It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. On a night where Wake Forest honored the legends of its past, there was never a more apparent juxtaposition between the great history of Wake Forest basketball and the current state of the program. Honestly, it was a depressing scene as even bringing back the likes of Charlie Davis, Skip Brown, Rodney Rogers, Tim Duncan, Marc Blucas, and many others to celebrate Dave Odom and the 1995 ACC Championship team was barely enough to get the Joel halfway full. And on top that, the Deacs lost to Georgia Tech by a score of 86-79 in game where they only led for a couple of minutes and struggled to keep the Yellow Jackets from getting to the rim on every possession. This is going to be another quick one, so let’s just get through it.
After falling behind by 8 at the half, the Deacs went on a run to start the 2nd half and even managed to take a 38-37 lead. From that point, the Yellow Jackets seemingly made a dunk or layup on every possession as Wake struggled defend the paint for most of the 2nd half.
If my calculations are correct, Georgia Tech made 14 baskets in 2nd half—5 of those made baskets were dunks, and 6 of them were layups (the other 3 were 2 3-pointers and 1 jump shot). That comes out to about 80% of their makes and 50% of their shot attempts coming from dunks and layups. That’s not good Dino.
After shooting just 44% in the first half, Tech went 14-23 (61%) in the 2nd to finish the game shooting a solid 52% from the floor. Of course, it’s easy to shoot a high percentage when most of the shots are coming from within a foot of the basket.
I don’t think Tech was doing anything that special on offense—it just seemed like they always had a guy cutting to or just standing under the basket who ended up wide open. When they weren’t just dunking the ball repeatedly, most of what GT did in the second half was give the ball the Michael Devoe and move out of the way. Devoe got the ball into the paint basically whenever he wanted to and finished with 24 points on 9-14 shooting and 5 assists. 16 of his 24 points came in the 2nd half.
Every time Wake got within a few points, and it looked like they were 1 stop away from taking the lead and gaining control of the game, Devoe would just drive straight to the basket and score. The Deacs had absolutely no answer for him in the second half.
Wake has made some small improvements on defense this season, from allowing opponents to shoot 47% from the floor (316th in the nation) last season to 43% (178th) this season. They have also improved from 186th in adjusted defense last season to 126th this season, per Ken Pom. This game, however, was much more reminiscent of the 20 loss Wake Forest teams of the past 2 seasons, where the Deacs played little to no defense and gave up a thousand wide open shots.
So, while the Deacs were able to score 50 points in the second half and stay within striking distance for the final 20 minutes, they were unable to get enough stops to finish off the comeback. The loss drops Wake to 11-15 overall and 4-12 in the ACC with just 4 games left before the ACC Tournament. With 2 games separating Wake from Miami and Pittsburgh, there is very little room for error if the Deacs want to move up out of 15th place in the ACC. Of course, with UNC just 0.5 game behind Wake Forest, there is even less room for error if Wake wants to avoid finishing dead last in the conference.