Coach Bobby Cremins of Georgia Tech knows how to stop Syracuse guard Dwayne (Pearl) Washington.
"We'll use John Salley to guard Pearl," he said, laughing. "They are good friends, so it should be interesting."
Of course, while 6-foot-2 Washington is running the show for the Orangemen, much improved 7-foot Salley will be stationed under the backboards for Tech when the teams meet in the second round of the NCAA East Regional at the Omni at 4:30 p.m. today.
Illinois (25-8) will face Georgia (22-8) at 2 p.m.
Cremins was correct in stating the game between Georgia Tech (25-7) and Syracuse (22-8) should be interesting. Washington, a sophomore point guard, can control a game, as he did in Syracuse's 70-65 victory over De Paul Friday night. He scored 23 points -- 15 from the foul line -- had four assists and defended well against Brooklyn neighborhood buddy Kenny Patterson.
Washington (averaging 15.6 points), 6-7 Rafael Addison (18.5 points and 5.8 rebounds) and 6-10 freshman Rony Seikaly (8.1, 6.4) must play well if the Orangemen are to beat Tech in front of the partisan home folks.
"Rony has gotten a good education lately playing against Pat Ewing, Ed Pinckney and Bill Wennington (all Big East opponents) and that has had to help him," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said today. "He had a good game against De Paul (17 points, nine rebounds) and has played better than we expected this season. And Rafael didn't have one of his better games (two of 13 from the field for eight points), but he'll bounce back.
"And Dwayne said John (Salley) was like a son to him and a father always tells his son what to do. Dwayne said he doesn't want Salley blocking any of his shots."
"He (Salley) was just a skinny kid when we met back in ninth grade," Washington said. "I thought he'd be a good player and we played on some neighborhood teams together and we became friends. He's done a great job for them."
Tech depends on Salley (14.0, 7.5) and 27-year-old 6-11 Yvon Joseph (12.0, 6.0) to control the backboards, and 6-4 Bruce Dalrymple (13.0, 6.0) and 6-foot Mark Price (16.0) to provide the back-court plays.
Tech played impressively the first half against Mercer, ending with a 41-25 lead. But it got cocky the last 20 minutes and had to use a spread offense to hold off the Bears, 65-58.
"If we play like that against them (Syracuse), we'll lose by 20," Price said. "We didn't play the way we're capable in the second half and, since I'm supposed to be the leader out there, I'm taking the blame. We'll have to play smarter."
Cremins said 6-6 freshman Duane Ferrell, out two weeks with a sprained knee, might play some today. As a starter, Ferrell averaged just under 10 points and was voted ACC rookie of the year.
Illinois and Georgia played intelligently in winning their first-round games against Northeastern (76-57) and Wichita State (67-59).
Both Illinois Coach Lou Henson and Georgia's Hugh Durham expect a low-scoring defensive struggle.
One of the top defensive teams in the nation in both points allowed and opponents' field goal percentage, the Illini play an air-tight, sagging zone and rebound very well.
"They have that inside strength and execute very well on offense," Durham said. "And Illinois is patient and relies a lot of its defense."
The Illini front line of 6-8 Efrem Winters and 6-7 Ken Norman and 6-9 Anthony Welch is physical and scores well inside and outside.
Georgia's defense was even more impressive. The Bulldogs went after Wichita State with a press in the second half, forcing nine turnovers and holding the Shockers scoreless for more than five minutes.