Originally created 02/11/99

Georgia Tech hopes for strong NCAA stretch run



ATLANTA -- Anyone familiar with Bobby Cremins' basketball teams in recent years recognizes this script.

In order to receive even remote consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Georgia Tech must win its next game -- and the one after that and the one after that. ...

"The last couple of games have been tough for us," said Cremins, whose Yellow Jackets visit Florida State tonight at 8 (Channel 67).

We lost "one game we probably should have won, and one game we could have won. We just came up short at the end. I'm very pleased with the effort. We're getting a lot respect, but we just can't finish it off."

The Jackets (13-10 overall, 4-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) are in the midst of their second three-game losing streak in ACC play since Jan. 2. They are one defeat away from tying Clemson and Virginia for most losses in the conference. Florida State (12-10, 5-5) is coming off a 98-64 whipping at North Carolina and also has lost three straight.

Cremins hopes his team can avenge a 75-56 drubbing it received Jan. 9 from the Seminoles and their junior forward Ron Hale, who scored 24 points and currently has the league's best scoring average (20.4 points) in ACC games.

That defeat was a personal nadir for Cremins, who questioned for the first time whether his players had given up on a disappointing season. When Tech struggles, two significant breakdowns always occur -- opponents deny the 3-point attempts of swingman Jason Floyd and point guard Tony Akins, and the basketball seems mysteriously slippery.

Against FSU, Akins committed eight turnovers. The Jackets shot 23 percent (6-for-26) on 3-point attempts. Alvin Jones, Tech's enigmatic 6-foot-11 center, scored only six points (two of which came on free throws).

Since then, despite a 3-4 run, Cremins at least has been pleased with the effort. Tech looked extremely sloppy at the outset of its last three home games -- a win over Clemson and back-to-back losses to North Carolina State and Duke. But the Jackets hustled, dove for loose balls and played good defense.

Though he holds out hope this senior-less team can squeak its way into the NCAA Tournament, Cremins would gladly accept another NIT bid. With a knee injury sidelining potential All-American guard Dion Glover this whole season, Cremins is clearly tuning his Jackets up for a run next year at some big prizes.

"I think most coaches have a dream of getting to the Final Four and winning the national championship," Cremins said. "It's a dream I'm still chasing. I feel Georgia Tech could be in a position in the next year or so."

Last season, the Yellow Jackets were 17-9 overall and 6-7 in Atlantic Coast Conference play before losing their last three league games. Their first-round ouster from the ACC Tournament assured them of their third NIT bid in the last five years.