Starting Five: No. 4 Georgia Tech at No. 1 South Carolina
A preview of Monday night’s NIT second-round matchup between the Yellow Jackets (20-14) and Gamecocks (25-8)
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
- Georgia Tech looks to get into the round of eight in the 2016 NIT when it takes on the region’s No. 1 seed South Carolina of the SEC. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C., is set for 9 p.m. The winner of tonight’s game plays the winner of San Diego State-Washington, which tips off at 11;30 p.m. EST in San Diego.
The Jackets continued their hot streak in the first round of the NIT, blowing away Houston, 81-62, last Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. Adam Smith scored a game-high 20 with four assists and Marcus Georges-Hunt added 19 with five helpers for the Jackets, who shot 52 percent for the game and led virtually wire-to-wire. Tech led by nine at the break, then shot 56 percent in the second half, 57.1 from three, to pull away from the Cougars. Tech had a 13-8 edge on the offensive boards and dominated the glass, with a 39-25 advantage. That helped them shut down high-flying UH, outscoring them off the break, 11-10, and 16-7 on second-chance points.
Despite having five players suspended, the Gamecocks easily advanced in their NIT opener, routing High Point, 88-66, last Tuesday. Laimonas Chatkevicius scored a game-high 30 points on 15-of-16 shooting for the Gamecocks, who shot 60 percent for the game and held a 58-10 edge in points in the paint. Sindarius Thornwell added 20 and Michael Carrera added 12 and 11 rebounds for South Carolina, which never trailed, led 48-43 at intermission and used a 20-0 run early in the second half to break the game open.
Tonight's game will be the 43rd time the teams have met, with Georgia Tech holding 24-18 edge -- it’s Tech’s ninth-most frequently played rival, 10-8 in the Palmetto State. The teams last met Feb 16, 1984.
The game can be seen nationally on ESPN, with Dave Neal and Dino Gaudio 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. 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 second-rounder.
Living It Up Downtown: Both Georgia Tech and South Carolina are more than willing to use the three-point line to their advantage. Over the last nine games, during which Georgia Tech has gone 7-2, the Yellow Jackets have made 56 three-point field goals (6.2 per game), shooting 16.5 per game and making 37.5 percent of them, having not made fewer than four in any game. Four three-pointers might be considered a slump for South Carolina, as they’ve made at least five in 10 of the last 11 games, during which they’ve gone 6-5, making 7.2 per game while taking 18.2 (200) -- a 39.5 conversion rate. For the the year, they made 35.1 percent of their threes (209-of-595). Georgia Tech made 96 of 285. Adam Smith has been especially big shooting 16-for-28 (57.1 percent) from three over the last four games.
Living It Down Downtown: While South Carolina has gotten great results from three-point range, so have their opponents. Opponents shot a better percentage (35.2), and made 67 more threes (although they did also attempt 189 more). Georgia Tech has limited opponents to 30.9 percent shooting, with six more 3PTFMs despite six fewer tries. In their NIT openers the Jackets limited Houston to 2-of-13. while South Carolina allowed High Point to convert 12 of 30.
Tech Trivia: Which Georgia Tech head coach has the longest winning streak against South Carolina?
Something In Common: Unlike with Houston, Georgia Tech and South Carolina have several common opponents. The Jackets and Gamecocks each played Clemson, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee. Tech had a 4-2 record against those teams -- topping Tennessee at McCamish Pavilion, 69-67, on Nov. 16, and Arkansas at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, 83-73 on Nov. 26, splitting the regular season series with ACC rival Clemson before defeating the Tigers in the ACC Tournament, and losing at Georgia. 75-61, on Dec. 19. South Carolina went 3-4, winning at Clemson, 65-59, on Dec. 19, and at Arkansas (76-61, on March 5), split with Tennessee (losing in Knoxvillle, 78-69, on Jan. 23, and winning 84-58 on Feb. 24, in Columbia) and going 0-3 vs. Georgia (losing, 69-56, Feb. 2 in Athens, 74-72, March 3 at home then 65-64 eight days later in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville).
Phi Lammers Jamma: To advance tonight, Georgia Tech needs continued big play from its big men. Sophomore forward Ben Lammers has been especially big in postseason. Over the last three games, he’s scored 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting, has gathered 11 rebounds and, of course, has been his usual intimidator, swatting away three shots. Against Houston, he went “Phi Lammers Jamma” on Houston, scoring nine points, on 4-for-4 shooting, with five rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 22 minutes. The minutes and FGMs matched his career-high, whlle the points were the most since he played 20 minutes at Syracuse on Jan. 23. The two blocks game him 13 multi-block games and was the sixth time he had back-to-back multi-block games. He can match his high of three with a mult-block game tonight.
Sixth Man: Georgia Tech is 3-1 in NIT second-round games and has won its last three -- 78-70 over Michigan on March 24, 1971, 80-79 in overtime over Georgetown on March 16, 1998, and 79-78 over Iowa on March 24, 2003...Tech Trivia Answer: Roy Mundorff. Mundorff had identical five-game winning streaks to bookend his career. He beat USC five times beginning Feb. 21 1931 through Feb. 21, 1939 then added another from Dec. 29, 1940 through Jan. 1, 1943. The latter streak would reach six, courtesy of the 1946 team, coached by Dwight Keith...Tonight’s game will mark the 128th career start in Marcus Georges-Hunt’s storied career and set a school-record for most career starts. The previous record was 127, held by Malcolm Mackey (1989-93). Mackey will still hold the career-record for most career games played as he, Marvin Lewis (2000-04) and Anthony McHenry (2001-05) each played 130. Georges-Hunt could join that company should the Yellow Jackets advance...James White has come alive on the boards in postseason. He has 20 rebounds over his last three games (6.7 rpg), his third-most productive three-game stretch of the season and best since going for 29 in the three games Dec. 15 vs. VCU (5-3--8), at Georgia Dec. 19, 3-5--8) and Dec. 21 vs. Southeastern Louisiana (6-7--13).
GEORGIA TECH SCORING LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 16.7 ppg
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORING LEADER: Michael Carrera, 14.4 ppg
GEORGIA TECH REBOUNDING LEADER: Charles Mitchell, 9.7 rpg
SOUTH CAROLINA REBOUNDING LEADER: Michael Carrera, 7.8 rpg
GEORGIA TECH ASSISTS LEADER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 3.2 apg
SOUTH CAROLINA ASSISTS LEADER: Sindarius Thornwell., 3.9 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG/ACC: 73.5/70.4 ppg
OPP. PPG/ACC: 70.8/71.9 ppg
SOUTH CAROLINA PPG/SEC: 76.3/72.9
OPP. PPG/SEC: 68.9/71.7
SOUTH CAROLINA Player To Watch - Michael Carrera: The 6-5, 214-pound senior forward from Anzoátegui, Venezuela, was named first-team All-SEC after leading the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding and a team-leading 11 double-doubles, the most for a South Carolina player in 22 years. One of seven players in program history with 1,000 points and 700 rebounds, Carrera can completely dominate a game, as he did with his 20-point/15-rebound game against Florida on Feb. 20. It was the first 20-15 game for a Gamecock since the 1983-84 season. A month earlier, he made history with the first 30-point, 10-rebound game since Carolina joined the SEC going for a career-best 34 points and career-high-tying 15 boards in the win vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 26. He’s the sixth all-time leading rebounder in school history (794) and is currently tied for eighth in three-point shooting 37.5.