bigs Nick Jacobs (10.8) and Charles Mitchell (10.3), who had 15 double-doubles on the season. Tech has not finished a season with as many as four players averaging in double figures since 2008-09. Last season the Jackets had one player average double-figures in scoring, Georges-Hunt, who finished at 13.6 ppg, and only one other score as many as 9.0 (Mitchell at 9.8).
Both Sides of the (3-Point) Line: Georgia Tech has improved dramatically from either side of the three-point line this season. Offensively, the Yellow Jackets shot 34.7 percent, 33.7 percent against the ACC and head into postseason ranked No. 166 in the country. While that may not sound impressive, consider that last season Tech ranked 343rd nationally, shooting a school-record low 26.7 percent. The biggest difference is the addition of Smith, who leads the ACC in three-pointers per game (3.00) and ranks seventh in three-point shooting (40.8). His 93 3PTFGMs are the most by a Yellow Jacket in 14 years. Smith rubbed off on junior forward Quinton Stephens and Georges-Hunt, who are shooting career-highs -- Stephens 32.9 percent, Georges-Hunt 34.0. The Jackets also defended the three-point line well, especially of late. Pittsburgh went 0-for-11 from three-point range, Tech’s first shutout of an opponent from three in a game since Jan. 30, 2011 against Maryland, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The whitewash in the game after holding Louisville to 2-for-17 from downtown. The .118 had been the lowest opponent three-point shooting percentage of the season. That’s 2-for-28 shooting from three-point range over the last two games, an .071. Last year opponents shot 31.9 percent from three, 34.1 in ACC play, while Tech shot only 26.7, 29.6 in conference play. This year, opponents shot 31.4 and even lower in ACC play 30.9.
The Sixth Man: Tonight’s game is the first time Georgia Tech has played the ACC Tournament as a No. 10 seed. They are 1-1 in games against the No. 7 seed. The win came as a No. 6 against No. 7 Clemson, 69-61, in the second round in 1993. They lost as a No. 8 to No. 7 Florida State, 63-62, in 2000...Tadric Jackson hopes his second appearance in the ACC Tournament game is as productive as his first. Last year, as a freshman, he scored 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting in the first-round game against Boston College. Both are stiill highs for conference games (he matched the six FGMs this year against Duke on Feb. 2) and are one off his career bests set Nov. 27, 2014 against Marquette, coincidentally, also a neutral-site game...Tech Trivia Answer: Drew Barry, who recorded 13 dimes in No. 6 Georgia Tech’s 69-61 victory over No. 7 Clemson in the second-round win of the 1993 ACC Tournament...Adam Smith’s 93 three-pointers for the season moved him past Stephon Marbury for the sixth-most in a season in Georgia Tech history. He is five three-pointers from the top four, where he’d join Dennis Scott (1987-88) and Tony Akins (2001-02)...Nick Jacobs’ 19-point, 12-rebound double-double against PIttsburgh was only the fourth by a Yellow Jacket not named Charles Mitchell. Jacobs and James White each had two. Both of Jacobs’ came in ACC play. In addition to Pitt he also got one at McCamish on Jan. 23 vs. Louisville, going for 16 points and 10 rebounds.
CLEMSON SCORING LEADER: Jaron Blossomgame, 18.6 ppg
CLEMSON SCORING LEADER (ACC): Jaron Blossomgame, 20.7 ppg
CLEMSON REBOUNDING LEADER: Jaron Blossomgame,6.7 rpg
CLEMSON REBOUNDING LEADER (ACC): Jaron Blossomgame, 6.6 rpg
CLEMSON ASSISTS LEADER: Jordan Roper, 3.9 apg
CLEMSON ASSISTS LEADER (ACC): Jordan Roper, 4.0 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG/ACC: 73.5/70.4 ppg
OPP. PPG/ACC: 70.6/71.9 ppg
CLEMSON PPG/ACC: 69.1/69.7
OPP. PPG/ACC: 63.7/67.0
CLEMSON Player To Watch - Jaron Blossomgame: The 6-7, 220-pound redshirt junior forward was named First-Team All-ACC by the league’s coaches and was also named the Conference’s Most Improved Player. That improvement came in the form of his third-place finish in scoring in non-conference and in conference play. A deadly shooter from behind and in front of the arc, Blossomgame made history as the first Clemson player to shoot at least 50 percent (51.6), 40 percent from three (44.9) and 75 percent from the line (78.3) in the same season. The former teammate of Marcus Georges-Hunt has scored in double figures in all but one ACC game and has really come on as the season has wound down, scoring at least 20 points in five of the final seven games, with three 30-point games. He also has hit at least three three-pointers in a team-high four straight games. Blossomgame has shown his explosiveness and ability to score the ball plenty in the two games. scoring 39 points in the two games against Tech (19.5 ppg).