After coming up short of a championship in Hawaii, No. 21 Georgia Tech looks to bounce back when it hosts Penn State in the opening round of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
The Yellow Jackets (5-1) advanced to the EA Sports Maui Invitational championship game for the first time, but lost to then-No. 5 UCLA 88-73 on Wednesday. Georgia Tech dropped only two places in the rankings, while the Bruins moved up to No. 1.
The Yellow Jackets couldn’t complete a championship run in Hawaii, but they’ve been brilliant at home as they’ve routed their opponents at Alexander Memorial Coliseum this season, winning all three games by an average of 31 points.
Georgia Tech lost 75-70 to Penn State (4-1) in the third round of the 1998 NIT at a neutral site, the only previous meeting between the two schools. The Yellow Jackets are 150-9 at home against nonconference teams since 1981-82.
Although the Yellow Jackets lost in Maui, coach Paul Hewitt got strong performances from two young underclassmen in the backcourt during the tournament.
Sophomore guard Lewis Cinch scored 21 points on 6 of 11 shooting in the championship game, and was named to the all-tournament team. Cinch is averaging 17 points on 58.3 percent shooting this season, and is 14-for-29 from 3-point range.
Point guard Javaris Crittenton averaged 12.7 points and four assists in the tournament. Hewitt also was impressed with the freshman’s composure.
“Everything goes through him, whether it’s setting the tone defensively on the ball, or making sure the offense runs properly and making good decisions,” Hewitt said on the school’s official Web site. “There’s no question he learned the most of anybody out (at Maui).”
The Yellow Jackets are 3-4 overall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but have won their only two home games—beating Wisconsin in 2001 and Michigan in 2004. The Nittany Lions are just 1-4 all-time in the challenge, with their only win coming against Clemson in 1999.
Penn State is coming off a thrilling 65-61 comeback victory over St. Joseph’s on Saturday, as it rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final 1:04.
Danny Morrissey scored eight straight points in a 25-second span down the stretch, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining.
“I’m giving our kids credit. We made some basketball plays when we had to,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “I think the lesson is whether you’re up six or eight with a 1:30 to go or you’re down, you’ve got to keep fighting.
“I think our kids fought and never gave up and we ended up doing some good things.”
Morrissey finished with 15 points, and is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range (12-of-29) in his last three games.
Sophomore forward Jamelle Cornley had team highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. He’s averaging 15.8 points and nine rebounds this season.
Penn State, which played its first five games at home, went just 3-7 on the road last season.
The Nittany Lions have also struggled against ranked teams lately, winning just one of their last 21 games against Top 25 opponents.