By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
Consistency, not court storming, remains the objective for Damon Stoudamire.
Georgia Tech’s head coach knows his team can hang with the best of the ACC (Duke and North Carolina could have commiserated about that when they met last weekend). He sees his team talking more and holding each other accountable, another sign, he believes, of their growth.
We’re right there, Stoudamire has repeated throughout ACC play. Now comes the next step for Georgia Tech (10-12, 3-8 ACC): Not only playing steady, detail-oriented basketball for all 40 minutes of a game, but carrying that play from one game to the next. And not only beating the top teams of the ACC, but bringing that same concentration and connectedness to the middle-of-the-pack strivers they soon hope to join.
The Yellow Jackets will get that opportunity Tuesday when they host Wake Forest (14-7, 4-6 ACC), a team that can overheat a scoreboard but is also just 1-5 on the road this year. Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Yellow Jackets shoot for another win at McCamish Pavilion – court storming not required (7 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Tech leads the ACC in three-point field goals made in conference games. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Prior to last week, Tech hadn’t held opponents below 38-percent shooting in back-to-back ACC games in more than three years.
The Yellow Jackets accomplished that against North Carolina and North Carolina State, albeit in a split of those games. They’ll now try to limit a Wake Forest team that can go on some audacious sprees of offense: The Demon Deacons are the only team in the ACC averaging better than 80 points per game in conference play, and they shot 66 percent from the field in a 99-70 rout of Syracuse on Saturday. It was Wake’s highest field goal percentage in an ACC game since 1971.
The Deacs are once again headlined by a Steve Forbes specialty: potent, high-scoring guards from the transfer portal. Six-foot-5 Hunter Sallis (18.2 ppg) is a sleek, three-level scorer from Gonzaga whom Stoudamire calls one of the better two-point shot makers in the country, while 6-0 Central Michigan transfer Kevin Miller (16.7 ppg) gives Wake another live wire point guard and juking, foot-faking specialist.
“When you think about the games we played against Carolina and Clemson, we had to be really physical. We had to start the confrontation. We’ve got to do that against Wake,” Stoudamire said on his radio show Monday.
Other keys against the Demon Deacons: consistently running out to Wake’s three-point shooters (something they did well against North Carolina) and not getting deterred if they make tough shots. They’ll also have to locate Wake Forest’s shooters in transition – Tech allowed a season-high 22 fast break points against the NC State, and the Demon Deacons almost always send two players to the corners on fast breaks. Wake ranks second in the ACC in rebounding margin, and 7-footer Efton Reid III – who started against Tech in December of 2021 while a member of LSU – excels at getting defenders on his back and carving out deep post-ups. Tech will need to gang rebound well like it did against North Carolina.
For as explosive as Wake Forest can be offensively, keep this in mind. The Yellow Jackets are 3-2 this year against the top 5-ranked teams in offensive efficiency in ACC play:
Offensive Efficiency Rating (ACC only)
- Wake Forest
- North Carolina
- Virginia Tech
- Georgia Tech
Wake Forest leads the ACC in three-point shooting in conference play, knocking down 40.3 percent as a team. But there’s a pretty sharp drop-off in the Demon Deacons’ accuracy between wins and losses:
Wake Forest – 3pt.% vs. ACC opponents
- Wins: 2%
- Losses: 2%
To borrow Damon Stoudamire parlance, it could be a classic “threes beat you, twos don’t” game. Pay attention to 6-11 Andrew Carr (14.1 ppg, 41.4% 3pt.), who gives the Deacs a pick-and-pop and kickout threat if their guards collapse the defense.
Miles Kelly (13) and Wake Forest’s Cameron Hildreth have very similar numbers in ACC play this season. (photo by Danny Karnik)
When Georgia Tech evaluated a guard to fill a scholarship in its 2021 class, they narrowed their search to two players.
Miles Kelly was one. Wake Forest’s Cameron Hildreth was the other.
The Yellow Jackets ultimately focused their efforts on Kelly, a decision that has paid dividends for both schools. In fact, Kelly and Hildreth have almost become mirror images this year:
Hildreth posted a double-double against Syracuse but had struggled in his previous five games while battling a wrist injury (7.0 ppg, 32% FG, 2-16 3pt. FG). The Worthing, England, native is a savvy, physical guard who has a knack for backing down smaller defenders. He led the Demon Deacons with 19 points against Tech last season, and given his recent struggles, he could be looking to get his offense rolling at McCamish.
Wake Forest shoots a high volume of threes, but curiously, the Deacs don’t allow a high volume of them. Only 28 percent of their opponents’ field goal attempts in ACC play come from behind the arc, the lowest average in the league.
Credit a defense that likes to stay home and shut down possessions with the best defensive rebounding percentage in the ACC. It could make for a fascinating tug-of-war with Tech, which still leads the ACC in three-pointers per game in conference play (9.6), percentage points ahead of Wake. Naithan George has already shown an ability to drop dimes and make clutch shots at home. Can he now find a spark from deep? The freshman has made 44 percent of his three-pointers in ACC road games… but surprisingly, only 20 percent in games at McCamish.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports. See you at McCamish.
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ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN’S BASKETBALL
Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team is in its first year under head coach Damon Stoudamire. 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.