The Jackets were ready for two home games, the first against one of the ACC’s top teams, Wake Forest, followed by Division II foe Clayton State. In the two games at the Thrillerdome, the Jackets went 1-1.
Wake Forest entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the conference, boasting a record at the time of 14-4. Tech maintained a close game through the entire first half and found themselves trailing by only four points at halftime. The start of the second half began in a similar manner as Tech stayed within single digits.
At one point, Tech took a two-point lead in the second half. However, Wake Forest was shooting at a high percentage from the beginning of the game and never stopped. Their hot shooting continued to increase their lead. On the other hand, Tech’s scoring began to slow down as they struggled to get consistent shooting going. Both factors allowed Wake Forest to widen their margin and turn what was once a two-point Tech lead into a double-digit lead for Wake Forest.
As a result, Wake Forest finished the game with a 16-point victory, 80-64. The win marked Wake Forest’s first road victory against the Jackets since Chris Paul’s freshman season in 2004. Wake Forest would go on to win their next two games by at least 20 points, marking the first time they have won three consecutive conference games since that 2004 season.
After dropping five of their last six games, Tech was looking to bounce back and regain their momentum. The Jackets were set to host Clayton State. Tech began the game strong from the start and never looked back. They jumped out to a quick lead due to their high field goal percentage. The team shot over 55% from the field, with over 62% from long range. Tech’s fast start led to them taking a 51-20 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Jackets continued their strong defense and shooting. Clayton State turned the ball over 16 times compared to only ten turnovers by the Jackets. An all-around performance by the Jackets led them to an impressive 103-53 victory. It was the first time Tech won a game by 50+ under Coach Pastner.
A comfortable margin of victory allowed several members of the team to get quality in-game experience. There were 13 players that saw playing time including 12 players scoring. Four players scored double figures, including freshman Jalon Moore notching a career-high 13 points. Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher led the way, combining to go 14-24 from the field including 6-11 from three-point range while scoring a combined 36 points.
The team was able to regain confidence while trying out different schemes. The team is still experimenting with different lineups as they are still looking for the perfect on-court chemistry. Throughout this season, Coach Pastner has used eight different starting lineups.
Disappointing news arrived this week with the announcement that Bubba Parham will be shut down for the remainder of the season due to a lingering meniscus injury. Throughout his time at Tech, Parham has been a tone-setter for the Jackets and has always been there when the team has looked for a source of fast-paced two-way play. Although he will not be on the court, he will continue to make an impact for the team off the court.
The Jackets will be reflecting on many positives from these two games as they continue in the season ahead. They host Florida State on Jan. 26 at home followed by hosting Miami at home on Jan. 29. Both teams are amongst the best in the conference. The Jackets have shown at times they can compete with the best. They will look to take that next step, put all the pieces together, upset some of the ACC’s top teams and gather key wins heading into the final stretch.