Georgia Tech handily beat a tough Wake Forest team last month. Still, it would be understandable if the Yellow Jackets are harboring some doubt heading into a trip to Joel Coliseum.
The 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets look to avoid their fourth straight road defeat in ACC play Saturday night in a matchup with a Demon Deacons team seeking a measure of revenge.
Poor road play has dropped Georgia Tech (17-7, 5-5) into a tie for sixth place in the conference, three games behind No. 8 Duke. The Yellow Jackets trail the Demon Deacons (17-5, 7-3) by two games, though they won the first matchup 79-58 on Jan. 28.
That was Georgia Tech’s largest margin of victory against Wake Forest, which leads the series 35-33.
The Yellow Jackets have dropped two of four since the teams’ last meeting. Both of the defeats were on the road, where they have lost three in a row and five of six.
Georgia Tech has lost nine of its last 11 matchups at Joel Coliseum. Wake Forest is 11-1 at home, 5-0 in conference play.
“It’s the toughest league to win road games,” coach Paul Hewitt said. “The talent level, the coaching, the ACC crowds are just more involved in the games, game in and game out.”
At Miami on Wednesday night, Georgia Tech lost 64-62 on a buzzer-beating shot. The Yellow Jackets kept the game close despite shooting 38.7 percent (24 for 62), getting a tying layup from Iman Shumpert with 10 seconds to go.
The sophomore guard missed five of his previous six shots.
Gani Lawal had another outstanding game for the Yellow Jackets, posting 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. He’s averaging 17.3 points while shooting 60.0 percent (18 for 30) in three games against Wake Forest.
“He plays hard every time he steps on the floor,” Hewitt said. “That’s why I think he’s one of the better players in our league.”
With Lawal and 6-foot-10 freshman Derrick Favors in the frontcourt, Georgia Tech boasts one of the country’s top defenses. The Yellow Jackets rank second in the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.8).
Wake Forest is coming off its best shooting effort of the season, making 57.4 percent of its attempts in a 92-85 win over Boston College on Tuesday night. The Demon Deacons have won five of six, losing only to the Yellow Jackets during that stretch.
“They gave us a pretty good whooping down there,” coach Dino Gaudio said. “They beat us in every aspect of the game. I think Georgia Tech has really, really good players, and they’re very well coached. … They’re a very physical team, and those two big guys were really a good combination.”
With 7-footer Chas McFarland and 6-9 sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest has the personnel to match up inside with Georgia Tech, which had a 43-34 rebounding edge in last month’s meeting.
McFarland was held to six points and five rebounds in that contest. The senior, though, had 14 points and 11 rebounds versus the Eagles. Aminu added 22 points.
Aminu is averaging 16.4 points and an ACC-best 11.0 rebounds.