MBB stutters in crucial matchup, loses 70-69

Georgia Tech win sets dagger into the hearts of Demon Deacons
Despite 13 second-half points from Cameron Hildreth (2), the Demon Deacons were not able to close in the closing moments of Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech.
Despite 13 second-half points from Cameron Hildreth (2), the Demon Deacons were not able to close in the closing moments of Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech.
Isabella Parolini

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets got their revenge, and in a very big way, downing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 70-69.

The last matchup between the two squads saw the Demon Deacons lead wire-to-wire, defeating the Yellow Jackets 80-51 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, GA. The opposite occurred Tuesday night — a thriller that saw Georgia Tech prevail.

The opening stages of the game went all Yellow Jackets — and by a far margin. Behind second-chance opportunities and a series of four 3-pointers from guards Miles Kelly (19pts, 3reb) and Kowacie Reeves, Jr., (8pts, 2ast) and forward Tafara Gapare (11pts, 6reb), Georgia Tech was up 12-0 at the first media timeout. 

“Georgia Tech really hurt us on the glass in the first half,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said.

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On the other end, the Demon Deacons had nothing going. Three quick turnovers lent Georgia Tech chances at fast break opportunities, which to Wake Forest’s benefit, they often squandered. The deficit grew even larger too, as the Yellow Jackets extended their lead to 17 points.

“We were just trying to survive,” Forbes said. “We got down 21-4 and it’s hard to win that way.”

The Yellow Jackets kept going with their offensive onslaught afterward too. Georgia Tech’s forward Baye Ndongo (9pts, 11reb) hit just his fourth 3-pointer of the season to put the visitors up 19, just ten minutes into play.

Despite the deficit, a 7-0 run got the Demon Deacons rolling again, as guard Kevin “Boopie” Miller (12pts, 2ast) knocked down a three and forward Andrew Carr (6pts, 4reb) fed forward Efton Reid (11pts, 6reb) inside for a slam. Wake Forest got within 10 points but dealt with slight foul trouble as Carr had to sit down with two fouls.

Behind a few mid-range floaters from Naithan George (16pts, 3ast), Georgia Tech scratched themselves back out to a 14-point lead going into halftime.

Coming out of the break, the home crowd tried to lift up the Demon Deacons, rising on their feet as they got within eight points. Cameron Hildreth (17pts, 2reb) had an impressive coast-to-coast opportunity, which the guard took for an and-one at the rim. 

“After the way we played in the first half, I told our guys, ‘The NCAA Tournament is on the line here,’ we have to play,” Forbes said. “We have to leave it all out there and we can’t come back and feel like we didn’t empty our tank.”

The positive is that we didn’t settle in the second half. We got inside their defense, got to the basket and to the foul line.

— Steve Forbes, Head Coach of Wake Forest Men's Basketball

After Hildreth completed another and-one minutes later, the Demon Deacons found themselves down three points and back in the game. The guard became a spark on both sides of the ball, with 11 points and two steals within the first ten minutes of the second half.

“The positive is that we didn’t settle in the second half,” Forbes said. “We got inside their defense, got to the basket and to the foul line.”

Although Wake Forest came crawling towards a close game, Kelly tried to close the door. The guard knocked down consecutive jump shots to put the Yellow Jackets back out to a seven-point lead with seven minutes remaining.

That deficit barely wavered until after the final media timeout, when a costly turnover from Miller led to a fast break layup for Kelly at the other end. Putting the Yellow Jackets up five with time ticking down.

Miller redeemed himself over the next two offensive possessions, scoring a tough basket through contact and a pair of free throws to put the Demon Deacons down by a single point with 36 seconds remaining.

Afterward, another error from the Yellow Jackets gave Wake Forest life. After inbounding the ball, Georgia Tech guard Kyle Sturdivant (3pts) traveled, resulting in a turnover. Hunter Sallis (22pts, 4reb) capitalized on the other end, giving the Demon Deacons their first lead of the game with 18 seconds remaining. 

Then: devastation. 

On an inbounds play, Ndongo put a dagger in the Demon Deacons’ at-large NCAA tournament hopes. After receiving the ball, he was able to find an open space near the basket and knock in a layup to put the Yellow Jackets up one with under a second left.

After a slip through Miller’s hands, the Demon Deacons fell, 70-69. The loss represents Wake Forest’s first home loss of the season.

“That’s what happens when you don’t respect the game in the first half,” Forbes said. “Credit to Georgia Tech for coming in here and getting one.”

The Demon Deacons return back to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, March 9, to face the Clemson Tigers. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on ACC Network.

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