Yellow Jackets bring tough ‘D’ to town

Dan Monson is playing a three-guard lineup to handle the full-court pressure he expects from Georgia Tech.

by Anthony Maggio

After Michael Bauer sank an off-balanced three-pointer at the buzzer to give Minnesota’s men’s basketball team a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday, Bulldogs coach Jim Harrick expressed some surprise in his post-game press conference.

But it had nothing to do with Bauer’s game-winner.

“(Maurice) Hargrow’s going to be a nice player for them,” Harrick said. “He led them in scoring? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

The sophomore Hargrow led the Gophers with 15 points in the game, and will start his second straight contest when Minnesota hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Minnesota (2-0) now ranks 20th in the AP poll, its highest rating under coach Dan Monson.

Rather than start Bauer against the Yellow Jackets (3-0), Monson is sticking with his smaller, three-guard lineup to handle the full-court pressure he expects from the Yellow Jackets – and for a couple other reasons as well.

“Number one, it obviously gives you another ball handler,” Monson said. “Number two, it’s a better defensive lineup because Moe is one of the better defenders we have. Number three, it allows us to press and do some other things from the defensive end.”

Hargrow and guards Ben Johnson and Kevin Burleson will be the three mostly responsible for attacking the Yellow Jackets’ fullcourt defense.

Georgia Tech enters Wednesday’s contest unranked, but the Yellow Jackets defeated Georgia last week, and will be another solid early test for the Gophers.

“Whether Georgia Tech is rated or not they’re obviously one of the top 30 or 35 teams in the country,” Johnson said. “It’s always good when you can play against teams of that caliber so you can assess where your team is at.”

Minnesota faced a full-court trap from the Bulldogs on Saturday, but expects Georgia Tech to put more consistent pressure on the ball the length of the court because of its depth.

In three games this season, Georgia Tech has nine players averaging double figures in minutes, and junior forward Robert Brooks is just shy with nine minutes a game.

“They are a lot deeper (than Georgia),” Hargrow said. “So they can press you for 40 minutes if they choose to. But it’s the same principle. You just have to be strong with the ball and attack the press.”

The Gophers had little trouble with the press they saw from Georgia, turning the ball over only twice against the full-court defense.

“I thought they valued the ball very well,” Monson said. “Our judgment was pretty good.”

In the front court, the Yellow Jackets bring a bigger lineup to the barn than the Bulldogs, who had no player taller than 6-foot-8.

Freshman Chris Bosh has made a huge impact for Georgia Tech so far this season, leading the team in scoring (19.3), rebounding (12) and field goal percentage (55.9).

The 6-foot-10 forward has scored a double-double in all three games this season.

“He’s very talented,” Monson said. “He’s got the athleticism and the body of Jerry Holman, yet he’s got the hand skills of Rick (Rickert) – a very good combination in my mind.”

Minnesota has not faced Georgia Tech since March 25, 1990. The Yellow Jackets won that contest 93-91, thanks to a 40-point effort from Dennis Scott and another 30 from Kenny Anderson.

Game on ESPN

Wednesday’s contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]