Georgia Tech at Wake Forest
Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-8) at Wake Forest (11-14, 2-9), 7:30 PM, RSN/ESPN3
While games like Miami at Florida State or Virginia at Florida State were left off of televisions in Tobacco Road, somehow this one finds its way on the air. This is the first of two meetings between those two teams and one of them has to win, so I guess that’s good? In all seriousness, Wake has been scrappy at times but not lately and this game will determine whether or not they’ve given up on the season. Georgia Tech been scrappy more often than not, and it has Wake twice and a few other winnable games left (Ken Pomeroy has the Yellow Jackets favored in their four of their final six games). New head coach Brian Gregory can build on getting between 4-6 ACC wins on the season.
Stat to watch: Turnovers. Georgia Tech has struggled with turnovers all season, but particularly in ACC road games where the Yellow Jackets average 18.2 turnovers (and opponents have turned them into 19.2 points). At home, Georgia Tech is averaging 10.4 turnovers and opponents score 11.2 ppg off of them. Wake Forest doesn’t typically force a lot of turnovers anyway: the most any of their ACC opponents have had is 13 (Duke). Wake’s ACC opponents are averaging just 9.8 turnovers and Wake averages just 8.5 points off of those turnovers. Wake has averaged just 3.9 steals in ACC play. But it hasn’t seemed to matter who Georgia Tech plays: they have stretches where they just can’t hang on to the ball. Wake will have to capitalize on those miscues, though.
Wake has had its own issues with turnovers, especially lately. The slow-paced Deacons have averaged 16 turnovers in the last two games and opponents have scored 21.5 points off of them. And they’re not dead-ball turnovers: Clemson and Virginia (their last two opponents) averaged 11 steals. But Georgia Tech doesn’t force many turnovers, either: even a turnover-prone Florida State team had just 15 against Georgia Tech, and that was the most any of the Yellow Jackets’ ACC opponents have committed. And they can’t make anything out of those turnovers, either: the most points off turnovers Georgia Tech has scored is 13 against FSU. They had a season-low four points off turnovers against North Carolina, despite getting eight steals. Whichever team can force – and make the other team pay for – turnovers has the best chance of winning this one.
Most important players: Kammeon Holsey, Georgia Tech and Ty Walker, Wake Forest. The most shot attempts Kammeon Holsey had in a game prior to last week’s contest against N.C. State was 10. He tried 11 shots against the Wolfpack and made five, adding 7-of-8 foul shots for 17 points, his most in league play. Holsey also had eight rebounds (tying a season high) and two steals. In his last two games, he has averaged 13.5 points on 56% shooting and Georgia Tech needs him to be more aggressive offensively. The Yellow Jackets don’t really have a legit post scoring threat, but Holsey is certainly capable of being that as he showed against N.C. State’s physical front line.
Ty Walker had been playing some of his best basketball of his Wake Forest career in ACC play to start the conference slate. But in the last two games, Walker has shot 1-of-5 from the floor and scored two points, adding just three rebounds and one block. He had a concussion against Florida State, but he hasn’t missed a game since and has had some good games mixed in (12 points at N.C. State and eight at Clemson). But he had three or more blocks in eight straight games before swatting just three shots in the last three games. Wake has enough problems as it is without Walker being a game-changer on the defensive end.
Random stat: In Wake’s last two home games, the Deacons have lost by fairly substantial margins to North Carolina and Clemson despite averaging 27.5 free-throw attempts in those games. But it’s a good thing they attempted that many: in those two games combined, Wake scored 38.7% of their points from the free-throw line (43 of 111). Wake attempted 97 field goals and 55 free throws in the two games, making 43 foul shots and just 32 field goals.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 63, Wake Forest 54
Last week: 7-4
Season: 107-38 (43-19 ACC)