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Playbook: Wake Forest Finally Takes Down Clemson

Deacs get a win over the Tigers

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since Danny Manning took over as the head basketball coach at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons have beaten the Clemson Tigers. Wake took down Clemson on Saturday night at the Joel 56-44 in what some would call a game of basketball. The Tigers finished the game shooting a steamy 31% from the floor and 19% from the 3-point line, while Wake Forest finished shooting a red hot 35% from the floor and a whopping 28% from downtown. The 2 teams combined to make 37 of their 114 shot attempts. With the offenses being so woeful, it only makes sense to take a look at the defense.

The Deacs played a matchup zone for probably 95% of the possessions in this game, and it was extremely effective. The Tigers seemed to have no clue how to attack Wake and generate open looks on offense.

Clemson spent a lot of time on offense passing the ball around the perimeter as they would against a normal zone. As Matt Doherty astutely pointed out, the matchup zone is closer to a man to man defense than it is a true zone defense, so this strategy did not work very well (say what you will about Doherty as a commentator, but when he was actually talking about just basketball he made some good points).

One of the things that the Deacs did a really good job of in the zone was shutting off drives to the basket when the Tigers did try to get the ball inside the 3-point line.

You can see in the examples above that whenever Clemson starts to drive the ball towards the basket, the closest help defender, which happens to be Torry Johnson in all 3 cases, slides into the gap to cut off the drive and then recovers back to his man. This type of gap defense is very similar to what Virginia and other packline teams do.

This kept the Tigers from getting the ball into the paint and forced them into shooting contested threes and midrange jumpers for much of the game. As previously mentioned, that did not go very well for them. Their 31% shooting from the field and 19% from 3 were both the 2nd lowest of the season and the worst in ACC play this season.

The same concept leads to the steal and layup above as Brandon Childress slides over to cut off the Tevin Mack drive and just strips the ball right out of his hands.

Between the solid defensive effort from the Deacs and the lackluster offensive performance from the Tigers, the 44 points allowed by Wake Forest were the fewest they allowed since 2008, per Chris Styles.

If the Deacs can continue to defend at this level over the final 9 games of the season, they should put themselves in a position to win several more game down the stretch.