This isn't to say
that Georgia Tech's inside game is as weak as a strip-joint cocktail on Bourbon
Street, but it's a fact that the Yellow Jackets won the Southeast Regional in
the Louisiana Superdome on Sunday by showing that three (outstanding perimeter
players) plus one (lucky break) can indeed equal Final Four, as in a trip to
Denver for a date with fearsome Nevada-Las Vegas in Saturday's national
semifinals. The other semi will match Duke, which qualified for Denver by the
skin of its teeth with—what was it?—about a second to spare, and Arkansas,
which somehow enjoyed a home court advantage playing Texas in Dallas.
To be honest,
though, the Yellow Jackets got the break of the tournament. Last Friday against
Michigan State, the officials allowed a desperation, game-tying jumper by
Georgia Tech's freshman sensation, Kenny Anderson, that apparently was shot
after time had expired. Following that reprieve, the Yellow Jackets pulled out
an 81-80 overtime victory to advance the regional final against surprising
Minnesota, an 82-75 winner over sluggish Syracuse.
This time Georgia
Tech didn't need any help. In a 93-91 victory over the Gophers, the Yellow
Jackets' prolific perimeter triumvirate of Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian
Oliver poured in 89 points and took 52 of the team's 56 shots. Yet Georgia Tech
couldn't celebrate until Minnesota's Kevin Lynch missed a three-pointer under
heavy pressure at the buzzer.
That's when Tech
coach Bobby Cremins opened his sport coat and kissed the shamrock that he had
pinned inside it in honor of his father, a former New York longshoreman and
doorman who died last December. "This is the best team I've ever
coached," said Cremins.
noticeably subdued in the glow of victory. Once one of the sport's most driven
coaches—he was despondent after his 1985-86 team, with guard Mark Price and
center John Salley, was upset in the regional semifinals by LSU—Cremins took
stock of himself last fall and decided that at 42, he needed a serious attitude
adjustment. "I told him, 'Coach, you're never gonna change,' " said
Oliver, a senior, but the players found him to be more laid back, which in turn
helped them relax.
The change in
Cremins coincided with the arrival of two new players. One was Anderson, the
pencil-thin, ballyhooed point guard from New York City. The other was the
6'8" Scott, who reported for his junior season with a new body—having shed
20 pounds over the summer—and a new, more serious approach. Then, slyly,
Cremins eliminated a potential jealousy problem between Scott and Anderson by
assigning them to room together.
The idea worked
out so well that Anderson praises Scott for taking a lot of the pressure off
him ("I didn't have to come in and be Superman right away," he says),
while Scott says, "He [ Anderson] is different from any New York point guard
I've ever seen because he's not coming down the court dribbling behind his back
and between his legs six times without going anywhere."
The third member
of the trio, Oliver, suffered a stress fracture in his ankle early in the
season, but he has played with pain and provided stability. Together, the three
led Tech to the ACC tournament championship.
with Big Ten champion Michigan State was a splendid game in which Anderson and
the Spartans' 6'6" Steve Smith, a gangly junior, conducted a clinic on how
to play guard. Michigan State seemed to have the game won with five seconds
left and a 75-73 lead, but Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one. Georgia
Tech's 6'9" Johnny McNeil, who joins 6'10" Malcolm Mackey in what
passes for their team's inside game, rebounded and fired the ball to Anderson.
After almost losing the ball at midcourt, Anderson angled to the top of the key
and fired his last-second jumper.
Clougherty gave the three-point signal as soon as the ball went through the
basket, and the scoreboard flashed 76-75, an apparent Georgia Tech victory.
However, another official, Charles Range, had seen Anderson's foot on the
stripe. After the officials met briefly, the goal was changed to a two-pointer,
sending the game into OT. But the more important question was whether or not
Anderson had gotten off the shot in time. "The ball was out of my hands
when I heard the buzzer," said Anderson. "I just didn't know if it was
a three or a two."