ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech returns from a successful Thanksgiving tournament appearance with a chance to add to its body of work with a game against another quality opponent.
The Yellow Jackets went 2-1 at the Orlando Classic and take a 5-1 record into Wednesday’s game at Northwestern in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“We’ll take 2-1,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “We have a tough test this week. We need to get ready and represent the ACC.”
Georgia Tech also started last season 5-1, but this year’s list of opponents is much more impressive. After losing to Marquette in the opening round in Orlando, the Yellow Jackets beat Rider 61-54 and Rhode Island 64-51 in the final two games.
“We did a lot of good things,” Gregory said. “In this tournament we grew up a little bit.”
Gregory said the team’s defense in the first half against Rhode Island, a team with a win over a top-25 team, was “as good as it’s been all year.” The second half didn’t quite match it, as some of the interior players were stretched for minutes. Gregory did single out the play of freshman Ben Lammers, who had four rebounds in seven minutes against Rhode Island.
The Yellow Jackets now turn their attention to Northwestern. Georgia Tech is 5-9 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge since the inception of the event in 1999. Georgia Tech is 4-2 at home, 1-6 on the road and 0-1 on a neutral court.
Georgia Tech has a balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures: Marcus Georges-Hunt (12.0), Demarco Cox (11.0), Charles Mitchell (10.7) and Quinton Stephens (10.2).
The Yellow Jackets have outrebounded opponents by an average of 12.8 per game. Mitchell (8.5), Cox (6.7) and Stephens (5.0) are the top rebounders.
A year ago, Georgia Tech beat Illinois at McCamish Pavilion to end a five-game losing streak in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Georgia Tech is 0-2 against Northwestern in the event. The Yellow Jackets lost 70-60 to the Wildcats in Atlanta and lost 91-71 in Evanston, Illinois. Those are the only two meetings between the two programs.
Northwestern (5-1) returns four starters from last year’s team that went 14-19 in head coach Chris Collins’ first season. The Wildcats were predicted to finish near the bottom of their conference in a preseason poll.
Junior guard Tre Demps comes off the bench to lead Northwestern in scoring at 10.3 points per game. The Wildcats also get 9.8 points and seven assists from freshman guard Bryant McIntosh. The balanced Wildcats also get 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds from junior center Alex Olah and 9.0 points and 6.7 rebounds from freshman forward Vic Law. Northwestern has one Georgian on the team in JerShon Cobb, a senior guard from Columbia in Decatur
Northwestern’s success has come against a light schedule. While Georgia Tech already has faced several solid teams, the Wildcats have yet to play a team from one of the power conferences and were beaten 61-42 by undefeated Northern Iowa on Wednesday at a tournament in Mexico.