Georgia Tech’s 70-54 win over Wake Forest Sunday night at McCamish Pavilion was not anything like the attention-getting Yellow Jackets win on Wednesday night over North Carolina.

But, it had its own meaning. In the first half, the Jackets were a little off offensively but still led by 14 points at halftime thanks to strong defensive play and an overwhelmed opponent. In the second, Tech’s defense picked up even more, the offense kicked in and the Demon Deacons were no match for the Jackets. It hasn’t been often that Tech could run an ACC team off the floor with anything less than 40 minutes of high-level play, but the Jackets did so Sunday.

“I told our guys about the maturity factor that, being a mature team, if we have a lead, we have to continue to extend it, even if you’re missing some shots, and that’s through defensive stops and being able to extend in transition,” coach Josh Pastner said. “We’ve come a long way.”

Tech (6-3 overall, 2-1 ACC) led by as many as 26 points on their way to the win. Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1) turned the ball over 18 times, undone by the Jackets’ 1-3-1 defense and a lack of collective experience.

Point guard Jose Alvarado continued his strong play, needing only 14 shots for a game-high 25 points. It was his third game in a row with at least 20 points, games in which he has shot a combined 73.7% from the field. He has five games of 20-plus points and is shooting 52.8% for the season, a particularly high rate for a guard. He has made 40.9% of his 3-point tries (18-for-44). He was a 33.6% shooter from 3-point range last season.

“When you’re making shots, everything looks good,” Pastner said. “It’s a make-and-miss game.”

Alvarado was at the heart of the key sequence of the game, when the Jackets built on their 35-21 halftime lead with a 15-4 run to put the game away in the first 4:01 of the half. He opened Tech’s scoring with a 3-pointer off a feed from Bubba Parham, won a loose ball and scored on a layup, hit two free throws when he was fouled on another fast break initiated by a Parham defensive rebound, hit another 3-pointer in transition and then finished the run with a three-point play off yet another transition basket started by a steal by Jordan Usher. In total, he scored 13 of the team’s 15 points in the run.

“It definitely felt good for my team getting me open and getting me good looks and me knocking them down,” Alvarado said. “So I just give them credit because I can’t do it by myself.”

Credit: ACC

Yellow Jackets led by as many as 26 points on their way to the win over Wake Forest, who turned the ball over 18 times.

Particularly in the second half, the Tech offense operated smoothly, often benefiting from open-court opportunities created by Wake Forest’s 18 turnovers. Patient movement of the ball generated open shots from 3-point range and at the basket as the Jackets shot 50% from the field (9-for-26 from 3-point range).

Of Tech’s 26 baskets, 16 were assisted, including a team-high five from forward Moses Wright. After nine first-half turnovers, the Jackets cut it back to five in the second.

“I felt like they weren’t forcing us (into turnovers), so we went in at halftime and we looked at it and we were like, Be strong with the ball, be smart with it and just continue playing,” Alvarado said.

Usher contributed another strong all-around game. While scoring only one point, Usher crashed the glass for eight rebounds, blocked four shots and set up teammates with four assists.

Pastner was able to play all 10 of his available scholarship players, including forward David Didenko in just his second appearance of the season. Freshman guard Tristan Maxwell was unavailable with a foot injury suffered in shootaround. It is the same foot that he injured in August and that required surgery. He was put in a walking boot as a precautionary measure.

Wake Forest had played only three games prior to Sunday, having had six games canceled or postponed, including two conference games. It has not been the ideal conditions for first-year coach Steve Forbes, hired from East Tennessee State.

The Demon Deacons played like it in the first half, turning the ball over 11 times in 33 possessions. Possessions often ran into the final five seconds of the shot clock, Wake Forest unable to manipulate the Tech defense for open shots. Forbes called two timeouts in the first 20 minutes to keep the game from getting away.

Not playing its sharpest, Tech complied, settling for shots and trying high-risk passes. Tech’s nine turnovers at the half were as many as it had committed in three games this season.

“We had some silly turnovers and we’ve just got to avoid them,” Pastner said. “I thought we got a little loose in some areas.”

Still, it spoke to the Jackets’ progress that its defense and the firepower of Michael Devoe pushed Tech out to a 35-21 halftime lead, lifted by Devoe’s 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting (4-for-6 from 3-point range). He finished with 17.