That was bad. Every game at this point of the season is critically important for ACC and NCAA Tournament seeding, and the Deacs just blew one to a team that had 4 conference wins in a game where Wake Forest never even held a lead. Even without Mucius, who was a late scratch due to illness, and Khadim Sy, who played just a few minutes before injuring his leg, Wake is too good of a team with too much talent to lose a game like this. I thought the Miami loss at home was a letdown, but this was easily the worst game of the season for Wake Forest.
This was the second straight game where the Deacs got off to a terrible start and the opponent seemingly was making everything they threw at the basket. Much like Notre Dame, the Tigers played a heavy amount of zone throughout the first half, and Wake just struggled to get any good looks at the basket. Halfway through the first half, the Deacs had just 8 points and 5 turnovers, which is obviously not the formula for winning many basketball games. Clemson, on the other hand, was on fire early, shooting 60% from the floor and almost 70% from beyond the arc through the first 10 minutes of the game.
Damari Monsanto was the only thing that kept this game from getting completely out of hand in the first period. The ETSU transfer had 13 points and hit 4 3-pointers in the first half to single handedly keep Wake Forest in the game. His shooting loosened up the Clemson zone and seemingly helped to kick start the Wake Forest offense. By halftime, the Deacs only trailed 33-36.
In the second half, Wake was continually right on the cusp of taking the lead but just never could get out in front. Of course, one of the reasons for that was that the ACC’s leading scorer, Alondes Williams, picked up his 4th foul just 2 minutes into the half. Williams was forced to sit for the next 10 minutes.
Every time Wake Forest had a chance to grab the lead, the Deacs would either throw the ball away or miss a layup, and then Clemson would come down and hit a big shot. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, it looked like the Deacs might finally get over the hump and grab the lead—Wake had a 2 on 1 fastbreak opportunity trailing by just 1 point. That opportunity somehow turned into a turnover and a 3-point basket on the other end for the Tigers. That kicked off a 12-4 Clemson run that put the Deacs down 51-61, which proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome.
I don’t really know what else to say; this was just a horrible, frustrating, borderline embarrassing performance for the Deacs. Clemson was missing two of their best players in PJ Hall (15.5 points per game) and Hunter Tyson (10.4 points per game) and still managed to go wire to wire with the lead to win by double digits. It was just one of these games for Wake:
With the loss, Wake Forest moves to 21-8 overall and 11-7 in the conference. The Deacs had a good shot at a double bye in the ACC Tournament before tonight, but now they find themselves needing UNC to drop 2 of their final 3 games in order to grab the 4th place spot. Wake is also in danger of moving as far as 8th if they drop the remaining two games of the season. Luckily, the final two games are at the Joel, so hopefully the hometown fans can help the Deacs finish the season 2-0. We’re on to Louisville. Go Deacs!