Originally created 03/10/99

Jackets put losing season on the line

ATLANTA -- Like a proud parent whose kids keep getting pushed around, Bobby Cremins is holding firm. He still insists it's unacceptable to run inside and hide.

Georgia Tech, criticized throughout its 15-15 season, will chalk up its second losing season in three years if it stumbles in a first-round NIT game at Oregon Wednesday (midnight, ESPN).

"Any game we play (in) we're an underdog," Cremins said. "It's not a matter of giving up. It's inexperience, if you want to call it that. We just sort of died (late in games). I guess that's like giving up, and that's what bothers me.

"We're not giving ourselves a chance."

If he sounds a little mixed up, Cremins has the excuse of having watched his Yellow Jackets lose eight of their last 10 games. He only hopes Tech will reverse the course with its visit to Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks (16-11) and Jackets both finished fifth in conference play with 10 losses. Neither has a proven star, but both have size -- Tech with 7-foot forward Jason Collier and 6-11 center Alvin Jones, and Oregon with 7-foot center Mike Carson and 6-8 forward A.D. Smith.

Tech entered January with a 10-3 record and then proceeded to lose seven of its first 10 Atlantic Coast Conference games. Oregon entered Pacific-10 play with an 8-1 mark and then lost seven of its next nine.

The Ducks were awarded the home game based on five sellouts at 73-year-old McArthur Court. Tech did not play in front of a capacity crowd this season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

"We deserved to go on the road," said Cremins, whose Yellow Jackets played host to three NIT games last year -- wins over Seton Hall and Georgetown and a loss to Penn State. "I hear it's a wonderful place, but a tough place to play in."

Led by junior forward Alex Scales' 14.5 points per game, Oregon has a distinct advantage of having played well against three of the Pac-10's NCAA Tournament-bound teams -- a series split with Washington, a pair of two-point losses to UCLA, and a two-point home loss to Arizona.

Oregon won six of its last eight and has rested since March 6. The Pac-10 did not have a conference tournament this year.

"We put some things together," Scales told the Oregonian newspaper. "We went out the second half like we were a Top 25 team."

Facing the ACC's three teams that made the NCAA field, the Jackets can hang their hat only on a two-point December win over North Carolina. Tech was competitive in a nine-point home loss to Duke but was blown out by 41 in Durham. Maryland swept the Jackets, including an embarrassing 31-point loss in Atlanta on Feb. 22.

Tech also faces the prospect of playing with an injured Jones. The school's all-time leading shot blocker and the nation's fifth-best rebounder, Jones is nursing a sprained left ankle sustained in the 91-60 loss to Maryland.

"He wasn't out here again (for practice Monday)," Cremins said. "He hasn't had a full practice in two weeks."

Wednesday's winner will play the winner of the Southern Cal-Wyoming game next week.


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