Georgia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

Alamodome, San Antonio 6:07 p.m. Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM) Line: Oklahoma State by 4 1/2

Ncaa Tournament

Final Four

April 03, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht

The teams

Georgia Tech (27-9)

The Yellow Jackets, the No. 3 seed in the St. Louis Regional, have won eight of their past nine games, and are in their first Final Four since 1990. They got here by beating fourth-seeded Kansas in overtime, 79-71.

Oklahoma State (31-3)

The Cowboys, the No. 2 seed in the East Rutherford Regional, have won 10 consecutive games and are in their first Final Four since 1995. They got here by beating top-seeded Saint Joseph's, 64-62.

Backcourts

Georgia Tech

Sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack had the game of his life, scoring a career-high 29 points, including eight in overtime, to lead the Yellow Jackets over Kansas. Senior shooting guard Marvin Lewis averages 11.0 ppg and has been streaky all year. He followed a 23-point effort in the regional semifinals against Nevada with a one-point effort against Kansas. Junior B.J. Elder leads the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) but is battling a sprained ankle.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are blessed with balance and guts, especially junior point guard John Lucas III, who beat Saint Joe's with a game-winning, buzzer-beating jumper and has made clutch shots all season. Senior Tony Allen averages 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds and is equally adept at beating an opponent off the dribble or with his jumper. Junior Daniel Bobik averages only 7.3 ppg, but has made 42.5 percent of his three-point attempts. The Cowboys shoot 38 percent as a team from beyond the arc.

Edge: Oklahoma State

Frontcourts

Georgia Tech

Junior center Luke Schenscher averages a modest 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds, but is one of the more improved players in the ACC. His 7-foot-1 presence in the lane has been a key to the Yellow Jackets' defense, as has been Schenscher's ability to score on put-backs. He is shooting 60 percent in the postseason. Junior forward Anthony McHenry has more than doubled his scoring average (3.3 ppg) by averaging 7.5 points and shooting 63.6 percent in the NCAA tournament, but he plays only 18 minutes a game and is more of a setup guy for an excellent backup crew.

Oklahoma State

This is where the Cowboys have consistently gained the upper hand during their remarkable run. Junior Joey Graham is among the more versatile offensive players left in the tournament, and he is a deadly shooter from medium range in, as his 57.9 percentage attests. Senior Ivan McFarlin has shot 59 percent and is more of a true power player. They have combined to average 24.4 points and 11.8 rebounds.

Edge: Oklahoma State

Benches

Georgia Tech

This is where the Yellow Jackets could turn the game in their favor. They probably have the most potent bench left in the tournament. Junior forward Ismai'il Muhammad changes games with his floor game and penchant for spectacular dunks. Fifth-year senior forward Clarence Moore has made huge shots and grabbed key rebounds throughout the tournament. Junior point guard Will Bynum has scored at least 20 points twice this year.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys don't have a true impact player among their reserves, with the possible exception of senior guard Janavor Weatherspoon averages 4.9 ppg and shoots 50 percent while averaging 15 minutes per game. Senior forward Jason Miller averages 3.0 ppg but makes his few shots count. He is shooting 59.4 percent and 77.1 percent at the foul line. Junior guard Stephen Graham (2.8 ppg) is shooting 49.3 percent.

Edge: Georgia Tech

Coaches

Georgia Tech

Paul Hewitt, in his fourth year at Tech, has brought the Yellow Jackets back to the game's biggest stage in remarkably quick fashion. He has a career record of 141-80, is 75-53 at Tech and is coaching in his seventh NCAA tournament game.

Oklahoma State

Eddie Sutton was coaching at the collegiate level when Hewitt was in elementary school. Sutton has been to three Final Fours, has won 755 games in 34 seasons and has a 325-127 record in Stillwater.

Edge: Oklahoma State

Keys to victory

Georgia Tech

Get the ball inside to Schenscher early and make the Cowboys foul him. Lock down defensively on Allen and prevent him from breaking down the defense with penetration. Get something out of Elder, who is nearly recovered from a sprained ankle. Give the bench a chance to win the game.

Oklahoma State

Keep the tempo at a deliberate pace to keep the starters on the floor for as long as possible. Do not allow Jack to get rolling offensively. Pound the ball inside to Graham and McFarlin, who maneuver well and don't waste good shots or take bad ones. Keep the game close enough for guys like Lucas, Graham or Allen to make game-winning plays.

Bottom line

Georgia Tech plays some of the best defense in the country, but the Yellow Jackets need more balance in their offense if they are going to survive tonight. Elder and Lewis probably need to combine for at least 25 points and free up Jack and Schenscher to do more damage. Oklahoma State is a disciplined, experienced team that shoots 51.5 percent, blankets opponents defensively and has a coach who has seen it all.

Oklahoma State, 74-71

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