COLLEGE PARK, Md. – It’s “fear the turtle” time for the Yellow Jackets, who are back in a precarious position – on the road. It’s been extremely unkind to Georgia Tech, which is as you know 5-1 at home but 1-5 on the road.
Down to four games in the ACC, Tech (18-8, 6-6) needs to forget about recent road woes and just play well. That’s hard to do against a Maryland team which has great, experienced guard play, and despite a recent blip at Duke, has proven itself one of the strong teams in the ACC.
The Terrapins (18-7, 8-3) are tied for second in the ACC with Virginia Tech, a team the Yellow Jackets have awaiting on March 6, their final regular season game.
Tech is ranked seventh in the ACC, two games behind Wake Forest which in the fourth spot. That is something coach Paul Hewitt made it sound like Tech is eyeing leading into the today’s game. He basically said the Yellow Jackets have to win this game if they want to get that first-round bye in the ACC tournament.
Glen Rice Jr. will make his second consecutive start today in place of Mfon Udofia, who has faded lately, but at least showed some life in Tech’s win over North Carolina on Tuesday. (Udofia ended a streak of four games without a field goal when he scored in a layup off a steal. But he still has taken three shots or fewer in each of Tech’s last six games.)
Rice had five points in 27 minutes on Tuesday against UNC. He was active on the defensive end, which is what Hewitt was looking for, with a block and two steals.
The two players who’ll be most interesting to watch today will be Moe Miller and Iman Shumpert. Miller has been a steadying force of late with double-digit scoring in his past two games. He’s had seven assists and five turnovers, to go with 10 rebounds against Wake Forest and UNC.
Shumpert hasn’t played well in four of Tech’s last five games (the exception would be his 14-point second half against N.C. State). Tech really needs him to find some rhythm – either at the point or at the No. 2 spot if Miller keeps showing the most poise at point. It’s hard for Tech to win without him on his game, and it’s no coincidence that Tech lost three of those four games he’s struggled through.
Making matters tough, and at the same time crucial, Maryland has such great guard play. If you don’t find a way to match it, you’re sunk. The Terrapins lead the ACC in assists (16.4 per game) and assist-turnover ratio (1.34) and they are third in turnover margin (plus 3.3). The Terrapins are coming off a win over N.C. State on Wednesday in which they committed a season-low seven turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets will need to be active with their hands, getting those deflections Hewitt loves to keep track of from the bench.
One little area of vulnerability for Maryland might be the fact that the Terrapins are playing their fourth game in eight days because of a makeup game they had against Virginia on Monday. This is Tech’s third game in that span. We’ll see if Tech tries to press more today to see how weary Terp legs are.
Fear This Turtle
Greivis Vasquez is always interesting to the watch. The senior guard is the third-leading scorer in the ACC (18.8) and needs just five points to reach 2,000 points for his career. Vasquez will become the first player in ACC history to reach 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. He’s a guy you love to hate. It looks like to me, though, like he’s mellowed with some of his emotional antics over the years. But we’ll see if he’s fired up by his home crowd today.
I did get a kick out of something said about him during the Duke-Maryland game – that he loves playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium because the students taunt him in Spanish. (He’s a native of Caracas, Venezuela.)
Hewitt said it’ll take a team effort trying to contain him, no one guy will draw the assignment throughout.
One final thought before I hit the send button and make my way out to the court…Maryland is 5-0 in ACC play at Comcast Center this season (12-1 overall), and 5-1 against Tech in this building all-time. The Terrapins have beaten Tech eight straight times.
Is today the day all that stops? It would take one of Tech’s best efforts all year.