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Playbook: Wake Forest vs NC State

Wake goes zone

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

What a game! In case you live under a rock, or have chosen to not watch Wake Forest basketball games anymore, the Deacs picked up a huge win last night over 17th ranked NC State by a score of 71-67. The first half of this game may have been the best 20 minutes of basketball Wake Forest has played in a couple of years. The Deacs were able to come out with a victory in this one in large part due to their defense. Yes, you read that correctly; the Wake Forest Demon Deacons held a ranked team to 37% shooting from the field and 21% from the 3-point line. The 1-2-2 zone look below was a big reason why.

To my knowledge, this is the first game Wake has used a 1-2-2 this season. Basically, since there is no one under the basket in the middle of the zone, the defense now has 5 guys that can guard the perimeter instead of 4 like in a 2-3 zone. The trade off, of course, is that the defense is now more vulnerable underneath and at the high post. That makes the 1-2-2 zone useful against teams with a guard-centric offense that shoot a lot of perimeter shots and don’t really have a strong inside game. That sounds an awful lot like NC State.

This is some solid defense. The Deacs plays the whole shot clock and force a contested mid-range jumper by Devon Daniels. You can also see that we’ve added a little matchup feel to the 1-2-2 as Ikenna Smart is basically following his man around as he goes to the high post or up to the perimeter to set a pick.

Speaking of Smart, the 3 bigs for Wake Forest (Smart, Sarr, and Hoard) did a fantastic job in this defense. In the 1-2-2, the underneath guys have a lot of ground to cover to get from the paint out to the corner to defend wing players. While that makes baseline drives a weakness in the 1-2-2, our guys did a great job shutting off the baseline and rotating to ensure that the Pack didn’t get anything easy.

You can see above, Olivier Sarr has to really move to get all the way out to the corner and does a great job shutting off the baseline, which causes the turnover that results in an easy layup for Sharone Wright Jr.

Again, Jaylen Hoard has to get out to the corner to run Braxton Beverly off the 3-point line. While Beverly beats him, Ikenna Smart rotates over and shuts off any chance of an easy basket. The steal and the layup are an added bonus at the end of the play.

And just to go full circle, I’ll throw in one more. This time Sarr runs Beverly off the line and Hoard rotates over to wall off the basket.

Maybe the biggest impact this zone had for the Deacs was eliminating that all to common blow by play where someone drives right past their man and either gets a layup or kicks out for a wide open 3 that we have seen many, many times.

You didn’t see anything like this last night, and that’s a big reason why we were able to contain a potent Pack offense.

Ok, yes, we did blow a 20 point lead in like 8 minutes in the second half. But the onus of that is on the offense, as we went 6 or 7 minutes and didn’t score a single point. Its hard to set up a zone defense when the opponent is getting out in transition.

At the end of the day, the Wake Forest defense held a team averaging 87 points per game on almost 50% shooting to 67 points on 37% shooting. That is an incredible feat.