On Saturday then-No. 22 Tech routed Kentucky State at home, 98-50.
Freshman guard Glen Rice Jr. came off the bench to lead the Jackets in scoring with 15 points. Rice was perfect from the field, making six-of-six attempts including three three-pointers. Three other Tech players finished the game with double-digit points.
It was a homecoming for KSU Interim Head Coach Clarence Moore, a key reserve player for the Jackets during Tech’s run to the Final Four five years ago.
In the lopsided victory, Tech dominated the Division II team in nearly every statistical category. They made 37-of-52 field goals, nearly 72 percent of their attempts. This was almost 25 percent above the team’s season average. The Jackets more than doubled the Thorobreds in rebounds, grabbing 34 rebounds to their 15 boards. Kentucky State did not register a block in the game while Tech had eight.
Despite these devastating stats, the blowout began as a relatively close game. More than five minutes into the game, Kentucky State guard Tony Johnson made a three-pointer to pull the score within two points of Tech’s lead at 17-15. This was the closest the Thorobreds would come for the rest of the game. Tech went on a 37-14 run to end the half and widen the deficit to 25 heading into the locker room.
With the outcome of the game all but decided early in the second half, Head Coach Paul Hewitt elected to pull the starters from the game.
Many of Tech’s reserves had the opportunity to get some major playing time. Senior center Brad Sheehan played 22 minutes, finishing with eight points and two rebounds. Junior guard Maurice Miller had 20 minutes of playing time, leading all players with six assists. No other Tech player was in the game for more than 18 minutes.
Earlier in the week, Tech defeated Wake Forest 79-58 at Alexander Memorial Stadium. It was the second straight year the Jackets had defeated the Demon Deacons at home and the fifth time in the last six home games.
Tech had five players in double figures, with redshirt senior D’Andre Bell leading all scorers with 16 points. He also tied freshman guard Mfon Udofia with three assists.
“I’ve always been a fan of balanced scoring…it spaces the floor out and it makes it easier to get to people,” Hewitt said.
Bell scored the last five points of the game, including a dunk off of a steal from sophomore guard Iman Shumpert.
“[The dunk] was just [showing that] my body [is] coming back together and all the hard work in the gym [is paying off],” Bell said. Bell’s 16 points was a Tech career high.
The two teams played a very close first half with six lead changes and no lead bigger than eight. The Demon Deacons had opportunities to cut the deficit closer or even take a lead. They had 11 more attempts from the field than Tech but still made two less overall. This was in part due to Tech’s six blocks. Wake Forest had none in the first half and finished with three.
Freshman forward Derrick Favors had more blocks than the entire Wake Forest squad in just the first 20 minutes of play with four blocks. He finished with five.
“I wasn’t in foul trouble…so I got comfortable,” Favors said.
In the second half, Wake Forest scored the first four points to cut the lead to two points at 35-33. Tech responded with a 19-4 run to all but leave the game out of reach. Still, the Jackets had blown two large second half leads in recent ACC play, a 20-point lead at UNC and a nine-point lead against Clemson, leaving at least some doubt about the victory.
“I was still jumpy even though we were up 16,” Hewitt said.
Wake Forest outrebounded Tech during the first half, but the Jackets controlled the boards in the second half in large part to the play of Shumpert, Oliver and Udofia. The trio combined for just three rebounds in the first half but finished the game with a total of 15.
Despite what seemed like a blowout victory and dominating second half, Tech struggled during parts of the game. Up 17 points, the Jackets proceeded to turn the ball over eight times in the next nine minutes and allow the Demon Deacons to cut the lead to 11 points. Still, Tech’s defense combined with Wake Forest’s defensive struggles allowed Tech to eventually win by 21 points.
“[The game plan] was just to keep them off the boards… and outwork those guys. It was a simple game plan,” Lawal said.
While Wake Forest struggled in many categories in the game, they were worst in their three-point shooting percentage, making just three-of-18 attempts.
“It’s just hard work and contesting shots, there’s no secret to it…finding shooters and putting a hand in the face,” Hewitt said.
Tech goes on the road to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play No. 8 Duke on Thursday .They will next play N.C. State at home tomorrow. N.C. State won last year’s meeting at AMC, 86-65.