Tech takes on Northwestern in ACC/Big Ten challenge

Georgia Tech will host Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Tuesday night in what amounts to its second “home” opener.

This time the Yellow Jackets (4-2) debut at 7:15 p.m. at Philips Arena, where they will play eight games while Alexander Memorial Coliseum undergoes renovation. They are 3-0 at Gwinnett Arena, with two more games to play there in December.

The challenge gets a little tougher, though, against Northwestern, which is 5-0 and won the Charleston Classic, the same tournament Tech played in last week while winning one of three games. The Wildcats beat LSU, Tulsa and Seton Hall. John Shurna, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, scored a career-high 37 points in the win over LSU.

“They’ve proven they’re for real,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said, adding, "Shurna is one of the best players in the Big Ten, an established all-league player.”

Gregory spent eight years in the Big Ten as an assistant coach at Michigan State. Gregory also worked two years as an assistant at Northwestern under Kevin O’Neill in 1997-99. The Wildcats didn’t run the Princeton offense then, but Gregory prepared for it against Pete Carril-protege Bill Carmody his last few years at Michigan State, and against Richmond and Chris Mooney as the head coach at Dayton.

“Unfortunately what you have to do for three days is tell your guys everything you taught them defensively for the last six weeks you’ve got to throw out the window,” Gregory said.

Northwestern baffled Tech with its Princeton-style offense last year, winning by 20 at home in the ACC-Big Ten challenge on its way to a second consecutive 20-win season.

The Yellow Jackets are playing their first game at Philips Arena since Dec. 11, 2004, when they defeated Air Force in the last of the Chick-fil-A Classic, which featured Tech and Georgia.

Glen Rice Jr., with 17.7 points per game off the bench, leads Tech in scoring. Rice has scored in double-digits in each of his three games back from a suspension for violating team rules. He’s coming off a season-high 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting against Siena, but Gregory said he still plans to bring him off the bench on Tuesday night.