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Collins scores 20 as Wake Forest beats Georgia Tech 81-69

February 5, 2017
Wake Forest forward John Collins (20) shoots over Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers in an NCAA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons defeated the Yellow Jackets, 81-69. (Allison Lee Isley/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)
Wake Forest forward John Collins (20) shoots over Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers in an NCAA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons defeated the Yellow Jackets, 81-69. (Allison Lee Isley/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — First-year Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said he had recruited John Collins “hard” when Pastner was at Memphis. But Collins ended up at Wake Forest instead, and on Saturday, he made Pastner regret that recruiting miss once more.

Collins scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, his tenth double-double of the season, and added a career-high five blocks as the Demon Deacons beat Georgia Tech 81-69 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

“John Collins, he’s a pro,” Pastner said.

Collins took advantage of the foul trouble which plagued the Yellow Jackets’ front line from start to finish. Georgia Tech’s star center, Ben Lammers, picked up three fouls in the first half and added a fourth with 14:58 to play.

Lammers, a key part of the interior defense for a team that came into the game fourth nationally in blocks per game, had to play cautiously upon his return.

“I thought it was a key to the game, John and Doral (Moore) having a presence and posting up early, making Georgia Tech guard us,” Wake Forest coach Manning said. “We wanted to make sure Lammers had to work on both ends of the floor.”

Collins was the beneficiary, making 7 of 12 shots from the field and adding a 6-of-8 performance from the foul line. He punctuated the win with an emphatic alley-oop dunk in the final two minutes to put his team up 75-62.

In the process, Collins became the first Wake Forest player to score 20 points or more in six consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games since Skip Brown did so in 10 straight games in 1974-75.

Perhaps he was aware of the history he had made — Collins pumped his fist as he looked at the postgame box score when he sat down with reporters after the game.

“I try to focus on whatever Coach tells me he wants me to focus on,” Collins said. “He always tells me scoring is going to come, but he wants me playing defense, being a rim protector, and finishing possessions with rebounds.”

He led a balanced offensive attack for Wake Forest (14-9, 5-6 ACC), which had six players score at least seven points, and four in double figures, including Mitchell Wilbekin’s 16 point effort on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

For Georgia Tech (13-10, 5-6), Josh Okogie scored a game-high 23 points. Quinton Stephens added 14, including four 3-pointers.

But it wasn’t enough to overcome the struggles of Lammers, who entered the game averaging nearly a double-double at 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, but finished with only seven points. A lynchpin of the Yellow Jackets roster, Lammers came into Saturday’s game averaging 35 minutes per contest, but was only on the floor for eight minutes in the first half.

As a result, Pastner called it a “modern miracle” his team was behind by only six points at the break. But Wake Forest made back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second half, sandwiched around an emphatic Collins block of Georgia Tech’s Josh Heath. The Deacons led 43-31, and their lead was at least seven points the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE:

Georgia Tech: The loss denied the Yellow Jackets a chance at another RPI top 40 win. It would have been their sixth of the season, and offered a substantial boost to a wavering NCAA Tournament resume. Pastner’s team entered Saturday at No. 69 in the RPI, squarely on the bubble for a potential at-large bid.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons bolstered their own March credentials with the win, which made them 5-9 against the RPI top 100. They still lack a marquee victory, as that record includes an 0-8 mark against the top 50.

They felt this was a must-win to stay in the hunt for an at-large bid. “It’s an ACC home game, and if you lose home games, it’s really tough for those guys making the tournament (bracket) to give you an edge,” Collins said.

NOTHING FOUL ABOUT IT:

The Demon Deacons were 12th nationally in free throw percentage at 76.9 percent, and they only improved on that mark, making 21-of-24 shots from the foul line (87.5 percent) against Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets made 28 trips to the free throw line and lost for only the second time this season when attempting more free throws than their opposition. They were 12-1 in such contests before Saturday.

“We’ve got better shooters. There’s no magic to it, man,” Manning said of his team’s free throw shooting prowess. “Either you can shoot it, or you can’t shoot it.”

UP NEXT:

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets get a brief respite from conference play when they host Tusculum College on Tuesday night. The Division II Pioneers were 9-12 overall heading into a Saturday afternoon contest against Lenoir-Rhyne. The stretch run is favorable for Georgia Tech, which faces only one nationally-ranked opponent in its final eight games (No. 20 Notre Dame).

Wake Forest: The Deacons return to the road with a chance for a marquee win at No. 20 Notre Dame on Tuesday night. After going three years without an ACC road win, Manning and company will be gunning for their third such victory in four tries, with wins at North Carolina State and Boston College sandwiched around a loss at Syracuse.

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