Wake Forest dropped their second straight game Saturday afternoon against the LSU Tigers in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta. Wake was seemingly in control of this game early, leading by as many as 20 points in the first half, but allowed the Tigers to storm back and win behind a career day from KJ Williams.
The Deacs started off the game looking like a team that hadn’t played in a week, but quickly rounded back into form. After a couple of quick turnovers and falling behind 5-0 in the first two minutes, the Deacs went on a 20-3 run fueled by the shooting of Tyree Appleby to take a 20-8 lead. Wake was doing a fantastic job moving the ball and getting good shots, and the result was shooting 70% from the floor during the run. Of course, no run is possible without great defense, and the Deacs held LSU to just 23% shooting through the first 10 minutes of the half.
The points kept pouring in for Wake Forest, while Tyree Appleby was just simply dominating the game. The Tigers had no answer for Appleby slicing and dicing their defense throughout the entire first half—at one point, he was single handedly beating LSU 15-14. Appleby finished the half with 15 points on 6-7 shooting and 3 assists, including this nice lob to Matthew Marsh.
Despite how great the Deacs played for the first 18 minutes or so of the game, Wake basically threw away the lead by allowing the Tigers to go on a 14-2 run to end the half. With 4 minutes remaining in the half, Wake had a 20 point lead up 39-19. At the end of the half, the Tigers had narrowed the lead to just 41-33. That is simply an inexcusable letdown at the end of the half to give LSU life at the break.
The run continued into the second half, as suddenly the Tigers got hot shooting the ball. KJ Williams scored 14 straight points for LSU on 4-4 shooting, and the Tigers tied the game up less than 4 minutes into the half. For all the emphasis Wake puts on winning the “middle eight,” the Deacs got absolutely dominated between the 4-minute mark of the 1st and the 16-minute mark of the 2nd, getting out scored by 20 points.
Much like Appleby in the 1st half, KJ Williams just took over the game for LSU in the second half. By the 10-minute mark, Williams was outscoring Wake Forest 18-14 in the 2nd and was shooting 7-9 from the floor for the half. Wake just had no answer for him. Williams finished the game with a season high 35 points on 14-21 shooting including 7-9 from beyond the arc.
While it was starting to look like this one was going to be a repeat of the Clemson game, the Deacs were able to settle things down and stem the LSU run before the game got out of hand. Wake battled back and took a 62-59 lead, but KJ Williams’ 7th 3-pointer of the game tied things right back up. It really does seem like every team Wake has played this season has had a player with a career shooting day against them.
Despite the career day from Williams, Wake trailed by just 1 point with 90 seconds remaining in the game. Tyree Appleby split a pair of free throws on the next Wake possession, and the game was all knotted up at 70 with 1:13 remaining. LSU shockingly went right back to Williams, but his 2-foot shot somehow rimmed out. Monsanto missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing Wake possession, giving LSU the ball with a chance to take the final shot. The Tigers took a 2-point lead on a layup when the seas parted for Justice Hill. There was no help defense to be found as the senior strolled down the lane for an uncontested layup, and that was the game.
Wake got another great game from Tyree Appleby with 26 points on 11-13 shooting and 6 assists, but it simply was not enough to get the win in this one. Cam Hildreth finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds while Matthew Marsh added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but no other Deac scored more than 6 points.
Simply put, this is another terrible loss for the Deacs. Wake was up 20 points in this game and let LSU get back in it in around 5 minutes of game time. If the Deacs don’t figure out these 2nd half struggles quickly, they are going to have a rough time in ACC play. They have 1 game against App State to get things back on track before a very tough stretch of at Rutgers, Duke, Virginia Tech, and at UNC.
We’re on to App State. Go Deacs!