Home sweet home is an understatement when it comes to Georgia Tech hoops against ACC opponents at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. After defeating North Carolina by 20 points and Wake Forest by a team ACC record 35 points, the Yellow Jackets pounded Virginia Tech for a 15 point margin of victory. The Jackets were once again led by a one-two punch, although this time it was Brian Oliver's turn to step up along side of Iman Shumpert.
"You've got to give them credit, they good job of getting Oliver open in the middle of the zone," stated Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg.
Oliver was just flat out in the zone. Tech's shooting guard hardly hit the rim, swishing shot after shot en route to 28 points on 11-18 shooting to go along with four three-point buckets. Oliver broke out of a 34-112 (30 percent) shooting slump since torching Syracuse for 32 points on November 27.
"There's something about orange maybe, I don't know," joked Coach Paul Hewitt.
Oliver's smooth shooting stroke was a welcoming sign that he may have regained the form that allowed him to shoot 38 percent from beyond the arch a season ago as a freshman. The Hokies tried to implement a similar 2-3 zone defense that Syracuse used earlier this season with minimal success.
According to Oliver, "When teams play a 2-3 zone, the man isn't completely pushed up on me. It gives me a little bit more freedom to get my shot off and a lot of times I don't have to worry about a hand being right in my face."
Not to be outdone, Shumpert had a performance for the record books. He had the fourth triple double in Georgia Tech history and the first triple double in the ACC since 2009. His final stat line 22 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, and 7 steals. Rub your eyes one more time; that was not a misprint.
"He is a really good player. He has size, he is an active defender, and he is really good at finishing in the lane," said coach Greenberg.
What made Shumpert's performance even more incredible is that he was assigned to defending Virginia Tech's best player, Malcolm Delaney. The 2009 All-ACC First Team selection entered the game third in the ACC in scoring at 18.9 points per game. Tonight, however, Delaney was held to only 8 points on 3-11 shooting with 8 turnovers to blemish his evening.
Shumpert described defending Delaney by explaining, "They ran a lot of screens for him. I was bouncing off of screens left and right, but I tried to force him to catch it at the three point line and make him take uncomfortable shots. I tried to stay down on shot fakes and played him tough. When I needed help, I got it. We made him finish hard at the basket and we contested every shot."
The Jackets also played much better as a team defensively, especially defending the three point line. After recent defensive struggles surrendering 10 made threes on 15 attempts to Virginia and 11 makes on 14 attempts to Clemson, the Jackets only gave up one made shot from down town on 11 attempts to the Hokies.
"We were talking about being more aware when we were off of the ball. We have a tendency to lock in on the ball and that sometimes provides steals, but sometimes we get caught ball watching so much that we end up giving up some open threes. In the second half we did a much better job of recognizing where the shooters were off of the ball," described coach Hewitt.
Shumpert summed up the triumphant victory by saying, "It feels good, and I'm all smiles tonight."
The Jackets improved to 10-9 on the year and 3-3 in the ACC. They will square off in another key ACC battle against Maryland this Sunday at Alexander Memorial.