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TGW: Buckle Up

Feb. 10, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

When Georgia Tech tries to put together all the pieces tonight in McCamish Pavilion, the Yellow Jackets may start with an important cog already in place.

Tech has beaten Wake Forest 10 straight times in Atlanta, and the Demon Deacons (10-13, 1-10 ACC) have struggled since a promising 9-3 start.

The Jackets (12-11, 2-8) have a pesky problem, though, and it’s not always the same. In many games, they do several things well but one or two issues tend to stick out. In their 75-68 loss Sunday to Miami, Tech suffered 14 turnovers and made but 6-of-13 free throws in the second half.

The Jackets have been outscored 140-71 from the free throw line in the second halves of ACC games.

ACC opponents have made 193-of-258 free throws against Tech, averaging 19.3 makes and 25.8 attempts from the charity stripe per game (74.8 percent). Those numbers are way up from last season, when Tech opponents averaged 11.9 makes, 16.8 tries and shot 67.9 percent.

“[The disparity] still occurred more on the defensive end,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “Defense is the area that we need to improve in.”

The Jackets have improved significantly in most offensive categories. Their scoring is up from 60.8 in ACC games to 72.8, their 3-point shooting acumen is far greater (35.7 percent from 26.7) and their turnovers are down.

Four players are scoring in double figures overall, the first time in years that’s happened as Marcus Georges-Hunt (17.3), Adam Smith (16.2) and Nick Jacobs (13.0) are past the mark in ACC games and Charles Mitchell is averaging 11 points for the season.

ACC opponents, however, are scoring 76.2 points per game against Tech, up from 65.9 last season.

The Demon Deacons started the season strong, with wins over Indiana and UCLA at the Maui Invitational and road wins at Arkansas and LSU.

Senior forward Devin Thomas has 11 double-doubles this season and 32 in his career to pace active players in the conference. He’s averaging 16 points and 9.9 rebounds. Freshman guard Bryant Crawford is scoring 13.5, and hitting 41.9 percent of his 3-point shots.

Wake Forest is not to be taken for granted, especially with senior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre rounding into form after struggling with a broken foot a month before the season began.

“I still think they’re kind of trying to find themselves with Miller-McIntyre back in the mix,” Gregory said. “They haven’t had the same flow on a consistent basis, but you’re talking about two of the premier players in our league in Thomas and Cody Miller-McIntyre and one of the most impressive freshmen in Crawford.

“They pose problems with [Konstantinos] Mitoglou with his ability to stretch the court. You got both teams with their backs up against the wall a little bit. I would assume both teams are going to come out fighting because maybe they see it as an opportunity like we do as a chance to get back on track for future games.”

Tech’s offense figures to be better when the Jackets are better defensively.

“It’s hard to run and push if you’re taking the ball out of the net,” Gregory explained. “You’re not going to get the opportunities; defenses are going to be set, back. We run the best when our defense is playing the way we’re capable of playing, when we’re defending and rebounding . . .

“Defensively, we need to get better; guarding the basketball, guarding the post and having that consistency on the defensive glass where we’re not giving up the offensive rebounds. If you do that, then those end-of-game plays may not even have to be made.”


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