Steve Forbes continues to break losing streaks on the road this season, this time giving Wake their first win in Tallahassee since 2008. For those of you keeping track at home, he has now gotten the Deacs their first win in Charlottesville in 12 years, their first win in Atlanta in almost 18 years, and now their first win in Tallahassee in 14 years. The logical conclusion of this pattern is Wake Forest beating Duke in Cameron Indoor for the first time since 1997, right?
With the win, Wake is now 19-5 overall and 9-4 in the conference, putting them on the verge of winning 20 games for the first time since 2010 and 10 conference games for the first time since 2009. That is incredibly impressive for Forbes’s second year at the helm, especially since his first year really shouldn’t count.
This was, without a doubt, one of the most frustrating basketball games I have ever watched. With all the injuries for Florida State, Wake Forest clearly had the better team on the court, but because of lackluster rebounding and an inability to stop turning the ball over, what should have been a pretty easy victory turned into a dog fight for 40 minutes.
The first half was absolutely abysmal. Wake did play incredible defense and held the Noles to just 20% shooting and 21 points, which should have given Wake a big lead going into the half. Unfortunately, the Deacs only led by 4 points at halftime because they somehow managed to turn the ball over 18 times in the first half. 18!!! That would be unacceptable for a full 40-minute game, and Wake managed to do that before halftime. Using a common formula for possessions, it can be estimated that Wake had around 38 possessions in the first half. That means that Wake Forest turned the ball over on nearly HALF (47.4%) of their possessions in the first half. That is truly atrocious. If not for the efforts of Alondes Williams, who scored 13 of Wake’s 25 first half points, Wake probably would have found themselves trailing at the break.
If the first half belonged to Alondes, the second half belonged to Jake LaRavia. In the second half alone, LaRavia carried the Deacs with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Deacs started to figure out the aggressive Florida State defense and managed to build a double-digit lead by the under 12 media timeout. I thought Wake would coast to the finish line for the win at that point, but not 2 minutes later, FSU had gone on an 8-0 run and pulled back within 3 points. As I said, this one was frustrating.
Florida State got it as close as 1 point with just under 4 minutes remaining, but Wake responded well. The Deacs got a couple of clutch baskets from senior Isaiah Mucius, who hit a 3-pointer and a got a put back layup to push the lead back up to 6. Damari Monsanto also had a couple of huge plays to close this one out, including this crazy Kobe-esque behind the back pass for a Dallas Walton dunk.
A couple of possessions later he sealed the victory with a huge 3-pointer from the corner to ice the game.
I’ve said it a couple of times this year, but as long as this team continues to play great defense, they have a chance in every game. A team isn’t going to win many—or any—games where they turn the ball over 26 times and allow the opponent to grab 15 offensive rebounds. However, Wake once again played solid defense throughout game, forcing the Seminoles into taking contested midrange jump shots and holding them to 32% shooting from the field for the game. By playing great team defense, Wake Forest was able to sweep Florida State this season despite turning the ball 48 times in two games.
I’ll take a frustrating win over a comfortable loss any day of the week, especially if it's a road game in the ACC. It feels sort of weird after the last decade to not just throw in the towel on the game after seeing the “@” on the schedule. It has taken Forbes approximately 2 seasons to make feel like Wake Forest has a chance in every game—it has been a long time since I had that feeling. The Deacs now turn their sights to NC State to take on the Wolfpack in Raleigh, a city where Wake has won one game since 2005. Just another chance to break another streak. Go Deacs!