Exactly one week ago Wednesday, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets experienced a blindsiding road blowout defeat that seemed poised to cast their season toward doubt and uncertainty.
But that was a week ago.
What about now? According to guard Iman Shumpert, this week, they’re in the middle of the “best feeling in the world.”
Seven days after suffering one of their more disconcerting losses of the season at Clemson, the host Yellow Jackets pounded Wake Forest into a 74-39 win of historic proportions.
The 35-point victory was Georgia Tech’s most lopsided ACC win ever, surpassing its blasting of Florida State by 31 in 2002. They beat the Seminoles 77-46.
It also was the Yellow Jackets’ largest margin of victory over the Demon Deacons, besting their home 28-point win at Alexander Memorial Coliseum last season. Additionally, Wake Forest’s 39 points was the fewest Georgia Tech (8-8, 2-2) has allowed any opponent to score since Alabama State put just 37 on the Yellow Jackets in Nov. 2004.
When asked if he had any sympathy for the struggling, still-winless-in-conference-play Demon Deacons (7-12, 0-4 ACC) — Wake Forest was just 25.9 percent from the field against the Yellow Jackets and had stretches where shots just wouldn’t fall — Shumpert shrugged and shared a not-so-distant memory.
“My freshman year we lost a lot of games and nobody felt sorry for us,” the junior said.
The Yellow Jackets were 12-19 during the 2008-09 season.
For the second time in as many games, Shumpert played a key role in pacing Georgia Tech offensively.
Helping his team rebound from its loss to Clemson, Shumpert tied a career-high when he dropped 30 points on North Carolina on Sunday. His efforts, along with those of sophomore guard Glen Rice, Jr., gave the Yellow Jackets their first conference win and helped end a three-game losing streak.
Against Wake Forest, his 20 points and Rice’s 21 gave the Yellow Jackets all the offensive firepower that was needed. Their combined 41 points alone was enough to beat the Demon Deacons.
“He had to do a little bit on his own,” Hewitt said of Shumpert. “I didn’t think he had as much help (as Sunday) in terms of getting open. He created shots for himself and broke down the defense on his own a few times and created some shots for himself and Glen, as well.”
Most of Shumpert’s points early came with precisely the type of shot-creating finesse Hewitt was describing.
Barely three minutes into the game, after hitting a 3-pointer to give Georgia Tech a lead, Shumpert completely electrified the modest crowd of 6,062 on his next 3-point scoring opportunity.
Head-faking a defender deep in the corner, Shumpert instead drove by the big forward coming out to disrupt his shot and on to the basket for a hard, one-handed baseline dunk that got the arena buzzing.
In his opinion, such driving and shooting opportunities actually did come open because of the play of his teammates around him.
“Lately, (freshmen forwards) Daniel (Miller), Kammeon Holsey and Nate Hicks have all been setting really good screens,” Shumpert said. “Early on in the season, I don’t think we were doing that and the guards weren’t patient, waiting to get set; guys were trying to dodge fouls.
“Now, we’re more in sync with each other and we’re setting screens tighter and coming off of them better and guys are getting open.”
The same could not be said for Wake Forest, which had trouble getting open looks all game. Even when the Demon Deacons did, their shots wouldn’t fall.
Wake Forest made just four second-half baskets and missed 13 of the 15 shots it attempted from beyond the 3-point arc. One of those two made 3-pointers — the latter one — actually marked the Demon Deacons first points from the field of the second half.
The basket was made with just more than eight minutes remaining in the game.
“You struggle with your confidence especially when you are a young team,” Wake Forest’s first-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “We have good shooters. We had some open looks. We just didn’t make shots.”