Starting Five: No. 4 Georgia Tech at No. 2 San Diego State
A preview of tonight’s NIT quarterfinal matchup between the Yellow Jackets (21-14, 8-10) and Aztecs (27-9, 16-2)
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
- Two nights and a cross-country flight after wiping out top-seeded South Carolina, Georgia Tech returns to the court to play Mountain West Conference regular-season champ and the region’s No. 2 seed San Diego State in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NIT. Tipoff at Viejas Arena in San Diego, Calif., is set for 9 p.m. The winner of this game, the first ever between the schools, earns a trip to New York’s Madison Square Garden and a place in the tournament’s Final Four, where they’ll meet the winner of George Washington-Florida. They’ll join Valparaiso and BYU, who have already qualified.
The Jackets picked up where they left off in the first round of the NIT on Monday night, rolling into Columbia, S.C., and rolling over No. 1 South Carolina, 83-66. Adam Smith scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, 5-of-10 from three, Marcus Georges-Hunt added 14 points and eight assists, and Nick Jacobs contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Jackets trailed 2-0 but scored the next eight points and never trailed again. Charles Mitchell’s layup keyed a 13-4 run that doubled up the Gamecocks at 22-11 and the Jackets, who led by as much as 17, took a 14-point lead into the break. A 10-1 run coming out of the locker room extended the lead to 25 and Tech cruised home. Tech shot 50 percent from the field and from three and dominated on the glass, holding a 39-21 edge, 12-4 on the offensive boards, the latter leading to a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points.
The Aztecs used the home court advantage to their advantage in routing Washington, 93-78. SDSU frustrated the Huskies’ powerful offense, taking a 45-29 lead into the break, then held off UW after seeing their deficit cut to five. Senior forward Winston Shepard led six double-figure scorers with 20 points as part of a 20-10 double-double, Malik Pope went for 10 and 12 and Matt Shrigley came off the bench to go 4-for-4 from three. Shrigley hit back-to-back three-pointers 85 seconds apart in the first half to open up a 10-point lead then made another at the end of the half to cap a 13-2 half-closing run. The lead would shrink to five but SDSU scored the next four points and was never seriously challenged thereafter. San Diego limited Washington to 38.7 percent shooting, 26.7 from three. It was the 61st straight win for the Aztecs in home games when shooting over 50 percent.
The game can be seen nationally on ESPN2, with Scott Quis and Sean Farnham 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 Quarterfinal.
Adam Bomb: Adam Smith has been on fire in postseason. The grad student, who leads the ACC in three-point field goals (3.11 per game) and is sixth in three-point field goal percentage (42.1), has sizzled during the postseason. In Tech’s ACC Tournament and NIT games, he is shooting 57.1 percent (16-for-28). He has led the Jackets in scoring in each of the two NIT games, has gone for at least 20 points in four of the last five games and in back-to-back games for the third time this season. Two of the three sets of back-to-back 20-point games have come over the last five games. In those games Smith is shooting 52.2 percent (36-for-69) and 55.3 from three (21-for-38). His 109 three-pointers this season are seven three-point behind Dennis Scott for second-most in a season in school history (116 in 1988-89). In addition to shooting, Smith has seven assists against only four turnovers in the two NIT games and is plus in both games after being minus in six of his previous eight games.
Taking Care of Business: Marcus Georges-Hunt’s eight assists at South Carolina was a career-high and marked the fourth time in five games he’s handed out at least five assists. He had four such games in the previous 30 this season. Georges-Hunt also had no turnovers against the Gamecocks. It was his first clean game since Dec. 21, 2015 against Southeastern Louisiana, was his fourth of the season and his first since becoming Georgia Tech’s primary ball-handler. Over his last five games, Georges-Hunt has nearly a 5:1 assists-to-turnovers ratio (29 assists vs. six turnovers).
Tech Trivia: Who was the last coach to lead Georgia Tech to victory in a game played in Southern California?
Dimes, Dimes, Everywhere Dimes: Georgia Tech has been extremely unselfish in its two NIT wins. The Jackets have recorded 36 assists (17 vs. Houston, 19 at South Carolina), on their 62 baskets in the two games (32, 30). The 36 helpers are the most in a two-game stretch since back on Nov. 16 and 19, the second and third games of the season, when the Jackets recorded 15 assists against Tennessee then 23 against Green Bay. The 58.1 percent of assists on baskets is up from 50.8 during the season and 49.1 in ACC play. The percentage of assists on field goals is way up from last season, when the Jackets averaged a helper on 49.3 percent of their baskets.
Nick of Timing: Nick Jacobs continues to make a great final impression. His 10-point, 10-rebound double-double was his third of the season, and continued his end-of-season scoring flourish. Jacobs is averaging 10.6 ppg over his last five games, with three double-figure efforts (he has 18 on the season), while his 10 rebounds gave him four double-figure-rebounding games on the season -- all in ACC play -- and 6.5 over his last five games (36 total rebounds, 12 offensive, 24 defensive). His two blocks gave him five multi-block games for the season and was his first such game since Dec. 29 against Duquesne. It’s not surprising that Jacobs scored 10 points against the Gamecocks with four field goals (he was 4-for-9 on Monday), as in three of the four games he played against South Carolina while with Alabama, Jacobs scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Sixth Man: Georgia Tech is 1-3 in NIT quarterfinal games and will try to snap a two-game losing streak tonight. Tech fell, 56-55, on March 16, 1970 against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, then beat Michigan, 78-70, the following March 24, also at MSG. Since then, the Jackets are winless, falling, 75-70, to Penn State on March 18, 1998, at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, then, in their last NIT appearance, 80-70 at Texas Tech in a game played at United Spirit Arena, in Lubbock on March 26, 2003...Georgia Tech has dominated the paint of late. In their two NIT games they are plus-18 in points in the paint. Over their last four games, Tech has scored at least 30 in the paint three times, all wins and has won five straight games when getting at least 30 PIPs -- outscoring their opponents in four of the five, they were even in the other. The Jackets have hit 30 in the paint 19 times this season, with a 13-6 record...Tech Trivia Answer: It was none other than current coach Brian Gregory, who led the Jackets to a 65-56 win over Saint Mary’s on Nov. 25, 2012, in the finale of the DirecTV Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif….Marcus Georges-Hunt will make his 129th career start tonight, adding to his school-record for career starts, set on Monday night. The game is the 130th of his career, moving Georges-Hunt into a tie with Malcolm Mackey (1989-93), Marvin Lewis (2000-04) and Anthony McHenry (2001-05) for career games played. Should Tech advance, Marcus would hold both career marks...Quinton Stephens scored 11 points against South Carolina. That raised Georgia Tech’s record to 7-0 when Stephens scores in double digits. The USC game Q’s first such game since Feb. 23 against Clemson.
SAN DIEGO STATE SCORING LEADER: Trey Kell, 12.6 ppg
SAN DIEGO STATE SCORING LEADER (NIT): Winston Shepard, 15.0 ppg
SAN DIEGO STATE REBOUNDING LEADER: Winston Shepard, 6.6 rpg
SAN DIEGO STATE REBOUNDING LEADER (NIT): Winston Shepard, Malik Pope, 10.0 rpg
SAN DIEGO STATE ASSISTS LEADER: Winston Shepard, 3.1 apg
SAN DIEGO STATE ASSISTS LEADER (NIT): Winston Shepard, 8.0 apg
GEORGIA TECH PPG/NIT: 73.7/82.0 ppg
OPP. PPG/NIT: 70.7/64.0 ppg
SAN DIEGO STATE PPG/NIT: 69.1/86.0
OPP. PPG/NIT: 60.6/66.5
SAN DIEGO STATE Player To Watch - Winston Shepard: The 6-8, 210-pound senior forward from Houston, Texas, is a winner. In fact only one player in Mountain West Conference history has won as many MWC games as Shepard’s 55 -- that’s teammate Skylar Spencer. Shepard currently ranks seventh in SDSU history in scoring (1,382 points), is the only player in school history to score 1,000 points, grab 700 rebounds and hand out 300 assists and is playing some of his best ball as his career winds down. He’s putting up 14.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, and 5.2 apg over his last six games, including the school’s first ever triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists -- the latter a career-high), in the first-round win over IPFW, then, in the win over Washington, scored a career-best 20 points with 10 boards and four assists -- his sixth double-double this season and the ninth of his career. Shepard who has 75 career double-digit-scoring games (SDSU is 62-13) is averaging 15.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 8.0 apg, 1.5 spg, and is shooting 50.0 percent (11-for-22) and is perfect from the line (8-for-8).