WINSTON-SALEM — It’s typically not a good sign when a team finishes a game with more turnovers than field goals.
In Wake Forest’s case Saturday afternoon, 17 turnovers compared to just 14 made shots on 29.2 percent shooting spelled another ACC loss.
The Deacons fell 57-56 to Georgia Tech, losing their second consecutive conference game by three points or fewer.
“It’s getting real old losing, period,” junior forward Travis McKie said. “It’s been real tough. You lose a game by one and that’s four points in a week we’ve lost by. You got to move on from it, can’t hold our heads over this.”
Wake Forest (11-14, 4-9) held the lead or at least a share of it for most of the second half. The Deacons’ lead never grew greater than five, but they maintained a steady advantage on the visitors as the game drew to a close.
McKie knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:23 left to put Wake up 56-53, but he missed his encore with 30 seconds remaining and the lead trimmed to one. Freshman forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech’s emerging go-to player, attacked the rim on the ensuing Tech possession, getting blocked by Devin Thomas on a dunk attempt.
But Robert Carter Jr. collected the loose ball and was fouled. Despite being a 59 percent free-throw shooter and the Yellow Jackets (14-10, 4-8) having made seven of their 13 attempts Saturday, Carter knocked down both with 8.7 seconds remaining to give Georgia Tech its first lead since 16:23 in the second half.
Wake had two opportunities at the end and couldn’t convert. A C.J. Harris drive and dish was deflected out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left. On the final play, the Deacons wanted to get the ball to 6-foot-8 Aaron Rountree but instead found Thomas for a dribble-and-shoot jumper that clanged off the back rim.
“They did a good job of covering everybody but there was one player left open,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “He had a good look at it but we wanted to go to the rim.”
The Deacons had matching 7-for-24 shooting halves, and buoyed themselves in the game by going 23-for-25 from the free-throw line and out-rebounding the Yellow Jackets 35-32.
“In the first half I thought we were very sluggish offensively. We stood around a lot. That really contributed to us shooting a very low percentage,” said Bzdelik, whose team trailed 30-27 at halftime. “But in the second half we moved much better and we got open shots and opportunities at the rim we just didn’t make those open shots and convert those opportunities to the rim.”
The 29.2-percent shooting was the second-worst mark of the season, trailing the 24.6-percent performance in Wake Forest’s 60-44 loss at Clemson earlier this year. The loss also comes three days after the Deacons dropped a 66-63 contest at Boston College in their best shooting night in conference play.
“It’s pretty tough especially because we’re a young basketball team out there fighting hard,” Harris said. “We’re trying to do everything right, we’re trying to learn from all the mistakes we’re making and it’s tough to come up short.”
The path doesn’t get any easier for Bzdelik’s squad, which has won just nine conference games in the past two-plus years. No. 3-ranked Miami, unbeaten in the ACC, visits Winston-Salem, next Saturday.
“Two close losses will test one’s resolve but we have great character young men in that locker room,” Bzdelik said. “No pity parties. Our resolve will be tested and they’ll pass the test. They care and they’ve been knocked down this week but they’ll bounce back up and I’m confident of that.”