Wake Forest has lost their first game of the season after falling to the Loyola Marymount Lions by a score of 77-75.
The Deacs came out with a new starting lineup in this one, going with Daivien Williamson, Tyree Appleby, Cam Hildreth, Andrew Carr, and Zach Keller to open up the game. It was the first start of the season for both Hildreth and Keller, who have both seen more and more playing time over the past couple of weeks. The change seemed to help Wake get off to a much better start than they had over the past couple of games—instead of being down double digits after the under 16-minute timeout, the Deacs opened up the game on an 11-2 run.
The Lions would eventually go on a run of their own to take the lead with 8 minutes remaining in the half. Freshman guard Chance Stephens came into the game for LMU and could not miss. Stephens made his first 5 3-point attempts to help the Lions go on a 24-10 run and grab a 26-21 lead at the under 8 timeout. The Wake defense wasn’t even that bad, LMU was just making everything.
At the end of the first half, Wake found themselves down 10 points largely because of Loyola shooting 8-17 from beyond the arc. The Deacs had a pretty bad half on the offensive end as well, shooting just 39% from the floor and 15% from the 3-point line. Wake scored just 10 points in the final 11:38 of the half and finished with their lowest point total in the first half this season. It seemed like when Keller went out of the game with his 2nd foul, the Wake Forest offense really struggled to score the ball. His ability to shoot from the outside at the 5 really opens up the driving lanes for the Deacs and gives the offense much better spacing.
In the second half, the game degraded into a rock fight, with neither team being able to consistently find any offense. Through the first 8 minutes of the half, Wake Forest was outscoring LMU just 12-6 to cut the lead to 4 points. Eventually, Wake finally got some offense from Damari Monsanto, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Deacs their first lead since the first half.
After trading baskets and holding a 1-point lead for the next 8 minutes or so, Wake Forest finally gained a little separation on back-to-back dunks from Matthew Marsh to take a 63-55 lead. Marsh was phenomenal in the second half for the Deacs, scoring 10 of his career high 14 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. I think that was easily his best game as Deac, and it’s great to see him starting to gain some confidence and get things going on both sides of the ball after falling out of the rotation earlier this season.
With Wake up 5 with 36 seconds remaining, the Deacs completely collapsed. Back-to-back Tyree Appleby turnovers and 2 missed free throws from Marsh allowed the Lions to finish regulation on an 8-0 run. Cam Shelton’s 3-pointer with under 2 seconds remaining sent the game to overtime—Shelton finishing the game with 20 points on 8-14 shooting. Back-to-back turnovers in the clutch is definitely not what you want to see from your 5th year point guard down the stretch in a close game.
In overtime, suddenly the rock fight turned into an offensive explosion. Justin Ahrens hit two 3-pointers for the Lions, but the Deacs answered back with a 3 from Damari Monsanto and an and-1 from Cam Hildreth. Chance Stevens gave LMU the lead back with 12 seconds remaining on his 7th 3-pointer of the game. Stevens finished with a game high 23 points on 7-10 shooting from beyond the arc. On the ensuing Wake possessions, Hildreth drove into the paint and forced a bad shot after getting stuck with nothing to do with the ball, allowing the Lions to win the game 75-77.
This was just an awful collapse from Wake Forest to find a way to lose a game when they were up by 5 points with 30 seconds remaining. Every time the Deacs had the lead and the ball in the clutch—in both regulation and overtime—they turned the ball over and gave it right back to LMU. That is simply inexcusable execution down the stretch.
The Deacs move to 4-1 overall after losing their first game of the season. Wake has really struggled in every game but 1 so far this season, so I’m fully expecting the early part of the ACC slate to be a little rocky.
Tough loss, but hopefully Wake can learn from this one.