Another late night at the Joel resulted in another victory for the Deacs. The Wake Forest Basketball team won their 10th straight home game of the season by beating the 19th ranked Clemson Tigers to move to 14-5 overall and 6-2 in the ACC. The Deacs now have claim to the 8th best active home winning streak in college basketball at 15 games and are tied with Kentucky for the most home wins over the past 2 season with 28. Needless to say, Coach Forbes is doing a fantastic job protecting the Joel.
Tonight’s game was the much-anticipated matchup between the conference's best defense and the conference's best offense—I guess we know now who would win between the unstoppable force and the immovable object, as the Deacs led the game for almost 39 minutes and at one point led by as many as 15 points.
The Deacs came out early with their foot on the gas and put together one of the best halves of basketball they have played all season. In the first half alone, Wake put up 48 points and shot 50% from the floor, 50% from beyond the arc, and 80% from the free throw line. Wake was once again just attacking the basket and getting high percentage shots at the rim and open 3-pointers on kickouts when the defense collapsed. Andrew Carr led the way in the first half with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Things got a little sloppier in the second half, as both teams really wore each other down. The Deacs got their biggest lead of the night right at the start of the half as Wake got 2 straight layups on their first possessions and the Tigers started the half with 2 turnovers. Several times it looked like Wake had a chance for the knockout blow, but Clemson just would not allow the Deacs to pull away.
Hunter Tyson, who was almost non-existent for much of the first half, came alive and gave the Tigers 12 points and 10 rebounds in the second half alone. His putback dunk and ensuing free throw cut the Wake lead down to 6 with just 2 minutes remaining in the game. That was as close as Clemson would come in this one, as Cameron Hildreth nailed a 3-pointer on the following possession to finally put the game out of reach. The Deacs went on to win 87-77.
For the Deacs, all but 11 of their 87 points came from Appleby, Hildreth, Carr, or Monsanto. Appleby once again shined with 24 points and 7 assists. His court vision is incredible, and it seems like he is always able to find the open man in transition.
Hildreth finished with his second double-double of the season, adding 17 points and 10 rebounds. His strength finishing inside makes him a really tough player for opposing teams to match up with. Andrew Carr scored 18 points on 7-12 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds for back-to-back double-doubles in the past 2 games, and Monsanto finished with 17 points and hit 3 3-pointers—his shot selection continues to improve, and he has become a much more efficient player in the past couple of weeks because of it.
While they didn’t score very many points, Matthew Marsh and Davion Bradford did a great job slowing down PJ Hall in the second half. Hall is, for my money, easily the most talented big man in the ACC and can score in so many ways that he is a nightmare to try to defend. With Chase Hunter and Alex Hemenway not available for Clemson, Hall stepped up his game in the first half and basically singled handedly kept the Tigers in it with 14 points on 5-9 shooting. Wake tried going to the smaller lineup with Carr and Klintman in the front court a couple of times in the first half, which gave Hall plenty of opportunities to score in the post. In the second half, either Marsh or Bradford was on the court at all times (until the final minute for free-throw shooting purposes), and the Deacs were able to hold Hall to just 8 points on 2-7 shooting from the field.
A top 25 win and beating an undefeated ACC team is a pretty solid night in my book. This Wake Forest team just continues to improve, and their chemistry has really come a long way since the beginning of the season. On Saturday, we will see how they compare with the ACC’s highest ranked team, #10 Virginia. Hopefully the home winning streak continues.