Georgia Tech’s Damon Stoudamire says team didn’t play hard in loss to Wake Forest

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire reacts to a play during Tech’s loss to Wake Forest during the second half at McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Atlanta. Wake Forest won 80-51. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia Tech head coach Damon Stoudamire reacts to a play during Tech’s loss to Wake Forest during the second half at McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, February 6, 2024, in Atlanta. Wake Forest won 80-51. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Energy hasn’t been a concern for Georgia Tech lately.

Between the court-storming victory against No. 3 North Carolina on January 30 and a six-point loss at N.C. State on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets were moving in a positive direction.

This was until Tuesday’s affair versus Wake Forest, with Tech hitting a major roadblock and losing 80-51. Coach Damon Stoudamire’s explanation for the defeat was simple: his team’s effort wasn’t there.

“I could use the excuse of being flat, but I’m going to say we just didn’t come ready to play,” Stoudamire said. “It’s a make-or-miss game, so you’re going to make shots, you’re going to miss shots, but that doesn’t mean you don’t play hard. And I just didn’t think we played hard collectively.”

Tech guard Kowachie Reeves Jr.’s heavily contested, left-corner three for the game’s first points gave the impression that the Jackets were on the verge of another strong performance.

That proved to be far from the truth soon after, as the 3-pointer became one of the Jackets’ four field goals in the first half and three of their 20 points. It was tied for the second-lowest point total, and was the least-made field goals in a half for the team this season. This included nine-minute and five-minute scoring droughts.

And while facing the ACC’s points-per-game leader in Wake Forest, Tech’s lack of production on offense led to poor defense on the other end, too. Wake Forest led 46-20 at the half, while the Jackets shot 4-for-29 from the field, 2-of-13 from three and only had two assists.

“When you’re not scoring as a team or an individual, it’s human nature, you tend to not play that type of defense you (need) on that type of team,” Stoudamire said. “I was telling them in timeouts there’s not a 20-point play, so you’ve got to get a stop and a score, stop and a score.”

Freshman guard Naithan George felt like the Jackets’ pre-game warmup wasn’t the same as usual, the team messed up a defensive drill and players weren’t getting to their spots. He pointed to that as a possible reason behind the lack of energy out of the gate.

Tech didn’t come out of the intermission with much mojo either. Although the Jackets scored 31 points, the Deacons dropped 34. Wake Forest’s group of reserves that entered the game with less than three minutes left scored five of these points against the Jackets’ starters.

George blamed himself for the team’s lack of energy, expressing that no matter the opponent, their energy should be the same.

“It started from me, I’m coach Stoudamire on the court, I’m like another coach on the court, so I didn’t do my job in getting my team organized and getting my guys involved,” George said. “I could’ve created easier shots and just provided a spark ... and just keep moving forward and play hard even when we went down early.”

Stoudamire was optimistic at Monday’s media availability, expressing that he’s seen his players hold themselves accountable and that his team “can still turn the corner.”

The coach didn’t backtrack on those words after the loss. Instead, he emphasized the importance of competing at a high-level even in a one-sided affair like Tuesday.

“Today’s game for me was just a reminder that as I move forward with the next eight, nine games that we have left and then moving forward in this program, you’ve got to keep getting guys lost in the little things,” Stoudamire said. “The game never got to any type of strategy ... so from that standpoint, we’re just talking about playing hard and we didn’t do that.”

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