Maryland and Georgia Tech meet tonight at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in an ACC contest, and with much of the conference clawing at each other to break away from the middle of the pack, this is another important opportunity for both the Yellow Jackets and the Terps to get a very crucial conference win.
For the Terps, it would mean three straight ACC wins over Clemson, Virginia, and the Georgia Tech and putting Maryland above .500 in the ACC after starting 1-3 in the conference.
The Yellow Jackets meanwhile are wanting to keep their home conference record perfect (3-0 at home) while building on their momentum fueled by a 72-57 victory over Virginia Tech.
Yellow Jackets basketball coach Paul Hewitt joined “The Morning Reaction” Friday to preview the game tonight, and he told Drew Forrester that both he and Gary Williams have experienced the same kind of pressure playing these conference games.
“We’ve played the first few games here in the ACC well, and obviously every ACC game is important,” Hewitt said. “And we’ve got another important one with Maryland Sunday night at 7:45.”
Much like Maryland, Georgia Tech has had to rely on a young nucleus of talent-mostly sophomores minus the likes of leading scorer, guard Iman Shumpert (16.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who is a junior.
Shumpert is supported by fellow sophomore guard Glen Rice (12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) as well as Brian Oliver (11.5 ppg).
Hewitt told Forrester that he also understands how Maryland coach Gary Williams is feeling right now having to rely on young talent at key positions on the court, and how frustrating that can be at times.
“Our teams are similar in respect to we’re depending on young guys playing in important positions,” Hewitt said. “Obviously Gary has his two freshman at the point guard, and they’re playing a very important job right now. It’ll be an interesting game. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday night.”
Hewitt said he continues to rely on his scorers to keep them in ballgames, and so far that not only has Shumpert offensively, but defensively as well.
Shumpert was huge in holding VT senior guard Malcolm Delaney-who torched Maryland with 19pts, 7 assists, and five rebounds in the Hokies 74-57 victory over the Terps-to just eight points in Tech’s 72-57 win.
“He’s been real overlooked in terms of that aspect of his game, and if you go back to the NCAA Tournament last year when we beat Oklahoma State, he completely shut down the kid James Anderson, who ultimately became a first round pick by the San Antonio Spurs. Iman has done that time and time again with great scorers,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt hope to have that same kind of defensive pressure-whether it be from Shumpert or not-on Maryland’s inside presence in sophomore Jordan Williams.
“He’s got great hands,” he said. “He is an excellent finisher around the basket. And when people say ‘he’s that close to the basket he’s supposed to finish,’ trust me, in our league…Jordan Williams can finish with the best of them. Having been in the league this long…this will be my 11th year…he’s as good a finisher around the rim as we’ve seen.”
And he knows with Jordan Williams being that good, Gary’s going to have his work cut out for him trying to convince him to stay around College Park for his junior year and beyond.
Hewitt has had that same problem many times over his 11 seasons on the GT sideline, most notably last year with forward Derrick Favors going pro after one year, going third overall to the New Jersey Nets in the 2010 NBA Draft.
He also has had difficulty keeping guys like Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young, and Javaris Crittendon from going pro.
“It’s something we have to work on. We’ll figure it out,” Hewitt laughed. “The thing we have to do is continue to recruit well and even when we get the great player who has the option to go to the NBA early, I don’t think you can stand in their way of a great opportunity. But we have to make sure we continue to recruit maybe the guys who are just below that, so if they leave we can have somebody else step in and fill the gap.”
This will be the only time this season that the Terps and the Yellow Jackets will hit the hardwood against each other in the regular season. Hewitt said that works well with him, as well as not having to play North Carolina or Duke twice this season as well.
“The way our schedule works is when we play Duke twice, we also have to play Carolina twice. So, I’m not sure what the benefit of that is or if it’s a detriment. But we’re looking forward to play Maryland on Sunday. I’m sure it’s going to be a great game.”
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