Starting Five: No. 4 Georgia Tech vs. No. 5 Houston
A preview of tonight's NIT opener between the Yellow Jackets (19-14) and Cougars (22-9)
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
- Georgia Tech is back in postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season and will host for the first time at McCamish Pavilion, taking on Houston of the American Athletic Conference. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. The winner of tonight's game will play No. 1 seed South Carolina on Monday night in Columbia.
The Jackets, appearing in the NIT for the eighth time and first since 2003, come in riding the momentum of a strong finish that saw them win six of their final eight games. That includes an incredible 88-85 overtime win over Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tournament, where they came back from 18 points down with less than nine minutes remaining. Led by senior Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech's 11th all-time leading scorer and eighth-leading scorer in the ACC (fifth in conference), Adam Smith, the conference's top three-point shooter and a senior-laden roster, Brian Gregory's Jackets will try to earn their first 20-win season since 2009-10, the last year they qualified for postseason and the 14th in school history. The eight conference wins are the most since 2006-07.
The Cougars will try to continue a superb turnaround season, In their second season under Kelvin Sampson (who is 1-2 all-time vs. Georgia Tech), UH saw a nine-win improvement from last season. It's the program's first NIT appearance in 10 years, the 10th in school history and the first postseason appearance since appearing in the 2013 College Basketball Invitational. UH, which finished third in the AAC, also has won six of eight but lost its last game, getting upended by 10th-seeded Tulane, 72-69, in the first round of the conference tournament.
Tonight's game will be the third time the teams have met, the second time in postseason, and the first time not on a neutral court. Georgia Tech has won the first two meetings, at the 1988 Rainbow Classic on Dec. 28, 1988, when the No. 17/17 Jackets knocked off the Cougars, 87-78. The schools would meet again in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, recording a 65-60 victory.
The game can be seen nationally on ESPN2, with Tom Hart and Cory Alexander 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 Randy Waters and Jon Babul on the call. Fans also can get up-to-the-minute stats on Ramblinwreck.com and the GT Gameday App.
And now, here's the starting five for tonight's NIT opener.
The Last Time We Met...: James Forrest's jumper with 1:51 remaining keyed a game-closing 11-2 run as No. 7 Georgia Tech, rallied to beat No. 10 Houston, 65-60, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 19, 1992 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Jon Barry led the Jackets with 17 points and five assists from and Tech held played strong defense, limiting Houston to 35 percent shooting, including 27.8 percent in the first half when they jumped out to a 32-24 halftime lead. But Houston went on a 15-5 run to take a two-point lead and led by four with four minutes to play setting the stage for the Jackets' closing rally. Barry shot 7-for-15 to lead four double-figure scorers, with Malcolm Mackey adding 13 points and four rebounds, Travis Best going for 12 with six rebounds and Matt Geiger chipping in 10 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Forrest pulled in a game-high eight rebounds
Slow Down, You're Moving Way Too Fast: Georgia Tech will make slowing down Houston down a priority. That means slowing their fast break. That's a tall task, as the Cougars hit double-figures in fast-break points 14 times, this season, twice hitting their season-high of 18. They won 13 of those games. They also shut out opponents five times (they were 4-1) and were only outscored off the break five times (going 2-3). Three opponents reached double-figures off the break (they were 2-1, allowing a high of 12 to UConn). The Yellow Jackets hit double-figures off the break 12 times, although none in the last nine games, and were 7-5 in such games, with a high of 29 vs. Cornell in the season-opener and an ACC-high of 28 against Virginia Tech. They posted two shutouts (at NC State and vs. Notre Dame, they were 2-0). Tech was outscored off the break 18 times, although they were 10-8 in such games, allowed opponents to score in double-figures 13 times (8-5), with a high of 23 (by Duquesne), and were shutout four times. They were 1-3, although the last time was in the ACC Tournament win over Clemson.
Tech Trivia: Who led Georgia Tech in scoring the last time the Yellow Jackets hosted an NIT game?
Uncharted Waters: While Georgia Tech was the ninth-most experienced team in the nation according to KenPom.com, postseason experience is not necessarily on the Jackets' side in postseason. Only forwards Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs have played in postseason tournaments, each playing a total of four games, MItchell with Maryland as a freshman, and Jacobs with Alabama as a freshman and sophomore. Interestingly, their roads crossed on March 26, 2013, in the NIT quarterfinals, when Mitchell's Terrapins met Jacobs' Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Mitchell had six points on 3-for-5 shooting, with five rebounds and two assists, while Jacobs scored nine points on 4-of-6, 1-for-1 from the line, with four rebounds and two blocks. Jacobs had a key three-point play as part of a furious late comeback that closed a 10-point Maryland lead to two. But the Terps held on for a 58-57 win (they were eliminated by Iowa in the semis). Mitchell averages 6.8 points on 48 percent shooting (12-for-25), with 7.3 rebounds in 14.8 minutes in postseason play in his four postseason games, while Jacobs, who played three games in 2012-13 NIT and a one in the `11-12 NCAAs -- coincidentally, a 58-57 loss to first-round loss to Creighton -- averages 7.3 points, on 68.4 percent shooting (13-for-19), with 7.3 rebounds in 19.8 minutes.
Catch a Wave and You're Sittin' On Top of The World: Georgia Tech and Houston share one common opponent, the Green Wave of Tulane, against whom both had plenty of success. The Yellow Jackets and Cougars combined to go 3-1, both won in New Orleans, and they won by a combined 39 points (an average margin of victory of 13.0 ppg). Georgia Tech took care of Tulane, 76-68, on Dec. 5 in New Orleans, while Houston won, 63-45, on Jan. 5 and 82-69 in New Orleans on Feb. 17. The only loss by either team was a big one. It came in the third meeting between Houston and Tulane in the first round of the AAC Tournament. The third time proved an unlucky charm, as the Wave drowned the Cougars, 72-69.
Sixth Man: Georgia Tech is 4-3 in NIT first-round games but is 2-0 in games in which they've hosted. The Jackets topped Seton Hall, 86-76, on March 11, 1998 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum then took care of Ohio State, 72-58, on March 19, 2003. They reached the quarterfinal each year they've hosted a first-round game...Adam Smith hit 101 three-point field goals this season. That's the third-best season by a Yellow Jacket. Only Dennis Scott has had greater seasons, making 116 three-pointers in 1988-89 and a school-record 137 in 1989-90. Houston opponents shot 29.8 percent from three-point range...Tech Trivia Answer: Chris Bosh scored a game-high 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, 1-for-1 from three and 5-for-6 from the line, had a game-high four blocks (two more than the Buckeyes) and a team-high and game-high-tying seven rebounds in Tech's 72-58 win over Ohio State on March 19, 2003 at AMC...The Yellow Jackets were 17-5 when scoring at least 70 points in a game this season. Houston was 5-6 in games where opponents scored at least 70 but it's a deceiving 5-6, as the more points they allowed the better they fared. The Cougars were 1-6 when allowing between 70 and 79 points, were 1-0 when allowing between 80 and 89 and 3-0 when opponents scored between 90 and 99. In addition, Georgia Tech shot over 50 percent seven times in 2015-16 after doing so only one time in 2014-15. Houston's opponents shot over 50 percent three times. The Cougars were 1-2...Georgia Tech's 13 home wins are the most in the Brian Gregory Era, the most since the 2009-10 team won 14 games and three off the all-time home record set in 2006-07, when the Jackets went 16-1. Houston has been good on the road, having its third-best season in school history with 11 road wins and six conference road wins.
HOUSTON SCORING LEADER: Rob Gray, Jr., 16.3 ppg
HOUSTON SCORING LEADER (AAC): Rob Gray, Jr., 14,5 ppg
HOUSTON REBOUNDING LEADER: Damyean Dotson, 6.8 rpg
HOUSTON REBOUNDING LEADER (AAC): Damyean Dotson, 6.2 rpg
HOUSTON ASSISTS LEADER: Galen Robinson, Jr., 3.4 apg
HOUSTON ASSISTS LEADER (AAC): Ronnie Johnson, 3,0 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG/ACC: 73.2/70.4 ppg
OPP. PPG/ACC: 71.1/71.9 ppg
HOUSTON PPG/AAC: 77.9/74.2
OPP. PPG/AAC: 68.9/68.0
HOUSTON Player To Watch - Damyean Dotson: The 6-5, 210-pound redshirt junior guard from Houston, Texas, -- he transferred from the University of Oregon after his sophomore season -- is a bona fide threat at both ends of the floor. AAC Honorable Mention, Dotson is one of only three players in the AAC to rank in the top 12 in scoring (13.9 ppg, 11th) and rebounding (6.8 rpg, 11th). He had a team-high 23 double-figure scoring games, seven double-figure-rebounding games, six double-doubles, and led the Cougars in field goal percentage 50.5 (10th in AAC), 3-PTFGM (2.0 per game, tied for ninth), and defensive rebounds (4.81 per game). In addition to shooting over 50 percent, he's a 36.9 percent shooter from behind the arc and 84.1 from the foul line. He ramped things up in conference play, shooting 51.3, 37.6 and 85.7.