The Wake Forest Men’s Basketball Team finished their time in Florida this weekend 1-1, beating the Oregon State Beavers and falling to the LSU Tigers to take second place in the Emerald Coast Classic. Since the first game against the Beavers ran until after midnight, and the Wake Forest football game—which I think we can all agree was far more important—kicked off at noon the next day, I figured I would just combine the two recaps into one.
The first game against the Oregon State Beavers started off with the Deacs having one of the best halves of the season. Everything seemed to big going perfectly for Wake Forest as they jumped out to a 22 point lead at one point behind 55% shooting from the field. The Deacs led at the half 48-29. The second half was basically the exact opposite—Oregon State amped up the pressure on the defense and Wake struggled to do anything, while the Beavers had a stretch where it seemed like everything they threw at the goal was going in. Wake shot just 28% from the floor in the second half and made only 1 of their 11 3-point attempts. The Deacs were outscored 40-21 in the second half and were lucky just to get the game into OT. Only 2 Wake Forest players scored in OT: Alondes Williams scored 7 of his 24 points and Jake LaRavia scored 4 of his 17 in the overtime period to outscore the Beavers 11-7 and get the W.
The second matchup looked a whole lot more like the second half of the Oregon State game than the first half. The Tigers probably saw some of that second half, because LSU pressed Wake the entire game, and the Deacs were completely taken out of their comfort zone. Wake finished the game shooting just 31% from the floor and turned the ball over 21 times, which led to way too many points off turnovers for the Tigers. Only 6 Wake Forest players scored in this game, and only 3 made it to double figures—Daivien Williamson led the way with 20 points, with 12 of those coming from the free throw line. The Deacs were down by double digits for basically the final 30 minutes of this game. One could aptly describe this game as a wake up call for how games are going to be in the ACC.
The biggest take away from the Emerald Coast Classic is that Wake Forest simply has to handle full court pressure better. Blowing a 22 point lead to a 1 win Oregon State team and turning the ball over 21 times against LSU are things that cannot happen if the Deacs want to be a competitive basketball team this season. Based off of these two games, I wouldn’t be shocked if Wake Forest faces similar pressure in every game for the rest of the season, or at least until they show they can beat it. The Deacs have a chance to get back on track on Tuesday in the ACC-B1G Challenge against a top 50 KenPom team in the Northwestern Wildcats. Let’s see how they respond to the first loss of the season. Go Deacs!