Georgia Tech Knocks Off No. 6 Cavaliers, 62-56
Feb. 11, 2001
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA – Georgia Tech in the NCAA tournament? The idea doesn’t seem soludicrous anymore.
The Yellow Jackets, picked to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic CoastConference, knocked off another ranked team Sunday, beating No. 6 Virginia62-56 as Tony Akins scored 19 points and freshman Halston Lane hit two keybaskets.
First-year coach Paul Hewitt told his players from day one that his goal wasan NCAA bid, even though Georgia Tech hasn’t been to the tournament since 1996.
“That’s our goal,” said Akins, who also did a smothering defensive job onVirginia guard Donald Hand. “Coach told us if we don’t make the tournament, wehaven’t accomplished anything. If we keep it up, that’s where we’re going tobe.”
The Yellow Jackets (14-8, 6-5 ACC) defeated their second ranked team in fivedays and fourth of the season. They are tied for third in the conference aftersweeping the season series from Virginia.
Georgia Tech also has victories over Kentucky and UCLA to enhance its RPIrating, but senior center Alvin Jones downplayed all the postseason talk.
“If we lose the rest of our games, we’re not going to be in anything,” hesaid. “We’ve still got five games left and the ACC tournament.”
The Cavaliers (16-6, 5-6) again struggled on the road in league play, losingtheir second in a row and dropping to 1-5 for the season.
“We’re definitely different on the road, for whatever reason,” said Hand,who went 0-for-9 from the field and managed only two points. “We did a goodjob on defense. We just didn’t get any shots to fall.”
Before the game, Hewitt challenged his point guard to shut down Hand.
“Donald is a great player, don’t get me wrong,” Hewitt said. “But I toldTony, ‘Play like you’re better than him.”‘
Akins followed his coach’s instructions to the letter. Not only did he hit 7of 10 shots – making him 23 of 39 over the last three games – he set up thebiggest basket of the game.
Drawing a double-team as he dribbled along the 3-point arc, Akins flipped apass to Lane. The freshman swished a wide-open 3 with 1:14 remaining for a58-54 lead.
“He’s a shooter,” Akins said. “I don’t know why they left him open, butI’m glad they did.”
Actually, Lane had a rough day from long range, missing his first four 3sbefore hitting the one that mattered most.
“I got some good looks at the basket, but my 3 wasn’t quite as good as it’sbeen in the past,” he said. “I was open and I finally knocked down theshot.”
Hand was blocked at the other end by Jones and Virginia was forced to foulafter Akins scooped up the loose ball. He made both free throws with 58 secondsto go, sealing the victory.
“You need your point guard to have a real good game, especially on theroad,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. “Obviously, Donald didn’t have hisbest game.”
Lane, who scored 15 points, also made the basket that put Tech ahead forgood. His 15-foot jumper after a timeout gave the Yellow Jackets a 55-54advantage with 2:33 remaining, the eighth and final lead change of the secondhalf.
After the teams traded turnovers, Virginia had a chance to go back in front.But Travis Watson missed a pair of free throws with 1:40 to go, epitomizing histeam’s struggles at the line. Overall, the Cavaliers made only 9 of 18 foulshots after entering the game with the ACC’s best percentage (74.5).
“Our guys scratched and clawed,” Gillen said. “But they made baddecisions down the stretch and did not do a good job of shooting free throws.”
Akins and Jones have sparked Tech’s resurgence this season. The YellowJackets already have more overall and ACC victories than all of last season,the finale for longtime coach Bobby Cremins.
Akins, who also had four assists and three steals, came through with anotherstrong performance after scoring 28 points in Tech’s 72-62 victory overMaryland on Tuesday night.
Jones, who picked up his fourth foul with more than 10 minutes remaining,managed to stay on the court and came up with 14 rebounds, four blocks and twosteals.
Roger Mason had 17 points but the Cavaliers couldn’t overcome 22-of-57 (39percent) shooting in losing again to the Yellow Jackets, who handed Virginiaits only home loss of the season, 73-68 on Jan. 9.
“You have to match their intensity,” Mason said. “We haven’t done thatwhen we’ve played them.”