Well, you knew it was coming. After Saturday’s loss at Wake Forest, Tech’s third in four games, the Yellow Jackets dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 today.
They’ve been hovering around No. 20 since early January. Now it’s Wake Forest’s turn, which entered the poll at No. 23, having won five in a row since that 21-point loss at Tech.
Since that game, when Tech seemed to have everything going, the Yellow Jackets have lost three out of four. As a result, Tech (17-8, 5-6) is in the “also receiving votes” category of the AP poll, actually also receiving vote – singular. Now Tech is in dire need of a win against North Carolina Tuesday night to stop the bleeding.
So what to expect Tuesday after the Yellow Jackets went all topsy-turvy and got 40 points from their bench against Wake Forest and only 24 points from their starters? A change in the lineup perhaps.
(Tech got 12 points each from Moe Miller and Brian Oliver off the bench Saturday and 14 points from Glen Rice Jr.)
“We’re going to look maybe at a change, but we’ll see,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said Monday before practice. “I’ve got a couple different possibilities in mind. I want to go through practice today and see how everybody looks.”
Hewitt was thinking about a change heading into Saturday’s game, replacing Mfon Udofia in the starting lineup, but changed his mind after Mfon had a strong practice.
Udofia needed another one today, if he wants to start against UNC.
“We’ll look at Glen,” Hewitt said. “We’ll look at Brian. Maybe even Moe. We’ll look at it. Could be Mfon.”
Iman Shumpert scored a career-high 30 points against North Carolina in Tech’s win at the Dean Dome on Jan. 16. But now, coming into the rematch, he’s just been shut out at Wake Forest.
Shumpert went 0-for-7 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range. He did not go to the foul line. He had one assist and three turnovers and played 21 minutes, six fewer than Moe Miller, the backup, backup point guard who ended up running the team for long stretches.
Hewitt said today that Wake Forest point guard Ish Smith was the difference down the stretch. It looked that way, both by Smith’s example, and the lack of point guard play from Tech over the last few minutes.
I just filed a story about Shumpert’s recent struggles (be on the lookout), but I’ll summarize – both he and Hewitt said today, more troubling than the lack of offensive production lately is how inactive he’s been on defense.
“He had two deflections in 21 minutes (vs. Wake); that’s not him,” Hewitt said. “I talked to him yesterday. He said he’s feeling fine. He feels like he’s just not in it defensively. He said he finds himself standing around and watching, which is something he never does. But he’ll work out of it. It’s just a little bit of a rut.”
Tired late vs. Wake
I asked Hewitt about how easily Wake looked to be breaking down Tech on the drive late in the game Saturday, and he said he thought that might have been a reflection of fatigue and maybe that was on him.
“I’ve been second-guessing myself about how much we may have practiced last week because we looked a little tired in the last four minutes,” Hewitt said. “I was going back and forth whether we should have practiced last Thursday. I decided after how we ended the game against Miami there were some things we had to go over, so I decided to have practice.”
North Carolina is down its third big man, and probably its best. Ed Davis broke his wrist falling to the floor last Wednesday against Duke. UNC announced Friday he’ll be out for six weeks. He joins Tyler Zeller, who’s been out since right before Tech played at North Carolina on Jan. 16, and Travis Wear, who has a sprained ankle, on the shelf.
Roy Williams said today on the ACC coaches teleconference that Zeller was supposed to practice today, but it’s the first time he will have done more in practice than a play or two here and there.
“I really do not see him playing tomorrow,” Williams said.
Wear still isn’t practicing at all, so don’t expect him.
Davis was Carolina’s second-leading scorer behind Deon Thompson with 13.4 points per game and their leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds. The Tar Heels had talented freshman John Henson in his spot Saturday against N.C. State and he did well: nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in the win.
The guy Georgia Tech has to watch out for is Will Graves, who burned the Yellow Jackets for 24 points, including 5-for-8 3-pointers on Jan. 16 in Chapel Hill.