Ladies and Gentlemen, I think the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are officially back. What we saw on Saturday was nothing short of a total beat down, as the Deacs absolutely demolished the North Carolina Tar Heels 98-76. Wake Forest moves to 16-4 overall and 6-3 in the ACC and has now won three straight ACC games for the first time since 2017.
I don’t even know where to start with this game because outside of offensive rebounding, the Deacs were pretty close to perfect everywhere on the court. Wake Forest outscored Carolina in nearly every aspect of this game, including points off turnovers (21-7), points in the paint (40-36), fast break points (30-2), and bench points (25-15). The Heels did have a huge advantage in second chance points, grabbing a ridiculous 23 offensive rebounds and converting them into 29 second chance points; Wake Forest had just 3 offensive rebounds and 5 second chance points. That is the one area the Deacs will need to improve upon.
I think the biggest star of the game was junior Jake LaRavia, who finished the game with 31 points on 9-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists in nearly 38 minutes played. It was pretty obvious in the first 5 minutes of this game that he had a huge mismatch with Brady Manek trying to guard him—keyword “trying”—and he basically just scored whenever he wanted. The Heels never really adjusted to the mismatch, so LaRavia just kept getting the ball into the paint and scoring. That strategy worked out pretty well for Wake, as LaRavia finished with nearly one third of the total points.
The Deacs got plenty of scoring from Daivien Wiliamson, who scored 19 points on 7-9 shooting (on his birthday), and Alondes Williams, who finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, but the other big star of the day was sophomore Damari Monsanto. In just his second game of the season, Monsanto finished with 13 points on 4-11 shooting and went on an 11-2 run all by himself in the second half to put the Deacs up 19 with 10 minutes remaining in the game. That run, which included 3 3-pointers and a fastbreak dunk off of a steal, gave Wake Forest a big lead and basically put the game out of reach. Monsanto has given Wake added depth on the wing and another volume shooter who can get hot at any time and completely change the game. I think his return has taken Wake to another level offensively.
But enough about offense, what about the defense? The Deacs were amazing defensively in this game, holding the Tar Heels to 33% shooting from the floor 21% from beyond the 3-point line. I thought the Deacs were nearly perfect against the UNC ball screens and did a fantastic job communicating when they wanted to ice and when they needed to switch. It’s clear that the gameplan was to ice the screens whenever possible to keep the Carolina playmakers like Caleb Love and RJ Davis out of middle of the court where they are incredibly dangerous. While Isaiah Mucius and Dallas Walton were the only starters to not score in this game, their presence on the court was definitely felt on the defensive end.
Another guy who had a big presence on the defensive end was freshman Matthew Marsh. I though he did an incredible job in the 10 minutes he played when Walton got into foul trouble early on. Marsh had not played significant time since the Oregon State game in November and was basically asked to come in and defend one of the ACC’s best big men in his first real ACC action. That is no small task, but Marsh held his own and finished the game with 7 points and 4 rebounds. He obviously has the size, but I think he has the potential to be a very good big man in the ACC in the future.
The Deacs finally had a game where they played great on offense and defense for nearly 40 minutes, and we got a glimpse of just how good this team can be. Their 22-point win is the largest margin of victory over the Tar Heels since February 2002 and their 98 points are the most points they have scored on the Heels (in regulation) since 1976. There’s no other way to say it, this one was just a plain old butt whooping. Wake doesn’t have long to celebrate though, as they have another game in less than 48 hours against the Boston College Eagles that was postponed earlier this season. Hopefully the Deacs can push the winning streak to 4 games. Go Deacs!