The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have 20 wins. I repeat, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons have 20 wins. I cannot say enough about the job Steve Forbes has done turning this program around already. In just his second season, Forbes has the Deacs with 20 wins for the first time since 2010 and 10 conference wins for the first time since 2009. He has taken Wake Forest from a team that won six ACC road games over a span of six seasons to a team that has already won five ACC road games this season alone with two road games still left to be played. He should absolutely be the front runner for ACC Coach of the Year this season, but I will be shocked if they don’t give it to K.
The final score of this game was definitely not indicative of how close it was. Wake led for most of the game (34:17), but every time it looked like they were about to put it away, NC State would go on a well-timed run to get right back into it. With just over 5 minutes left, the Wolfpack trailed the Deacs by just two points, 53-51, and it seemed like the home court advantage could give them the momentum they needed to pull off the upset. The Wolfpack didn’t score another point in the game, and Wake Forest finished on a 16-0 run to win by 18 points.
The first half was pretty much more of the same that we have seem from the Deacs this season. Wake Forest was clearly the more talented team and played great defense, holding the Pack to 31% shooting from the floor, but continued to be plagued by turnovers and rebounding issues. Despite shooting over 20% better than the Pack in the first half, the Deacs only led by 3 points at halftime because they turned the ball over 9 times (a 50% reduction from the last game!) and allowed the Pack to grab 8 offensive rebounds. Even if they haven’t affected the win total, turnovers and rebounding have been the only areas where Wake has really struggled this season, and that could come back to bite them come postseason play.
The second half was a just duel between two of the best players in ACC as Dereon Seabron and Alondes Williams just took over for their respective teams. Seabron, who had just 5 points at halftime, was huge for the Wolfpack in the second half. He was attacking the basket at every opportunity and scored 17 points in the period. The Deacs had mostly held him in check in the game, right up until a stretch where he scored 11 of the Pack’s 13 points to erase a 7-point deficit and tie the game at 45. With Walton out of the game in foul trouble, Seabron was free to attack the paint at will, and he is just so dangerous when he is aggressively driving the ball to the basket.
On the other side, every time it looked like NC State was about to come back and take the lead, senior Alondes Williams stepped up with a big play. Williams scored 15 of his 17 points and dished out 4 assists in the second half, doing exactly what one might expect out of an ACC Player of the Year candidate. Despite his incredible play on offense, his defense on Seabron at the end of the game was even more impressive. Williams completely shut down Seabron in the closing minutes, which is what allowed the Deacs to go on the big run to pull out the victory. Obviously, I’m slightly biased, but there isn’t another player in the ACC that means more to their team than Alondes Williams. I mean, the guy is leading the ACC in points and assists and yet, he is getting overlooked in the conversation because he doesn’t play for a team that wears blue. Alondes Williams should, without a doubt, be the Player of the Year in the conference—I won’t hold my breath though.
With the win, Wake Forest is the first team in the ACC to hit both 20 wins and 10 conference wins this season (though Notre Dame got to 10 conference wins approximately 4 minutes after Wake). The next two games for Wake Forest against Miami and Duke will likely have huge implications on possible tie break scenarios for the final standings in the ACC, and I probably don’t need to remind you at this point that the double bye in the ACC Tournament is still very much in play for the Deacs. Winning in Durham is a pretty tall task, so the Miami game this weekend is going to be that much more important. Let’s give this team a true home court advantage on Saturday and help them on the road to the NCAA Tournament. Go Deacs!