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Wake Forest Wins Free Throw Shooting Contest, Defeats VCU 80-74 In Second Round of NIT

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That game was a SLOG, but Wake Forest proved up to the challenge of winning the boxing match with the Rams to get to 25 wins and advance to the Elite Eight of the NIT.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Wake Forest vs Boston College Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The two teams committed a combined 49 fouls and shot a combined 64 free throws, and in the end, Wake Forest came up with just enough clutchness late to come away with a win. In some ways, the foul-heavy outing was to be expected. VCU is well known for a highly pressuring, incredibly physical defense, and Wake Forest is full of big, strong players with no fear, sometimes to their detriment. Wake Forest, for their part, also played very solid defense, forcing 19 turnovers and, even more impressively, tallying 12 steals. Neither team shot well; Wake had splits of 43%, 28%, and 78%, but lucky for Wake Forest, VCU struggled just as much, with splits of 40%, 36%, and 85%.

There were multiple times that Wake Forest seemingly could have blown this thing open with double digit leads. but a combination of clutch answers by VCU, absolutely baffling shot selection by Wake Forest, endless parades to the free throw line, and yes, some unlucky rolls for the Deacs on a couple of open (if ill-advised) threes all combined to create a high pressure situation down to the very end. Damari Monsanto has been an absolute sharpshooter for Wake Forest this entire season, but today the fact that he’s a freshman really showed, as he went 1-6, 1-5 from deep (though admittedly the one he hit was a really big deal) and there were a couple of misses that left you wondering if Damari knew what the time and score situation was. Damari wasn’t the only one, as Wake Forest had a run of several jacked up threes in a row when they were entirely unnecessary and didn’t make any sense. It might (emphasis on might) have made a little more sense to me if the Deacs were scorching the nets, but they absolutely weren’t.

Regardless, the operative thing here is that Wake Forest pulled out the victory, getting to an absolutely fantastic 25 wins, 2 in the postseason, and at least one more chance to go. Wake will face #1 seed Texas A&M on the road on Wednesday in a game I have no idea what to expect from, but I’d say pretty unequivocally that this season has been an absolute success for Steve Forbes and these players. and the fact that they’re getting postseason experience (and winning while they’re at it) bodes very well for a squad that is only losing two players for certain after the season, and while I don’t like how ugly the game was, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think there was any value in being able to win in both a blowout and a slug fest, so there’s that too.

Congrats to this team on such an insane turnaround. 25 wins and still going, and they’ve shown heart, versatility, and a team mindset the whole way, no matter what happens on Wednesday night.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF