WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When it was over, the ranked team left the court in eighth place and the unranked team had leapfrogged into second.
Welcome to the unpredictable Atlantic Coast Conference, where Wake Forest is quietly moving into contention.Al-Farouq Aminu had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the Demon Deacons closed with a dominating run to beat struggling No. 20 Georgia Tech 75-64 on Saturday night and further jumble the topsy-turvy league.Ishmael Smith had the clinching hoop with just over a minute left and surpassed 1,000 career points for the surging Demon Deacons (18-5, 8-3), who have won four straight and six of seven.Smith had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds as Wake Forest jumped over Maryland and inched within a game of league-leader Duke."I think all the pieces are starting to come together," Aminu said. "We're starting to flow."The Yellow Jackets (17-8, 5-6), unable to solve their road woes, are going in the opposite direction. Despite a second straight quiet game from Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech had the lead midway through the second half.The Yellow Jackets were then outscored 15-2 to end the game, going the final 8:50 without a field goal."It was one of those games," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "At 62-60 we had three really good looks to make it a two-possession game."Gani Lawal had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and freshman Glen Rice Jr. added 14 points for Georgia Tech, which dropped to 1-5 in ACC road games and failed to complete a season sweep of Wake Forest. They shot just 35 percent from the field and collected 17 turnovers."Coach said we stopped them 14 of the last 15 possessions," Wake Forest big man Chas McFarland said. "That's huge. We just had to lock down."The fast-paced, bruising game featured a couple of shoving matches and was full of momentum swings and streaky play. It ended with Georgia Tech unable to get a hoop of any kind.Smith's runner and Tony Woods' putback on consecutive possessions snapped a tie and put Wake Forest ahead 66-62 with 4:28 left. Woods, ejected from Wake's win over Boston College Tuesday for a flagrant elbow, hit two free throws with 3:32 left to put the Demon Deacons ahead 68-62.With Wake Forest ahead 70-64, Georgia Tech allowed the Demon Deacons to run down the shot clock, and Smith's driving scoop shot in traffic with 1:30 left put it away."He's the fastest guy in the league going end to end. We know that," Hewitt said. "We've had some success in the past guarding him. But at the end of the game, we didn't make shots and he created shots for his team."Aminu hit only 7 of 18 shots, but the ACC's top rebounder controlled the glass and added four steals. He also went over 500 career rebounds and Wake Forest put itself in position to perhaps move into the rankings -- possibly replacing Georgia Tech."It would be cool to be ranked," Aminu said. "But I'd rather be second in the league than ranked."The Yellow Jackets fell behind early by 10 points, only to claw back in it by hitting six of their first seven 3-point attempts. Even Maurice Miller, who entered the game 2-for-22 from 3-point range, drained one early.Then the Yellow Jackets promptly missed six straight 3-point shots, while Aminu scored 16 first-half points for Wake Forest.Smith hit 1,000 career points on a bucket with just over 16 minutes left to put Wake Forest ahead 46-38. But then the Yellow Jackets started hitting again from long distance, with Rice making consecutive 3s.Favors, who was without a field goal for nearly 29 minutes, had consecutive buckets inside as Georgia Tech went ahead 62-60 with 8:50 left.It turned out to be Georgia Tech's last field goal -- and an end result much different than on Jan. 28 in Atlanta when the Yellow Jackets cruised to a 79-58 win."We can lay on the canvas, that was round one, or we could get up and get after them," Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. "I thought our kids responded well."Wake Forest improved to 12-1 on its home floor, including 6-0 in ACC contests.Rice hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range, while Brian Oliver and Miller scored 12 points each as Hewitt shook up his lineup some. It didn't prevent a second straight loss."I have no quarrels with our effort," Hewitt said. "We played very, very well. We missed (shots), they made."