Defense carries Men’s hoops to two ACC wins

Photo by John Nakano / Student Publications
After a two-game skid to start their conference schedule, the Jackets were looking to rebound in consecutive home games against UNC and Wake Forest. In its return to the Thrillerdome, Tech would post up two strong defensive performances, winning both games by large margins. Tech hosted the Tar Heels on Sunday Jan. 16, winning 78-58, and Wake Forest on Wednesday Jan. 19 winning, 74-39.
The UNC game started off with the Jackets getting hot. Junior guard Iman Shumpert and sophomore guard Glen Rice Jr. scored eight of the Jackets’ first 10 points, and Tech started the game off with a 10-2 run. The Tar Heels, however, were not satisfied with the play of their starters, and subbed out all five of them, putting in their respective backups. With the bench on the court, the Tar Heels posted an 8-0 run of their own to tie the game.
The game continued the trend of back-and-forth runs through the first half. The Jackets went on a 12-2 run immediately after the Tar Heels tied the game only to see the Tar Heels respond with big plays inside the paint. With under four minutes in the half, it was a four point game with Tech on top, 31-27.
“After the first two baskets, and Glen got his first two baskets, it sort of felt like the rim was big, so I just wanted to keep going,” Shumpert said.
To cap off the half however, the Tar Heels would only allow two more points and brought the game within reach on a tip shot with four seconds left in the half. Heading into the half, the Jackets were barely onto holding their lead, with just a one-point advantage at 33-32.
The second half didn’t appear to start much differently than the first. Both teams began with nice runs, starting with an 8-1 run by the Jackets, followed by a 6-0 run by the Tar Heels. Then, with just over 11 minutes in the half, Tech began separating itself from UNC with a defensive plays from Shumpert, along with solid perimeter shooting from Rice who went four-of-seven from beyond the arc.
Shumpert had 30 points, along with three blocks and two steals, while Rice had 24 points. Both tied career highs in points.
“When you play UNC, everyone feels like they’re the underdog. So they have to come out and play hard every time. Everyone sort of gets up to play them,” Shumpert said.
UNC had no answer for the defensive play of Tech, as they struggled to get any kind of offense going. The Tar Heels were held to 20 percent shooting in the second half, with a game percentage of 27.6 percent, their lowest in over 50 years.
To make things worse for the Tar Heels, Tech’s offense was clicking, running memorable plays, such as a quick pass from Shumpert, to freshman center Daniel Miller, who quickly passed behind himself to Rice for an easy lay up.
At times, Tech allowed UNC to cut the lead by a few points, but in the end, the Jackets maintained their separation and won by 20 points, 78-58. The only weakness for the Jackets was from the free throw line, shooting seven-of-12 for the game.
“I hope that this game makes them all understand that, especially the bigs, that if we execute and screen and get Iman and Glen open, they are going to make shots,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
The Wake Forest game started out looking like an even match, with both teams exchanging the lead seven times in the first four minutes. Then, Shumpert took the game into his own hands, and rattled off a 7-0 run by himself to bring the score to 13-7. Tech would only continue to build on this lead throughout the game, with plays from both Rice and Shumpert. Each scored 15 points in the first half.
The Jackets were shooting well from the three-point line in the first half, making five of their nine shots from beyond the arc. Tech also rebounded well, grabbing 50 total boards. This was well above their average of 36.4 rebounds per game. However, Tech committed 13 turnovers, barely below their season average of 13.6.
The Demon Deacons could not get anything going in the first half, with the Jackets stealing the ball four times and getting three blocks. Wake was held to 30.3 percent shooting in the first half, and was only one-of-seven from the three-point line. Tech went into halftime with an 18-point lead, up 44-26.
The Jackets came out in the second half with adjustments on defense and slowed down Wake Forest’s offense even more. The second half was highlighted by exciting plays on offense and defense from the Jackets, including a fastbreak dunk by freshman guard Jason Morris after an assist from Shumpert. Rice also had an impressive second half, making six of his seven shots for the game, and finishing with 21 points and five rebounds.
Shumpert finished the game with 20 total points and also had six rebounds and three steals.
The Jackets were not as efficient shooting the ball as they were in the first half, shooting only 35.7 percent for the half. However, the Jacket’s defense held up well, and only allowed Wake to make four shots in the half for a total of 13 points. Tech went on a 30-6 run to start the half and led by as many as 42 points with just under four minutes in the half. Tech, however, would put in their full rotation of players throughout the rest of the game, and finished the game allowing seven more points, and winning by 35, 74-39.
Tech’s next game is on the road at Virginia, on Saturday, Jan. 22, before returning home for two games against Virginia Tech and Maryland.


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