Fresh off its ninth straight loss, Wake Forest fell on the road in Raleigh to the rival Wolfpack this afternoon, 99-88.
The game started with the ball in Cat Barber's hands and an easy bucket inside, representative of the game at large. Barber finished the game with a career high 38 points, creating for himself and others as he has for years against the Deacs and the rest of the ACC.
Wilbekin and Mitoglou started the game off well offensively for the Demon Deacons, similar to the midweek performance against Georgia Tech. The Deacs looked to force the issue with ball pressure defensively, running the floor quickly in transition. The referees called a tight game early and it would stay that way for the entirety of the game. Wake picked up its third team foul in three minutes of game time, slowing down the pace of the game, but by the first TV timeout, they led 14-8 off five-for-six shooting.
The hot shooting and excellent defense (yes, still talking about Wake Forest) ran the lead up to ten points, forcing Coach Gottfried to take a quick timeout. Danny Manning tried to steal some minutes for his starters with Rondale Watson, Greg McClinton, and Cornelius Hudson entering for the Deacs for the first time. NC State got right back into the game with a short run of their own as the first half reached its midway point. Even after Wake got off to an 8/10 start, a series of turnovers saw their lead cut to five by the under 12:00 timeout.
Fresh off the bench after the timeout, Dinos Mitoglou picked up his second foul giving NC State another chance at a possession, and they took advantage cutting the lead to two. The foul problem for Dinos meant extended minutes for John Collins, but the freshman looked largely outmatched and outsized underneath in the early going. Fouls continued to be an issue for Wake as the Wolfpack were in the bonus before ten minutes elapsed in the game.
Still, an outstanding first half performance from Codi Miller-McIntyre kept Wake in the lead for the majority of the half. His 5/5 start wasn't enough to keep State from taking the lead, their first of the game at 29-26 with under nine minutes to go in the half. Turnovers were the biggest issue for the Deacs in the first half, and NC State took advantage, scoring off nearly every one. By the under 8:00 timeout, State's lead was up to six.
Wake Forest earned the bonus by the 7:06 mark of the first half after Doral Moore earned a trip to the line shortly after a huge block. The referees made themselves the center of attention for much of the half, blowing their whistle on nearly every possession after the teams entered the bonus situation. With State's big men in foul trouble, Wake tried to feed Devin in the post, and the senior converted at the line when tested.
The referees continued their hot streak after Bryant Crawford missed a dunk off a steal, bailing the freshman out with a phantom foul call, but he was only able to hit one of two free throws. With the game so frequently taking place from the charity strike, Wake's free throw shooting was important to the final score. Adding to State's foul woes, Lennard Freeman picked up his fourth foul with more than four minutes to play in the first half. Even with Wake making a living at the line, NC State retained their advantage, largely from a high volume of three point shooting. Freshman Maverick Rowan, whose hairline looks to be afraid of his face, hit two threes on seven attempts, for example.
At the under 4:00 timeout, Wake trailed by five in spite of 57% shooting from the floor and outrebounding the Pack. This has been a consistent refrain for the Deacons this season, and the Deacs drew closer with halftime approaching. Cat Barber proved to be a very tough assignment for both Crawford and Miller-McIntyre, splitting defensive duties on the senior guard, sixth in the nation in scoring. Even when he wasn't scoring, he was creating for himself and others off the dribble. Maverick Rowan, who always looks like he just heard a very loud noise, was also a menace on the boards and off the dribble. The wing player had 14 points for the Pack in the first half, ahead already of his 12 ppg ACC pace.
Down four points with the ball on the final possession of the half, the Deacs went back to the Miller-McIntyre well and the senior managed to draw his team within two, bringing the halftime score to 46-44.
Coach Manning needed to find a way to stop the guards from NC State from scoring so much in the second half after Caleb Martin and Maverick "The White Sisqo" Rowan each contributed 13 in the first half. Both teams went down low early in the second half trying to play a more physical game. (The current NCAA officiating makes for tight whistles away from the basket and very physical play underneath.) Wake tied it up at 48-48 quickly in the second half with good defense and guard play again.
Wake then took its first lead of the half at 51-50 on a wide open Miller-McIntyre three, scoring his 17th point of the game. After that, the teams went back and forth trading baskets and the lead. John Collins picked up his fourth foul and Dinos Mitoglou picked up his third, so Doral Moore was asked to give significant time for the Deacs. Moore took great advantage of his time on the floor, picking up rebounds, blocks, and points for the Deacs during his important stretch. Codi and Cat put their respective teams on their backs before the first TV timeout of the second half, as the game was knotted up 57-57.
With a three point lead, Wake moved into a zone defensively to try and mitigate Barber's dribble penetration. It was highly effective for a stretch, but with the most millennial name ever, Maverick Rowan hit a three to keep things close. At the under 12:00 timeout, Wake led by five, due in large part to excellent play on both ends by Doral Moore. Characteristically, though, Danny Manning took the hot player out and Wake went with a very small lineup for a stretch.
During that stretch, Wake switched back to man-to-man, subbing in McClinton, Hudson, and Wilbekin and losing their edge on both ends. NC State went ahead just before the under 8:00 timeout due largely to the ineffective substitutions and failures to convert from bad three point attempts by the Deacs. After taking the lead, Manning was forced to bring his seniors back into the ball game, staying in for the remainder of the matchup. State also entered the bonus after a touch foul outside, and Cat Barber picked up his 26th and 27th points of the game at the line at that point, putting State up 77-75.
Barber earned the star treatment he was given down the stretch, and converted free throws to put his scoring total quickly over his season average. He largely played the iso game and created shots and chances at will. Wake Forest wasted possessions and chances to keep the game knotted with low percentage shots for a long stretch. After Dinos Mitoglou picked up his fifth foul (on a poor overall performance for the sophomore for the game with just four points), John Collins entered the game for the final stretch. (Collins fouled out a few minutes later.)
By the under 4:00 timeout, Wake trailed by three points, 84-81. State extended their league to six as the clock went under three minutes, and the Pack would not relinquish their lead from there. The baffling four guard lineup Coach Manning used down the stretch was not equal to the task for seeing the game out. Wake was forced to foul NC State to try and get back into the game, but the strategy did not pay off as the Pack took advantage of their free throws.
Wake seniors Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre played their hearts out in Raleigh this afternoon. Devin finished with 20 rebounds, the most for a Demon Deacon since Al-Farouq Aminu in 2009. Codi scored 24 points, his season high. Freshman Doral Moore was robbed of more opportunities to influence the game by his coach, tone deaf this season to anything but a steadfast insistence on playing his way. In the end, Wake played well, but Cat Barber and NC State played better, and the home team did enough to win.
Wake fans who haven't already begun to wonder about Coach Manning's in game coaching will certainly have questions for the coach today after he failed to take advantage of what was working. Puzzlingly, Cornelius Hudson was on the floor for most of the second half for the Deacs, and Crab did not use his minutes effectively. Perhaps it was foul trouble, and perhaps Coach saw a matchup he liked defensively, but Wake just could not keep pace with State on the line or from the floor. This game looked all too familiar for ailing Wake fans who have seen too much of this type of game over the last several years.
The Deacs will next face Pittsburgh on the road on Tuesday.