Coming into Wednesday, Georgia Tech was looking to officially move past two early road losses to open conference play and try to build off of a big 20-point win over North Carolina on Sunday. They had the cellar-dwellers of the ACC in town in Wake Forest and were hoping to take advantage of that fact.
The Jackets won 74-39 over a young Wake Forest team Wednesday night, marking the largest victory over an ACC opponent ever. The 35 point margin was also the largest in a victory in nine years in all games. Wake's point total of 39 was also the lowest a Tech team has ever allowed in an ACC game.
Tech improves to 9-8 overall and evens up their conference record at 2-2. Wake Forest drops to 7-12 and 0-4 in the ACC.
The Jackets were led yet again by guard Iman Shumpert, who is worth the price of admission by himself. He posted 20 points, following up his 30 point outing against UNC with another strong performance. He also added six rebounds, two assists, and three steals in only 21 minutes of play. Glen Rice Jr. followed his 24 point outing with a 21 point game. The two of these guys really are quite fun to watch.
Another guy who has shown up to play recently is Jason Morris. He had a game high in rebounds and had seven points. Not a huge total, but I am [pretty sure that all three of his baskets made the highlight reel.
Tech's defense held Wake Forest to 25.9% from the field, and just 19% in the second half, marking the second straight game the Jackets have held their opponent to under 30% shooting.
"I am very happy that we had another good performance defensively tonight. Right from the start I thought we were pretty sharp in what we were trying to do, take away their three-point shooting," said Coach Paul Hewitt.
Two trends in fairly recent memory were erased in the game. First, Tech has had a history of following up big wins with disappointing losses over the last handful of years. Second, the Jackets lost both of their road conference games this season by getting manhandled after halftime. Both trends were erased today. Tech avoided the disappointing loss. Granted, they were up by 20 at halftime, but they kept the peddle to the metal coming out of the locker room.
After the game, Shumpert pointed to the play of the big men in the recent success of the guards. "Lately, Daniel, Kammeon Holsey and Nate Hicks have all been setting really good screens," said Shumpert. "Early on in the season, I don't think we were doing that and the guards weren't waiting to get set, guys were trying to dodge fouls. Now, we are just more in sync with each other. We are setting screens tighter and coming off of them better and guys are getting open and raising their shooting percentage."
Here are some good stats for Georgia Tech fans to enjoy. If you are from Wake Forest, I would recommend skipping this section:
12 minutes and 32 seconds into the second half, Wake Forest had three points, all of which had come on free throws.
Tech shot 50% from three-point land, connecting on 8-of-16.
The Jackets piled up 50 rebounds. An impressive 10 players grabbed a board, led by Jason Morris.
Tech held some talented freshmen scorers to low point totals tonight. Their two leading scorers, Travis McKie and J.T. Terrell, combined for 11 points. Not a single Demon Deacon broke into double figures.
Tech could have gone scoreless in the second half, and still won.
This was a good, solid win for Georgia Tech, and marks the second straight game where the Jackets have played quite well. The players called a meeting after the 87-62 loss at Clemson, and whatever it was said, it has worked. In 80 minutes of play since, they have looked like they could compete in conference play and potentially make some noise going into the tournament.
"Feeding off of each other's energy is the best feeling in the world. One day we were down, after Clemson, but we just stayed together in that locker room and kept it close. We came back home, had a great crowd and everyone was just feeding off the energy. We kept the huddles tighter, talking more, no one's energy died, the next practice was great. Everything is positive now." -- Iman Shumpert
Don't get your hopes up too soon Tech fans, but I would keep an eye on this team.