- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

Georgia Tech turned to its Elder statesman to advance to the ACC tournament semifinals and dash Virginia Tech’s slim NCAA tournament hopes.

Senior B.J. Elder scored 19 points as the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets overcame a sluggish first half to rout fourth-seeded Virginia Tech 73-54 in a quarterfinal yesterday at MCI Center. Georgia Tech (18-10) will face top-seeded North Carolina (27-3) in today’s first semifinal.

Guards Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum scored 13 points each for Georgia Tech, which shot 65 percent in the second half.

Elder, who missed Georgia Tech’s regular-season loss to the Hokies with a strained left hamstring that cost him nine games, clearly made a difference in the rematch with a 10-point second half that helped the Yellow Jackets coast to their first double-digit victory margin since Jan.8.

“I’m starting to get back my conditioning and get back into game shape, and the game is starting to slow down again,” said Elder, who was 8-for-14 from the floor. “I’m able to pick my spots a little better.”

The loss denied Virginia Tech a victory in its first ACC tournament game, leaving both of the league’s first-year teams winless in their debuts. Miami lost to Virginia in Thursday’s first round.

Much like the Hurricanes a day earlier, the Hokies (15-13), who entered the day with an RPI of 107 despite a .500 conference record, probably saw their NCAA tournament hopes end.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the way we represented ourselves today,” said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, whose team is likely to receive an NIT invitation to snap a postseason drought back to 1996. “That was not reflective of all the hard work we put in. We picked a bad night to play the way we did.”

The Yellow Jackets did their part defensively to frustrate Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech forced 18 turnovers and turned a tight game into a laugher in part by limiting the Hokies to five field goals in the first 12 minutes of the second half. The Hokies, and especially guard Zabian Dowdell (six points), could do little in the stifling environment. Dowdell’s 14-game double-figure scoring streak ended with a 1-for-7 performance from the floor.

“In the second half, we came out and just picked up the tempo of the game starting on the defensive end,” Elder said. “We got a couple stops, and then we got out in transition and got some easy buckets to push the lead up.”

The Yellow Jackets had to be upbeat even after enduring a jittery first half during which Jack, Bynum and center Luke Schenscher stumbled into foul trouble. However, they never trailed by more than four and rolled into the break on an 11-2 flourish thanks to 3s by Jack and Elder.

The victory likely cemented Georgia Tech’s already near-certain NCAA tournament status. With an RPI in the 30s, a quality schedule and nine victories over ACC foes, Tech seems a shoo-in.

Nevertheless, the Yellow Jackets want to remove any doubts about their postseason fate in the next two days.

“I don’t know if we’re in yet,” coach Paul Hewitt said, “but I know if we win two more games, for sure we’ll be in.”

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