A Trip to the Vault: Wake Forest and Georgia Tech Battle for the 1996 ACC Championship

Posted by mpatton on October 14th, 2011

Until the season tips off, we’re going to be taking weekly trips to the ACC and NCAA Vaults to look at classic ACC games of yore.

Tim Duncan is Arguably the Greatest Power Forward of All Time

This game goes out to two fan bases that will probably be down on basketball (but are having quite successful football seasons so far): Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. The year was 1996 and the Demon Deacons finished ninth in the final AP poll with Georgia Tech coming in slightly behind at #13. This was also NPOY Marcus Camby’s dominant season with Massachusetts, where John Calipari’s team Refused to Lose all the way to the national semifinals before falling to a fantastic Kentucky team.

But back to the ACC… Wake was led by all-time great Tim Duncan, who was averaging a ludicrous 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks a game. On the other side of the court Stephon Marbury and Matt Harpring anchored the Yellow Jackets’ offense by combining to average 37.5 points and 11.2 rebounds a game. It’s the ACC Tournament Championship game in Greensboro and WFU is the defending ACC Tournament champion.

20:00 – Tim Duncan goes to work early for Wake, drawing first blood with an alley-oop lay-up and altering Eddie Elisma’s shot on the other end. There’s a reason this guy is considered one of the best power forwards of all time. Oh, and then the sweet baby hook to put the Yellow Jackets down 4-0.

18:15 – Duncan swats away Matt Harpring’s drive to give him a block to go with four points. Duncan proceeds to trot down to the other end for the and-one post play. Georgia Tech has no answer for him. If you’re a developing post player, I highly suggest watching Duncan seal off defenders. He becomes six feet wide with his back to the basket. It’s truly a beautiful thing to watch.

Author’s note: I’m truly awed watching Duncan right now. I’m going to try to avoid too many time points about him, but to put his play in perspective in the first three minutes he has seven points, four rebounds and a block. Good night.

16:20 – After yet another rebound by Duncan (that’s five), the big man takes it up the court himself and adds an assist to his repertoire with a pass to Tony Rutland for three. It’s 14-3 Wake and looking very bad for Bobby Cremins and the Yellow Jackets. Wake literally can do no wrong to start this game.

13:45 – Stephon Marbury hits his second step-back three to keep the Yellow Jackets from getting run out of the building before the ten minute mark. He’s being overshadowed by Duncan, but his isolation has been Georgia Tech’s only effective offense so far.

12:45 – Duncan just hit a deep two. I’m speechless (for the record he’s up to seven rebounds). Marbury responds with another deep three. I know Marbury doesn’t get much love as far as his NBA career goes, but he was a cold-blooded killer with Georgia Tech. When they needed him to do everything, he stepped up. Literally all nine of his points are on deep threes that he created for himself.

11:10 – Matt Harpring finally shows up after a very shaky start with a three off of an offensive rebound. He immediately regresses to form committing his second foul 35 feet from the basket.

05:35 – Tim Duncan shows off his beautiful jump hook. Nothing you can do there. But Georgia Tech’s hot shooting from the perimeter and Wake Forest sloppiness on offense has brought the Wake lead down to five.

02:40 – Tony Rutland is feeling it with back-to-back threes. It feels like Wake is still very much in control of this game after an 8-0 run puts the lead back at 13. And for anyone keeping score at home Tim Duncan is up to 13 points and 12 boards

Halftime: If I could take Gus Johnson back in time with me to call one game, I would take him back to see Duke come from ten back in the final minute on Jason William’s back. But every time Marbury feinted and stepped back for a deep three, Johnson shouting “rise and fire” immediately came to mind. But Duncan is winning this game for Wake Forest: his halftime stat line includes two blocks, 13 points and 15 rebounds. By contrast as a team Georgia Tech had seven rebounds in the first half.

16:10 – After letting the Demon Deacons extend the lead to 44-28, a turnover leads to an and-one from Marbury. This feels like a momentum changer.

15:55 – I guess not. Tony Rutland just hit one from Winston-Salem. Georgia Tech is getting killed on the boards. They have to start rebounding Wake Forest’s misses. Marbury needs to take over this game.

14:11 – Tony Rutland goes to the locker room with an apparent knee injury (ed. note: it turned out Rutland had a torn ACL, effectively killing Duncan’s chance at a run to the Final Four this season). If Georgia Tech was looking for an opening, this is it.

Here’s a great tidbit from the announcing team: with 13 minutes to play, only three Georgia Tech players have scored.

08:50 – Matt Harpring’s shot under the basket cuts the deficit to eleven and Drew Barry finally finds the net with a three to cut it down to eight. Wake Forest is looking very sloppy on offense. Georgia Tech has made nine of its last ten shots.

05:30 – You can start to see players losing their legs. Mainly, fouling trying to stick with defensive assignments. Harpring’s three cuts the lead to seven, but Georgia Tech desperately needs stops.

01:35 – Huge steal off the press for the Yellow Jackets leads to a three from Mike Maddox off a beautiful pass from Stephon Marbury. The lead is down to five.

01:15 – You’ve got to feel for Drew Barry. He’s just having a miserable offensive game despite having nine assists. It’s amazing Georgia Tech is still even close. And a huge backcourt violation on the inbounds sends the ball back to the Yellow Jackets.

00:50 – Hypothetical Gus Johnson explosion after Mike Maddox’s three brings the Yellow Jackets back to within one. That’s a 10-0 run. With a little scoring out of Barry, they would be on top.

00:35 – How did Wake Forest let Marbury get anywhere near the basket? Great off-the-ball screen by Harpring there to keep Duncan on the wrong side of the basket.

And two missed Duncan free throws led to a poor final shot from Marbury. That’s where he needs to drive and look to kick it out to Harpring. It was a phenomenal game overall. Tim Duncan finished with 27 points, 21 rebounds (tying the ACC Tournament record), six assists and four blocks. Marbury finished with 26 points, though the real offensive story for Georgia Tech was Drew Barry going 1-11 from the field.

mpatton (576 Posts)

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2 responses to “A Trip to the Vault: Wake Forest and Georgia Tech Battle for the 1996 ACC Championship”

  1. Annamalsf says:

    Yay Go Deacs! I was at that game – Little did I know years later I’d become a Deacon. Nice post.

  2. WakeFan says:


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