Tech's Cremins lets Best make his point

February 06, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Basketball is a simple game when Travis Best is running the point.

"I basically put the game in Travis Best's hands," coach Bobby Cremins said after Georgia Tech had followed its junior guard to an 83-71 victory over Maryland. "Travis just took over."

When the Terps opened their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with an upset of then-No. 12 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Jan. 4, Best was outplayed by his counterpart, sophomore Duane Simpkins. The roles were reversed yesterday, as Best made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts for one of his best shooting performances ever in the ACC and a game-high 23 points, and Simpkins was limited to five points on one of five shooting.

"I knew he was going to try to come here and do to me what I did to him [in Atlanta]," Simpkins said. "Not only is he a great shooter, but he penetrates. That makes it more difficult to guard him."

Best hit four of five shots in the first half, but that didn't compare to what he delivered after Maryland had chopped an early 12-point deficit to 46-44 five minutes into the second half. On Georgia Tech's next three possessions, Best made his only three-pointer of the game; avoided a double-team and started a sequence that led to an easy basket; and hit a runner at the foul line that barely beat the shot clock.

Five minutes later, the 5-foot-11 left-hander from Springfield, Mass., again toyed with the 35-second clock and the Terps. Guarded by Matt Kovarik, Best dribbled down the last 10 seconds and released a 20-footer just inside the top of the three-point line. The shot clock sounded during its descent, and it gave Georgia Tech a 58-53 lead with 8:05 left.

"He controlled things in the second half when we made a run," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.

Roy Williams and Bobby Knight fumed when the closely guarded, five-second rule was abolished. Best, a one-man offense against a press who played 38 minutes without a turnover yesterday, was delighted. Besides averaging 18.7 points, he leads the ACC in assists (5.8) to turn overs (2.3) ratio, and as long as the ball is in his hands, the Yellow Jackets have a chance.

"Not having the five-second rule makes the game more fun for me," Best said. "Today was fun. It's been rough losing, and that's taken away from the fun."

The earlier loss to Maryland began a 2-7 slide and much soul-searching by the Yellow Jackets, who might require a victory in the ACC tournament to keep alive their string of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, which reached 10 last year. Georgia Tech is 12-8 overall and 3-6 in the ACC, and it gets Duke and North Carolina this week.

Best said it's not too late for Georgia Tech, but even if the Yellow Jackets don't make the NCAAs, there will be a next year for him. jTC Best said he won't be going to the NBA early, so Georgia Tech's run of first-round draft picks will probably end at five years.

"We needed this game, but a loss wouldn't have killed us," Best said. "Still, you don't want to go to the ACC tournament having to win it to get into the NCAAs."

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