Georgia Tech joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 1979-80 season, but its history with Clemson goes back decades earlier.
In fact, among its current ACC brethren, the Yellow Jackets have faced the Tigers the most often. The 145th renewal of the rivalry will come Tuesday night in Clemson, S.C., but this time with a head coach making his rivalry debut.
Fresh off a hard-fought, 84-79 loss at then-No.11 Duke on Saturday, first-year Georgia Tech coach Damon Stoudamire is learning the ropes of life on the road in the conference.
The Yellow Jackets (8-8, 1-4) have lost five games in a row overall this season and trail 77-67 in the all-time series with 21st-ranked Clemson.
“As I go through the ACC for the first time, I’m enjoying it,” Stoudamire said. “But more importantly, I believe in what I do, and I think moving forward, we have a chance to be a really good team.”
Stoudamire’s team led by as many as 10 points with 14:35 left in Saturday’s game but had no answer for Preseason ACC Player of the Year Kyle Filipowski, who finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on Filipowski, as crazy as that is, because he still had 30 points,” Stoudamire said. “But I’m proud of my team, and I personally believe in every kid in my locker room.”
Two of “kids” are freshmen Naithan George and Baye Ndongo.
George (8.1 points per game) led the team Saturday with a career-high 17 points, followed by Ndongo’s 16.
Coming into his own as the starting point guard for the Yellow Jackets, George’s 4.6 assists per game lead the team. Ndongo paces Georgia Tech with 8.8 rebounds per game and is second in scoring (12.8 ppg) to Miles Kelly (15.6 ppg).
The Yellow Jackets haven’t won since getting a victory in Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22.
Clemson (12-4, 2-3) ended a three-game losing streak by beating visiting Boston College 89-78 on Saturday.
The Tigers’ top two scorers this season — PJ Hall (19.4 ppg) and Joseph Girard III (15.5) — scored 26 points apiece in the win, breaking out of a pair of two-game slumps that saw the two average just 10.5 and 8.5 ppg, respectively.
“I kind of needed that feeling of winning,” Girard said. “I know we all needed it. Especially in ACC play, you have to get as many as you can.”
Saturday was Hall’s 100th game in his four years at Clemson uniform, and he spoke of the value of experience.
“My freshman year, we were No. 12 in the country and got blasted by Virginia here at home,” Hall said. “Explaining to the younger guys that it happens, but figuring out a way to get out of it is important. These last few days of practice have been about making sure we’re doing everything we can to get out of this slump.”
The veteran-led Tigers will look to continue their home dominance against Georgia Tech, as Clemson has lost to the Yellow Jackets just once in Littlejohn Coliseum since 2005.
–Field Level Media
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