Georgia Tech vs. Connecticut

Ncaa Tournament

Final Four

April 05, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht

Alamodome, San Antonio

9:18 p.m.

Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Connecticut by 5 1/2

The teams

Georgia Tech (28-9)

The Yellow Jackets have won nine of their past 10 games and have made it to their first NCAA tournament final under tenuous circumstances. As the No. 3 seed in the St. Louis Regional, they have won five tournament games by a combined 23 points, and edged Oklahoma State, 67-65, in Saturday's semifinal.

Connecticut (32-6)

The Huskies have won eight straight games, starting with the Big East tournament title and continuing with their NCAA tournament run. As the No. 2 seed in the East Rutherford Regional, they won their first four games with ease, then got here with a come-from-behind, 79-78 victory over Duke.

Backcourts

Georgia Tech

Sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack sets the tone at both ends of the court. He is the team's second-leading scorer, he averages 5.7 assists and he continued his stopper role by thwarting Oklahoma State's John Lucas. Senior Marvin Lewis can carry the offense when he's hot. He shoots 41 percent from three-point range. Junior B.J. Elder, the team's leading scorer, has barely helped offensively in the past three games, but his foot injury is clearing up.

Connecticut

Senior guard Taliek Brown is a traditional point guard who looks to pass first, pass second, then shoot. His 2.71 assist-to-turnover ratio is sparkling, although he committed a game-high seven turnovers in the win over Duke. Junior Ben Gordon is the team's leading scorer (18.5 ppg). He shoots 43.5 percent from three-point range, but he gives the Huskies much more. Only center Emeka Okafor gets to the line more often.

Edge: Connecticut

Frontcourts

Georgia Tech

Junior 7-foot-1 center Luke Schenscher is the most improved player on the Yellow Jackets, maybe in the ACC. He ranks sixth on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg), leads it in rebounding (6.5) and is coming off a 19-point, 12-rebound effort against Oklahoma State. Junior forward Anthony McHenry plays only 18.2 minutes per game and averages 3.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, but has a knack for making key steals and grabbing crucial rebounds.

Connecticut

Junior 6-10 center Emeka Okafor is the most dominant post player in America. He runs the court like a guard, leads the nation with 4.1 blocked shots per game and the team with 11.4 rebounds, shoots 59.9 percent from the field and is second on the team with a 17.5-point average. Sophomore guard-forward Rashad Anderson is averaging 17.1 points in the NCAA tournament. Freshman forward Josh Boone has not had to score much this season, but his rebounding (5.8 rpg) has been huge. He had a game-high 14 rebounds to help the Huskies stay in the game against Duke.

Edge: Connecticut

Benches

Georgia Tech

Jack, Lewis and Schenscher have had their moments during the tournament, but the Yellow Jackets are not in this position without one of the better reserve groups in the game. Junior Will Bynum can play either guard spot and is a scoring threat with his quickness and ability to penetrate. Junior forward Isma'il Muhammad can change a game's momentum with his open-floor speed and tremendous dunking ability. Fifth-year senior Clarence Moore shoots a hefty 39 percent from three-point range.

Connecticut

Freshman forward Charlie Villanueva started four games, but has settled in to become more valuable off the bench. He ranks fourth on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg), averages 5.4 rebounds and is shooting 51.4 percent from the field. Sophomore forward Denham Brown (9.1 ppg) had gone scoreless in three of five games before contributing eight points against Duke.

Edge: Georgia Tech

Coaches

Georgia Tech

Paul Hewitt, 40, has the Yellow Jackets playing for their first national title in his fourth season at Georgia Tech, where he came after coaching for three years at Siena. He was the ACC Coach of the Year as a rookie in 2001, has an overall 141-80 record in seven seasons and is 76-53 at Georgia Tech. This is his second NCAA tournament trip with the Yellow Jackets.

Connecticut

Jim Calhoun, winding up his 18th year at UConn, is the seventh-winningest active Division I coach with 679 victories, 431 with the Huskies. He guided them to the NCAA title in 1999 and has taken them to six Elite Eights and 10 Sweet 16s in 12 tournament trips. His NCAA tournament record is 30-9.

Edge: Connecticut

Keys to victory

Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets are 23-0 when holding opponents under 70 points, and their defense needs to come up with that kind of effort. Get the ball inside to Schenscher and make Okafor defend him, possibly drawing a foul or two early. Get some scoring out of Elder, who looks nearly recovered from his foot injury, but has two points in his past three games. Don't let Gordon get on a scoring roll.

Connecticut

The Huskies' bread and butter is Okafor, who must be fed often in the post, where he can score on Schenscher or pass out of the double teams he surely will see. Get another solid rebounding effort on the offensive glass to limit Tech's ability to run. Get a better game out of point guard Taliek Brown, who was sloppy against Duke and will encounter a tough defender in Jack. Don't let the Yellow Jackets hang close, because Tech knows it can win a tight game.

Bottom line

The Yellow Jackets are a great story, with their youth, energy, depth and tendency to hurt opponents with different weapons every night. They refuse to panic, evidenced by their average victory margin of 4.6 points in the tournament. But the presence of Okafor, the scoring ability of Anderson and Gordon and the experience of Calhoun will put the Huskies over the top in another close one.

Connecticut, 73-68

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