A close game between Tech and Wake Forest swung in the Demon Deacons’ favor late, and the Jackets lost their fourth straight road game on Saturday, Feb. 13 as Wake won 75-64. Tech rebounded, though, shutting down North Carolina 68-51 on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to complete a season sweep of the Tar Heels.
When Tech and Wake met in Jan., Tech downed the Demon Deacons 79-58 in their biggest victory in conference play. This time, Wake Forest returned the favor, handing the Jackets their second straight loss and dropping them to 5-6 in the ACC and 17-8 overall.
The Demon Deacons struck early in the first half, building up a 15-5 lead within the first five minutes of play. By the 11:29 mark, though, Tech had stolen the lead, hitting five three-pointers to put them in front 20-18. Junior Maurice Miller hit one for the Jackets, and freshman guard Glen Rice, Jr. and freshman forward Brian Oliver hit two apiece during the run.
After exchanging leads for a couple minutes, Wake Forest pulled ahead by nine with 5:04 left in the half. Tech surged back before the break, though, slowly cutting into the Demon Deacons’ lead and ultimately tying the score at 37. Eight of the Jackets’ 13 points over this period came from the foul line as they shot 84.6 percent on free throws in the first half.
Tech jumped back in front heading out of the locker room, as junior forward Gani Lawal hit the second of two free throws to give the Jackets a one-point edge. Wake distanced the score yet again, though, going on an 8-0 run to take a 46-38 lead with 16:19 to play. Tech responded with an 8-0 run of their own to tie the score, and the next seven minutes saw five more ties as the Jackets battled to keep it close.
A jumper by Wake guard Ishmael Smith put the Deacons ahead 64-62 with 5:18 remaining, and they never gave it up. An 11-2 run gave Wake Forest an 11-point lead with one minute left, and they held that lead until the final buzzer.
The Jackets had one of their best nights from the foul line, going 16-for-20 from the stripe. Lawal, who has struggled from the line, shot 7-for-10 on free throws.
Despite their solid effort from the free throw line, the Jackets were held to just 34.5 percent from the field. Neither of Tech’s starting guards scored in the game, as freshman guard Mfon Udofia shot 0-for-3 and sophomore guard Iman Shumpert went 0-for-7 from the field.
Lawal led the team with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but the rest of the starting lineup combined for just nine points. In fact, 40 of Tech’s 64 points came off the bench. Rice notched 14 points, Oliver and Miller recorded 12 each, and senior Zachary Peacock added two of his own. Peacock, who averages 9.6 points per game, shot just 1-for-8 against the Demon Deacons.
“I thought we played a good game on Saturday night against a very hot Wake Forest team,” Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said in Monday’s teleconference, courtesy of ramblinwreck.com. “In assessing the video and looking at some of the things we did in the game, I thought we did some really good things…and I just hope we carry that into Tuesday night.”
And carry good things into Tuesday night they did. The Jackets took the floor in Atlanta on Tuesday night to face a struggling North Carolina team for the second time this season, and again Tech came away victorious. The win gave the Jackets their first season sweep of UNC since the 1995-96 season.
Both the Jackets and the Tar Heels started slowly, notching three fouls and two fouls respectively in the opening two minutes. UNC took the initial lead, but three Tech dunks helped the Jackets tie the score at seven with 15:51 on the clock. A jumper by freshman forward Derrick Favors pushed Tech in front 9-7, and they never looked back.
By the eight-minute mark, the Jackets had extended their advantage to 10. UNC cut it to nine twice over the next minute, but a three pointer by Rice propelled Tech’s lead back to double-digits, giving them a 30-18 edge with 6:37 remaining in the half.
wThe Jackets went on an 11-3 run in the final six minutes of the half, giving them a 41-21 lead at the break.
The second half saw Tech continue their dominance. After just over ten minutes transpired, the Jackets had increased their lead to an insurmountable 28 points, putting the score at 57-29. The Tar Heels were able to reduce the differential down to 17 with 1:20 to play, but Tech held them scoreless for the remainder of the match to take the 68-51 win.
The Jackets shot well against Carolina, shooting 44.6% from the field as a team and 40% from beyond the arc. The points were more evenly spread across the lineup as well, with the starters contributing 30 points and the bench adding 38 to the board.
“That’s the way the game should be played,” Hewitt said of the more even point contributions.
Favors, who led the team in scoring on the night, finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. 11 of his 13 points came in the first half.
“It’s always important to get [Favors] off to a good start,” Hewitt said.
“Obviously he is a guy that can have an impact on the game.”
Oliver and Peacock each recorded 12 points, and Miller added 11 to give him his second straight double-figure game.
The free throw shooting dropped off compared to the Wake Forest game, as the Jackets shot just 12-for-24 from the line in the contest. Both Favors and Lawal floundered at the foul line, going just 1-for-5 and 1-for-6 respectively.
Despite their 50% free throw effort, Tech actually out-shot Carolina in this category. The Tar Heels shot just 41.7% from the stripe, hitting only 10 of their 24 opportunities.
“It’s good to get the win,” Hewitt said. “I thought our guys played really well in the first half and pretty good at times, especially at times in the second half.”