November 25, 2009

Jackets get ready for Mercer

Georgia Tech came back strong in Puerto Rico to post victories against George Mason and Boston after they collapsed in the last four minutes against first round opponent, Dayton. They finished the tournament 2-1 and will look to build on their performance as they look ahead to Mercer at the Thriller Dome on Friday. Jacketsonline caught up with Jackets head coach Paul Hewitt to get his thoughts how the team played over the weekend.

What did you learn about your team in Puerto Rico?

"We can be more consistent defensively. One of the things that we learned is that when we do guard well, we can be very disruptive on defense. In the last four minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half against George Mason, we played about as well as we could defensively."

Zach Peacock went scoreless against George Mason, but then came back to lead the team with 22 points on 10-12 shooting against Boston. Talk about his performance.

"He's a very good shooter. We tried to push him to look for more shooting opportunities and he did that on Sunday."

What is your assessment of the way that your guards played?

"It's getting there. Shot selection, taking care of the basketball, and getting the ball inside are the three areas that we can still improve upon."

The team played much better for the majority of the second half against Dayton. What was that a function of?

"In the first half against Dayton, we played too fast and we took some bad shots and forced some things. In the second half we settled down a little bit and didn't worry about what was on the shot clock. I told them that I don't care if there is three seconds left on the clock, just wait until you get a good look. That gave us control of the game."

What happened in the last four minutes of the game when Dayton made a comeback?

"We didn't rebound the ball well. We had about two or three rebounds where we had our hands on the ball and didn't get it. We missed the front end of a one and there was a ball that went out of bounds that probably should have gone our way. But when you don't rebound the ball well, especially in the last four minutes, you open yourself up for that sort of thing. Give them credit; Dayton just out scrapped us for the ball."

Gani had eight turnovers in the game against Dayton. Was it just an off day for him?

"He just forced some things, but he showed a lot of maturity in the last two games. In the second half against George Mason I think that he played the most mature that he has played since he has been here."

How important was Derrick Favors to the team this weekend?

"Derrick didn't play much against Dayton or George Mason in the first half, but his presence does provide great rebounding and shot blocking. He is also key on the offensive end just having someone that we can throw it inside to that will make a play and knowing that he can kick it back out. He helps the offense run smoothly."

The team didn't hit many threes over the weekend. Are you concerned about that?

"We're not concerned about it yet. Our lack of three point production is more a function of not making good passes out to three point shooters. I've shown them on film where guys are open and we are throwing the ball in a position to take them out of their rhythm. There is a saying in basketball that the quality of the pass affects the quality of the shot. Right now our three point shooters have not been given good passes out on the perimeter and it's something that we need to be more conscientious of. I anticipate that we will shoot the ball better because we have guys like Brian Oliver, Lance Storrs, and Iman Shumpert who are all more than capable three point shooters. Zach is another player and we really emphasize to him that you're playing with two guys like Gani and Derrick who create so much attention that you are going to have open threes all year."

What are your feelings about Mercer?

"I hope that they aren't nearly as pesky as they have been in the past. They are a very good team. Florence is doing his usual at 20 points per game. I'm not sure where he is in there all time record book, but if he's not their all-time leading scorer then he's at least in their top two or three. They added Jeff Smith, who played against us last year as well. He's very good at shooting threes and taking people off of the dribble. They are a tough opponent."

Injury Update

Tech guard Iman Shumpert injured his knee during the Jackets win Sunday over Boston University. Hewitt says he should be ready to go for the Mercer game.

"As of right now, he will be available on Friday. They did an MRI for pre-cautionary reasons and everything was clear. He slipped on a wet spot after running over to help Zach up off of the floor. He twisted his knee, which is independent of what he has been battling with a pulled muscle behind that same knee."

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