Greetings from Athens. Once again, it’s Georgia vs. Georgia Tech — this time in hoops. Eleven days after the rivals met in football at Bobby Dodd Stadium, they’ll convene tonight for the 188th time in men’s basketball. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum, where Tech hasn’t won in 35 years. Tickets are available. The game will be televised on Fox Sports South. If you missed it, here’s a preview of the game from today’s AJC:
State of the teams
Tech was picked to finish 10th in the 12-team ACC and Georgia eighth in the 12-team SEC — prognostications that reflected two programs in transition. Georgia lost last season’s two leading scorers and rebounders, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, to the NBA draft, and other than a pair of senior guards the Bulldogs have a young team that coach Mark Fox labeled “as green as the New York Jets.” Tech also lost its top scorer and best player, point guard Iman Shumpert, to the NBA, and the Yellow Jackets have no seniors on the roster except for a pair of former walk-ons.
So far this season
Both teams are 4-4 and on short losing streaks. Georgia has lost its past three games (Xavier, Colorado and Cincinnati), while Georgia Tech has dropped its past two (Northwestern and Tulane).
New to the rivalry
Former Dayton coach Brian Gregory, who replaced the Jackets’ Paul Hewitt after last season, officially joins the Tech-Georgia series. Gregory received his first exposure to the rivalry by attending the schools’ football game on Nov. 26, a 31-17 UGA victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
A low-scoring game?
That would be the logical assumption. Both teams have struggled to score: Tech averages 65.3 points per game, which ranks 229th among 338 Division I teams, and Georgia averages 59.9, which ranks 301st. Defensively, the Jackets and Bulldogs have held opponents to 59.1 and 61 points per game, respectively.
And a close game?
History says so. The past four Tech-Georgia games have been decided by seven points or fewer, as have 11 of the past 15.
Most of the players on both teams grew up with this rivalry. Ten of the 14 on each roster are from Georgia. All five of Tech’s probable starters are Georgians, as are four of UGA’s.
Keep an eye on …
Georgia freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a McDonald’s high school All-American, is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, averaging 13.9 points. The Dogs’ only other double-figure scorer is guard Gerald Robinson, who has come off the bench the past two games, at 11.6. Tech’s Glen Rice Jr., suspended the first three games for a violation of team rules, has scored in double figures in each of the five games he has played; he is shooting 52.5 percent and averaging 14.8 points.
The Jackets in Stegeman
Tech has not won in Stegeman Coliseum since Nov. 26, 1976, when the Jackets beat the Bulldogs 64-43. The drought is somewhat exaggerated because the teams played at a neutral site — The Omni in downtown Atlanta — for 14 years, beginning in the 1981-82 season. But since the series returned to the campuses on an alternating basis in 1995-96, Tech has lost all eight games played in Stegeman. (Georgia, by the way, has won only twice at Tech since 1995-96.)
Speaking of Stegeman
If this is your first trip of the season to Stegeman Coliseum, you’ll notice two changes: a new $600,000 sound system and a nearly new $90,000 playing court. The court was purchased from the NCAA, which used it for this year’s Women’s Regional in American Airlines Arena in Dallas. (The NCAA typically installs new courts for its regionals and Final Fours, and then sells them to member schools.)
Daniel Miller, a 6-foot-11 center from Loganville, originally signed with Georgia, but was released from his letter of intent and enrolled at Tech in 2009. He has started 39 consecutive games for the Jackets.
Last year’s star
Guard Dustin Ware’s seventh 3-pointer of the game, with 18 seconds to play, was the difference in Georgia’s 73-72 victory over Tech at Alexander Memorial Coliseum last season. Ware, a senior, is off to a rough start this season, shooting 27.7 percent from the field, down from 44.2 last season.
This will be the 188th men’s basketball game between Tech and Georgia. The Jackets lead the series 101-86 but are 28-51 in Athens, including 3-25 at Stegeman.
Pos. Player Class Height RPG PPG
C Daniel Miller So. 6-11 7.8 8.9
F Kammeon Holsey So. 6-8 4.5 10.4
G/F Glen Rice Jr. Jr. 6-5 7.2 14.8
G Mfon Udofia Jr. 6-2 3.9 11.9
G Brandon Reed So. 6-3 4.4 7.3
Pos. Player Class Height RPG PPG
F Marcus Thornton So. 6-7 6.9 3.5
F Donte Williams So. 6-9 5.9 7.6
G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Fr. 6-5 5.3 13.9
G Dustin Ware Sr. 5-11 2.3 6.4
G Vincent Williams Jr. 6-0 1.1 4.3