Originally created 03/10/01

Great mysteries explained



ATLANTA - Stonehenge. Easter Island. The popularity of Survivor. Georgia Tech's ownership of Virginia.

These rank among the great mysteries of life ... and college basketball.

The Yellow Jackets perpetuated their puzzling dominance of one of the league's more stupifying teams Friday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

With a 74-69 victory over 12th-ranked Virginia at the Georgia Dome, Georgia Tech simultaneously stamped its passport to the NCAA Tournament while further debunking the myth that it's difficult to beat the same team three times in one season.

"It's going to be a long time before they realize what they did today," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said of his players. "For this team, where we started last April, to be in this position, they've got to be proud of everything that they've done so far."

Friday's victory removed all of the angst from the next 48 hours for Georgia Tech (17-11), though it was most likely an NCAA Tournament team regardless.

In victory, Georgia Tech defied the conventional wisdom that it is hard for one team to beat another three times in the same season. Conventional wisdom, however, has no basis in fact.

Friday was the ninth time the Jackets have faced a team in the ACC Tournament that they vanquished twice in the regular season. Tech's record in round threes is a healthy 8-1.

Virginia was favored all three meetings this season, by 11, 2 and 31/2. Georgia Tech won all three, by 5, 6 and 5.

"We had three wars with them," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "They won three very close games. ... This game was a microcosm of our other games this season. Again, it came down to the last couple of minutes, and they just make enough plays to beat us."

It's enough to give a complex to a Cavalier team that has been ranked among the top 15 in the nation most of the season.

"They got the best of us in every game, and that is definitely discouraging," said Roger Mason, who led Virginia with 20 points.

The trouble Virginia has with Georgia Tech can be summed up in two simple words - Alvin Jones.

"It's a good matchup for us because of Alvin," Hewitt said.

Jones is the great monolith in the middle that the Cavaliers stubbornly thrash themselves against to no avail. Virginia's penetration offense is continually denied by the scope of Jones' defense.

In the final minutes Friday with Cavalier stalwarts Travis Watson and Adam Hall fouled out, Jones had the final answer on everything in both lanes. He scored two easy inside baskets, assisted Darryl LaBarrie's go-ahead 3-pointer and swatted away impudent advances by Donald Hand and Chris Williams.

"They have trouble dealing with Al," Tony Akins said. "They're a penetrating team and Al holds down the whole paint. They're a little too anxious to try to go at him."

Anxiety never crippled the Yellow Jackets despite the stakes. Losing to Virginia was never a consideration.

"We were so confident that we were going to beat Virginia that we were just waiting for North Carolina," Akins said. "We need to get revenge on North Carolina."

Take heart, Jacket fans: Do you know how hard it is to lose to the same team three times in one season?

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.