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Wake Forest Defeats Notre Dame in Key ACC Thriller, 79-74

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One of the more back and forth games I can remember seeing in a long time ended up with Wake Forest coming up huge in the clutch and solidifying their case for a bit in the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I had to come back to recap duty for this one. What an utter thriller. Wake trailed by double digits at one point in the first half, but they went on one of their patented defensive lockdowns and held the Fighting Irish scoreless for the final several minutes of the first, leaving themselves in a respectable 6 point hole going into the second. What followed was a back and forth battle of a second half that continued the series of miniature runs that saw neither team really able to pull away. Notre Dame was red hot from deep for most of the day, at one point having hit 11/21 from deep, though the Wake Forest defense shored up after that, finishing 14-31 by the end of the day. Alondes Williams, Jake LaRavia, and Khadim Sy led the way, with Williams and Sy tallying double doubles, and LaRavia stuffing the stat sheet with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. LaRavia is a truly unique player; I don’t remember a guy playing for Wake who is such a Swiss Army Knife of a player. He’s not a point guard, but he 100% can be a point forward. He’s big, so he can absolutely score in the post and snag plenty of rebounds. It’s funny, because I feel like Jake and Alondes are very similar players. Alondes plays the point guard role, but he’s so big and so strong, and Jake is so capable off the dribble that who the point guard is and who’s more of the swing role varies from possession to possession. Khadim Sy had an incredible game, tallying 15 and 10 on 50% shooting, but it could have been even better. Khadim missed a lot of shots where he did literally everything well except finishing the shot. He got good position, fundamentals seemed sound, but there were just the tiniest imperfections to the finishes. I’d estimate that at least three of his shots fell under that classification.

Isaiah Mucius had a rough day, going only 3-10 from the field, but boy howdy did he come up clutch, hitting a walk-up three to put Wake Forest up by 5 late in the game. Notre Dame immediately responded, but after Mucius hit that shot, Wake Forest never relinquished the lead. Alondes was great as usual, but he got his on extremely high volume, and the fact that Alondes isn’t exactly a pure point guard continues to show. He took a lot of iso, driving, 1 on 5 bull in a china shop sort of shots, which sometimes he falls in love with a bit too much. He probably should have gone to the line more than three times if we’re being honest, but he also missed a lot of close in layups that he absolutely forced. Now, the good news is that on a better day with rolls or lucky bounces, he probably goes off for another 10-15 points. But it seems like Alondes, for better or worse, only has one speed.

Still, the Forbes Era Deacs continue to show incredible grit, hustle, and defensive energy, and they show a sense of teamwork and playing for each other in a way that I don’t remember seeing for a long, long time. The Deacs are now 21-7, 11-6 in the conference, and are almost certainly on their way to an NCAA Tournament appearance in March. More than any Wake team in recent history, this team is NEVER out of a game, and they play with a level of effort that can never be questioned.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF