By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
It’s almost a lock at this point that Georgia Tech and Notre Dame will play tight, nerve-shredding games for all of eternity. In nine previous meetings at McCamish Pavilion, the average margin of victory in the series has been a laughably small 3.3 points.
So if the Yellow Jackets wanted to shake their nine-game losing streak Wednesday, it seemed inevitable it would take a little more sweat, a little more suspense, and a little more stomach-churning anxiety than usual.
But in an instant – or in this case, a Lance Terry tip-in – Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-12 ACC) traded the burden of a losing streak for the confidence of a win. Joy, relief, jubilation – they all poured out of the Yellow Jackets Wednesday after they finally grinded their way back into the win column. They’ll now try to carry that momentum to Wake Forest (16-9, 8-6 ACC), which owns of one of the more surprising home court advantages in the ACC. After a 92-85 victory over North Carolina, the Demon Deacons have won 29 of their last 32 games at Joel Coliseum, the highest home court winning percentage in the ACC over that span.
Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Yellow Jackets look to turn a win into a winning streak in Winston-Salem (5 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Against Notre Dame, Deivon Smith became the first Yellow Jacket to record seven assists and not turn the ball over since Jose Alvaado in 2019. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Perhaps a little extra fate helped seal Wednesday’s win. Former Jacket Josh Okogie, who scored a game-winning layup at the buzzer as a freshman against Notre Dame in 2017, was in Atlanta that night with the Phoenix Suns. They played the Hawks at State Farm Arena on Thursday.
Okogie couldn’t make the game, but fellow Yellow Jacket and current Suns assistant coach Jarrett Jack did. Standing outside the Tech locker room afterwards, Jack grinned that he looked forward to giving some ribbing to his head coach Monty Williams, a Notre Dame alum.
In his lone season at Wake Forest, transfer Alondes Williams nearly became the first player in ACC history to lead the conference in scoring and assists.
So how did head coach Steve Forbes replace him? By signing a transfer who leads the ACC in scoring and assists.
Six-foot-1 guard Tyree Appleby (18.7 ppg, 6.2 apg) arrived in Winston-Salem after stops at Cleveland State and Florida and is coming off a 35-point, 11-assist, 7-rebound performance against North Carolina. He’s a one-man panic attack with the ball in his hands, a live wire point guard who can come off staggers and slashes past switches. He’s also a viper going to the rim – his 180 free throw attempts rank fourth nationally. Wake Forest likes to keep him in the middle third of the floor, where they run a heavy dose of horns sets for him.
With Appleby leading the way, the Demon Deacons play with plenty of id, ranking first in the ACC in tempo and made three-pointers. Both Appleby and 6-6 guard Damari Monsanto (13.8 ppg) feed off each other well and will take some audacious pull-ups. Step-backs, side-hops, stop-on-a-dime NBA threes – expect them all Saturday. The ACC hasn’t had a player shoot threes with the volume and accuracy of Monsanto since Duke’s J.J. Redick.
|41+% 3pt., 8.0+ attempts/game
Six-foot-4 Cameron Hildreth (12.6 ppg) rounds out Wake’s backcourt, a hard-to-body guard who likes to back down defenders á la Joe Girard of Syracuse. The Demon Deacons surround those guards with plenty of functional, effective bigs led by 6-11 Chris Carr (11.7 ppg). The Jackets will have to build a wall in transition and bend the tempo to their will Saturday. They also can’t let Wake’s high-degree-of-difficulty shot-making bait them into taking undisciplined shots themselves.
In their win over North Carolina, Appleby broke the Wake Forest and ACC records for made free throws in a game with 23. The previous record was set by former Demon Deacon Dickie Hemric in 1955.
That mark may have gone down, but another longstanding Wake Forest record remains intact. The school record for minutes played in a game is 58, set in a four-overtime loss to NC State in March of 1989.
The player who owns that record? Cal Boyd, the father of Georgia Tech guard Coleman Boyd.
Yellow Jacket senior Coleman Boyd’s father Cal played his college ball at Wake Forest. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Georgia Tech signed Deivon Smith as a potential replacement for Jose Alvarado.
On Wednesday, Smith became the first Tech player to dish out seven assists without a turnover since Alvarado did it against Wake Forest on Jan. 5, 2019.
The junior’s floor savvy will have to set the tone against a Wake Forest team that ranks fourth in the ACC in steals. Can Tech “draw two” and play unselfishly like they’ve done the past two games – which, not coincidentally, resulted in its two highest shooting percentages of conference play? Can they “fake a pass to make a pass” and attack Wake Forest’s closeouts? Look for the Demon Deacons to play some spurts of 1-3-1 zone, made more treacherous by their length.
Apropos of nothing: There’s a chance the floor Saturday will include a Deivon (Smith), a Daivien (Williamson), and a Davion (Bradford).
Assistant coach Brian Eskildsen would like to claim some credit for Wednesday’s win – though not for anything he did on the scouting report.
The last time Tech won an ACC game, against Miami January 4, the coaching staff wore black quarter-zips and Eskildsen sank the halfcourt shot that ended Tech’s game day shootaround.
On Wednesday, Georgia Tech’s staff broke out its black quarter-zips for the first time since the Miami game – and Eskildsen once again drilled the team’s halfcourt shot at shootaround.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports. See you in Winston-Salem.
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Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team has completed six seasons under head coach Josh Pastner, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 2021 and making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years. Tech has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1979, won four ACC Championships (1985, 1990, 1993, 2021), played in the NCAA Tournament 17 times and played in two Final Fours (1990, 2004). Connect with Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball on social media by liking their Facebook Page, or following on Twitter (@GTMBB) and Instagram. For more information on Tech basketball, visit Ramblinwreck.com.