After having its past three ACC games decided by two points apiece, Georgia Tech was looking for somewhere to suck in some air Thursday night.
The No. 22 Yellow Jackets found it at home against Wake Forest and breathed easily in a 79-58 win. The 21-point margin was their largest ever against the Demon Deacons, who had a miserable night on offense and couldn't stop Tech on defense either.
"I'm not really sure if we can play much better than that," Tech coach Paul Hewitt said afterward.
He, for one, enjoyed a margin of error the Yellow Jackets didn't have in wins over North Carolina and Clemson and a loss at Florida State.
"I was still jumpy, even when we were up 16," he said.
Tech opened a 19-point lead midway through the second half by limiting Wake Forest's offense to freelancing by Ishmael Smith.
The senior point guard scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half and put both Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia in foul trouble, but that wasn't enough to overcome the lead the Yellow Jackets had built, or the defense they were playing.
Behind five blocks by Derrick Favors, the Yellow Jackets held Wake Forest to 32.8 percent shooting, including 3-for-18 behind the 3-point arc.
"Me and Gani [Lawal] did a good job challenging every shot; the guards did a good job pressuring the ball," Favors said. "We did a good job making them take bad shots."
Favors and Lawal held Al-Farouq Aminu, the ACC's leading rebounder, to single digits in rebounding (eight). It was only the second time in his past 12 games that he did not reach double-digit rebounds. Tech outrebounded Wake Forest 27-10 in the second half.
"We wanted to keep him off the boards and keep Ish Smith in front of us, not to let him run on us," Lawal said. "Outwork those guys -- it was a simple game plan."
The Yellow Jackets (15-5, 4-3) have notched four ACC wins by holding each opponent to at least 10 points below its usual scoring average. Tech held Wake Forest 18.7 points below its 76.7 point average.
And this time the Yellow Jackets put together an offensive performance to match. They shot 53.7 percent as a team and had five players score in double-digits.
D'Andre Bell led Tech with a career-high 16 points. Favors and Lawal were a rebound apiece from double-doubles, with 11 points and nine rebounds for Favors and 14 points and nine rebounds for Lawal.
Brian Oliver came off the bench to add 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Tech made 6-of-10 3-pointers and rebounded from back-to-back poor games at the line by making 15 of 20 free throws.
"Tonight you saw us get the ball inside pretty easily to Derrick and Gani because of the spacing on the floor," Hewitt said. "We actually got into the shot clock before we attempted a shot."
Hewitt attributed much of the success to the play of point guard Shumpert, who scored 11 points, pulled in five rebounds and kept Smith in check.
After Wake Forest cut Tech's lead to 40-35 four minutes into the second half, Shumpert made a step-back 3-pointer and a jumper to put Tech back in control.
"I wanted to keep applying pressure," Shumpert said. "And keep our feet on the gas."
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