Georgia Tech may be trying to end a three-game skid in ACC openers, but the conference game that’s likely freshest on the minds of the Yellow Jackets is their last.
Winners of seven straight, the 22nd-ranked Yellow Jackets look to avenge last season’s ACC tournament loss to Florida State as the teams open league play Sunday.
Georgia Tech (8-1) hasn’t won a conference opener since Dec. 4, 2005, when it beat Virginia 63-54. The Yellow Jackets began ACC play last season with an 88-84 overtime loss to the Cavaliers and went on to win two regular-season league games.
After upsetting then-No. 17 Clemson 86-81 in its conference tournament opener, Georgia Tech was knocked out with a 64-62 loss to then-No. 22 Florida State, which got a three-point play from Derwin Kitchen with 7.7 seconds left.
Led by junior Gani Lawal and heralded freshman Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech is certainly improved after getting the No. 12 seed in last season’s ACC tournament.
Lawal had 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Favors added 15 points and 11 boards in a 65-53 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday night. Georgia Tech was hoping to have a sharper performance heading into its ACC schedule, but it shot 38.3 percent (23 for 60) from the field and 61.9 percent (13 for 21) from the free-throw line.
“There’s no concern,” Lawal said of the matchup with Florida State (9-2). “We know what we have to do. We’re ready.”
Lawal had five of the Yellow Jackets’ 14 turnovers. They’ve turned the ball over 16.6 times per game.
“We’ve got a really good team. It’s a talented group but to use a cliche, we are not always on the same page,” coach Paul Hewitt said.
Lawal and Favors give the Yellow Jackets perhaps the best front court in the ACC. They combine to average 30.0 points, 19.2 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.
The 6-foot-10 Favors, though, will have his hands full trying to defend the Seminoles’ 7-1 Solomon Alabi.
“I’m sure Derrick will be more alert than he was against Arkansas-Pine Bluff,” Hewitt said. “I think Derrick is one of those guys that will rise to the occasion. It’s good for him to play in a game like this nine games in. … I think he’ll respond well.”
Alabi is averaging 2.6 blocks, helping Florida State hold opponents to 58.1 points a contest. He’s also getting more comfortable on the offensive end, scoring at least 20 in three of his last four games.
Alabi matched a career high with 22 points in a 76-72 win over Auburn on Thursday night. He scored 22 for the first time two days earlier, leading Florida State to a 62-55 victory over Georgia State.
Alabi could use some help offensively. The only other Seminoles player averaging double figures in scoring is forward Chris Singleton (10.5).
Singleton, a native of Georgia, leads Florida State with 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.
The Seminoles held the Yellow Jackets to 35.3 percent shooting in winning both meetings last season. Florida State leads the series 32-27.