ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Georgia Tech's young team is finally coming around, thanks to a player that is leaving.
Point guard Tony Akins, the lone senior starter, had a strong outing in his final home game with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as the resurgent Yellow Jackets posted a 90-77 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over slumping 22nd-ranked Wake Forest.
Freshman B.J. Elder scored a season-high 25 points for Georgia Tech, which has won five of seven in ACC play after an 0-7 start. Georgia Tech (14-15, 6-9 ACC) has two freshmen and two sophomores in its starting lineup and a pair of key freshmen reserves.
"When you think of leaders, you think of someone who sacrifices himself for the good of the team and that was Tony Akins tonight," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "I mailed a letter to (incoming recruit) Jarrett Jack about how we are losing a big-time leader to help him understand what kind of shoes he has to fill.
"At 0-7, he could have said, 'I'm going for myself, I'm shooting the ball every time down.' What was I going to do? Play someone else? He's the only legitimate point guard on our team and he never, ever stopped doing the things we asked." The Yellow Jackets grabbed a 34-21 lead on a basket by Akins 6:24 left in the first half. But technical fouls on Tech center Robert Brooks and Hewitt helped Wake Forest (18-11, 8-7) climb back into the contest.
Josh Howard drilled a 3-pointer to cut the Demon Deacons' deficit to 36-27 and trigger a 15-0 run. Freshman Taron Downey drained a 3-pointer and Darius Songaila made two free throws for a 39-36 advantage and Wake Forest took a 41-40 lead into halftime.
"We guarded during that stretch, and when you guard and rebound, the results are self-evident," Demon Deacons coach Skip Prosser said.
Akins had a driving layup to cap a 7-0 run as Georgia Tech took the lead for good, 54-48, with 15:49 remaining. The Yellow Jackets gradually pulled away as Lewis had a basket and Elder drilled a 3-pointer for a 78-64 cushion with 5:22 to go.
Akins made 6-of-14 shots and all five free throws. Hewitt called a timeout with 34 seconds left to substitute Akins, who received a standing ovation from the 8,705 fans at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
"He's quick and tonight he was making shots," Prosser said. "He's played like a senior and he played very, very well." Songaila scored 24 points for Wake Forest, which has lost five out of six. The Demon Deacons must defeat North Carolina State on Saturday to earn the third seed in the ACC tournament.
Howard scored 17 points in his first game since calling a timeout when Wake Forest had none left in Sunday's loss at Maryland. Downey netted 13 and Broderick Hicks added 10.
Elder made four 3-pointers and was 7-of-10 overall from the floor.
His previous season high was 19 points in a victory at Clemson on February 6.
"B.J. shot the ball very, very well," Hewitt said. "That is something we thought he was capable of. If he continues to be more aggressive, he can put up points like that." 7-foot Australian freshman Luke Schenscher made all seven shots for a season-high 14 points and four rebounds.
"Luke just played stronger with the ball," Hewitt said. "Today he established himself right away down low." The Yellow Jackets shot 49 percent (30-of-61) and held a commanding 36-23 advantage on the glass. Freshman Ed Nelson also had seven rebounds and Anthony McHenry added five.
Howard was jeered constantly by the crowd, which went to great lengths to remind him of Sunday's gaffe. He made 6-of-11 shots and added six rebounds.