Yellow Jackets gun for signature win against Blue Devils

With March looming, Georgia Tech needs a big win

Feb. 22, 2005

Georgia Tech is trying to make a case for an NCAA tournament bid.

The Yellow Jackets can take a major step toward that goal when they host No. 7 Duke in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup on Wednesday.

Georgia Tech (15-8, 6-6) has endured an inconsistent season after reaching last year's NCAA championship game. The Yellow Jackets suffered through a 4-5 stretch in ACC play without second-leading scorer B.J. Elder, and have not won consecutive games since Jan. 6-8.

Elder gave Georgia Tech a serious boost by making two free throws with 0.4 seconds left for a 76-75 win at Florida State on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets blew a 13-point lead with 8:49 to go before surviving when Elder was fouled in the closing seconds.

"It's an important victory, but what we have to do right now is to build on the momentum that we gained from that game," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "We have exactly what we need right now as a team. We're whole and healthy for the first time in a long time, and we need to go out, play a lot of games and get ourselves back together."

Sunday's game marked Elder's first start since Jan. 1 - he came off the bench in two games after returning from his strained left hamstring injury. Elder, who averages 13.3 points, scored 22 against Florida State after combining for 19 the previous two outings.

Hewitt believes his star guard is rounding into form.

"We got lucky that we were off last week, and we had some intrasquad scrimmages," Hewitt said. "Both of those scrimmages made a big difference, he told me. He told me after Wednesday's intrasquad that he was back, as close to 100 percent as possible. We just hope he stays healthy the rest of the year."

Beating Duke (19-4, 9-4) would provide a major boost for Georgia Tech. It won't be easy since the Blue Devils have won 17 of the last 18 matchups, including an 82-65 win in Durham, N.C. on Feb. 5.

That contest was memorable because of a scary moment in which Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suffered a dizzy spell and fell to the floor in the first half. The Blue Devils had a 31-14 advantage in free-throw attempts, and won despite 37.5 percent shooting from the field.

Duke has lost three straight on the road, but avoided a third straight loss overall by beating No. 6 Wake Forest 102-92 on Sunday.

J.J. Redick scored a career-high 38 points for Duke, which responded to Krzyzewski's challenge to perform tougher with a strong all-around effort.

"It's not like our team hasn't been tough or competitive," Krzyzewski said. "We wouldn't be in the position we're in. It takes that for our team every game in order for us to have a chance to win. If it's not there at a high level or it's not there in certain segments of the game, we have a good chance of losing the game."

The Blue Devils were outrebounded for the fourth straight game, but only by a 29-25 margin. They had been outrebounded by an average of 13.7 boards in their previous three games.

Duke has won eight straight visits to Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where Georgia Tech is 11-2 this season. The Blue Devils won their first three ACC road games before their current skid.

"I admire the Duke players, because every time they go out and play, the other team is going to give them their best punch," Hewitt said.

"Crowds give you a lot of electricity, but when they walk into somebody else's building, the home team feels like this is their chance, they're going to play very hard against us. They have to face that type of intensity and ferocity every game, and they go out and win games."

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