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January 17, 2009

NC State aims for first ACC win today

Georgia Tech has a strong frontcourt, a propensity for turnovers and young guards.

Georgia Tech brings a 9-7 overall record and 0-3 ACC record into today's game at NC State, which starts at noon at the RBC Center. Raycom will televise the game.

The Wolfpack have a similar inside-out style and turnover problems, leading to a 9-5 record and 0-2 start in the ACC. NC State coach Sidney Lowe can't fathom a 0-3 ACC start with two of the losses coming on the Pack's home court.

"It's just so important to get a win, being at home, and really trying to take care of the home court," Lowe said. "We dropped one, so hopefully we take care of this one."

Georgia Tech is led by the 1-2 inside punch of 6-10 senior power forward Alade Aminu and 6-8 sophomore center Gani Lawal.

Aminu has blossomed in his last season, averaging 13.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for Georgia Tech. He has recorded six double-doubles for points and rebounds this season, including a 14-point, 17-rebound effort against Maryland. He scored a season-high 21 points against Alabama in a 88-77 loss, and has twice blocked four shots in a game.

"It's going to be a great test for our bigs again, especially Lawal," Lowe said. "He's trying to dunk everything that he gets in there. We have to be ready and come out aggressive. We have to come out aggressive and be very active."

Lawal was a McDonald's All-American and is beginning to show why after an inconsistent freshman season, where he averaged 7.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 17.3 minutes per game. Lawal has jumped to 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 30.4 minutes per game for the Yellow Jackets.

Lawal poured in a season-high 34 points against Penn State, and and grabbed 17 boards in the 70-56 loss to Duke on Jan. 14. He has recorded nine double-doubles for the Yellow Jackets and is shooting 54.4 percent from the field, but just 52.1 from the free-throw line, where he is a steady visitor.

"They are good," Lowe said. "Not only just being a load physically, but just active. They are really active. They are going to go to the boards hard every time. They are coming at you. You have to block out. You can't let them get to the basket and then block out. You have to block them out away from the basket, and not allow them to get in there."

Georgia Tech's backcourt features freshman Iman Shumpert and senior Lewis Clinch with sophomore Maurice Miller off the bench. The Yellow Jackets have been plagued by turnovers, committing an astonishing 28 against Maryland, 27 against Georgia State and 21 vs. Tennessee State. GT averages 16.6 turnovers per game.

"It will be good if we can turn them over some and get some easy baskets, some fastbreak baskets," Lowe said. "That might be what it comes down to. It might come down to what team has the fewer turnovers in this ball game, they could win the ball game. That is an area that we must improve on."

Redshirt junior 6-9 power forward Brandon Costner leads NC State in scoring with 14.1 points, plus 6.5 rebounds, while 6-9 center Ben McCauley is second with 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. However, both players have gotten off to slow starts in ACC action.

Costner's numbers dip to 9.5 points and 2.5 rebounds, while McCauley has plummeted to 4.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

NC State has committed 16 or more turnovers in all five losses with 19 against Davidson, 18 against Marquette, Florida and Clemson and 16 vs. Florida State.

"It will be huge, huge," Lowe said. "We watch and reflect back on some of our games, and as a coaching staff we look at it, and we keep going back to if we just took care of the basketball. We'd have some big wins for us this year. It is going to be big for us again tomorrow. We can't turn the ball over 16, 17, 18 times. You just can't do it."

The Pack could also be starting an all-freshman backcourt with Julius Mays and C.J. Williams, or could elect to start Mays and senior wing Courtney Fells with junior 6-9 forward Dennis Horner moving into the lineup to combat Georgia Tech's tall frontcourt.

Lowe knew who he would start but wasn't prepared to announce the changes Friday during his weekly press conference.

"I was going to say I don't know, but I really do know [the lineup]," Lowe said. "I am being honest about it. I'd rather not say right now, but there's a decision that has been made there."

Georgia Tech preview

NC State 2008-09 roster

NC State schedule/results

NC State season stats

Georgia Tech roster

Georgia Tech schedule/results

Georgia Tech season stats

Game facts

Georgia Tech (9-7, 0-3 ACC) at NC State (9-5, 0-2 ACC)

Game time: Today, Jan. 17, Noon - RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

Television: Raycom

Probable starters

NC State

PG - 24 Julius Mays (6-2, Fr., 5.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 1.9 apg) or 12 Farnold Degand (6-3, R-Jr., 4.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SG -4 Courtney Fells (6-6, Sr., 11.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.9 apg)
SF - 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, Jr., 5.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 apg) or 21 C.J. Williams (6-5, Fr., 2.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 0.7 apg)
PF - 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, R-Jr., 14.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.1 bpg)
C - 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, Sr., 12.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 spg)

Georgia Tech

PG - 1 Iman Shumpert (6-4, Fr., 11.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 spg)
SG - 0 Lewis Clinch (6-3, Sr., 13.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.1 apg)
F - 34 Zach Peacock (6-8, Jr., 10.8 ppg, 10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.0 apg)
PF - 44 Alade Aminu (6-10, Sr., 13.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.6 bpg)
C - 31 Gani Lawal (6-8, Soph., 16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg)

Scouting Georgia Tech

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Nickname: Yellow Jackets

2007-08 record: 15-17 overall, 7-9 (tied for 7th)

2008 postseason: None

Coach: Paul Hewitt 11th season overall (217-146) and 8th season at Georgia Tech (151-119)

The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 48-34

Last meeting: Georgia Tech won 77-74 on Jan. 23, 2008 in Raleigh

Notes

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have just eight healthy scholarship players after senior wing D'Andre Bell went down for the season with spinal stenosis, which is a congenital narrowing of the spine. Clinch also missed the first seven games because of academic issues and Miller missed seven games with a broken nose and is wearing a facemask … GT landed coveted recruit Derrick Favors, who also considered NC State and Georgia this past week, to go with four November period signees. If Bell comes back, the Yellow Jackets will have one more scholarship to offer next year … Aminu is ranked second in the ACC in rebounding and third in field-goal percentage, and Lawal is first in rebounding, fourth in field-goal percentage and 11th in scoring. Shumpert is third in the ACC in assists and second among conference freshman in minutes played.

NC State: The Wolfpack have won 7 out of the last 10 games against Georgia Tech, but dropped the only meeting against the Yellow Jackets, 77-74 … NC State coach Sidney Lowe said Trevor Ferguson's time could be limited to give him time to rest his injured finger on his non-shooting hand … The Pack have lost its last five games by an average of 7.0 points … NC State has used seven different lineups in 14 games, and that number could change again today … Freshmen Mays, Williams and Johnny Thomas all played major minutes down the stretch in the loss against Florida State. Mays scored 13 points in 26 minutes, Thomas had five points in 18 minutes and Williams scored eight in 17 minutes … Degand was benched in the second half against the Seminoles after an ineffective first half Lowe said. Degand is still trying to come back from a major knee injury and has been inconsistent this season.



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