The Wake Forest Basketball team lost their first home game of the season on Saturday to #10 Virginia by a score of 76-67. The loss snapped a 15-game home winning streak that dated back to February of last year. With the loss, Wake is now 14-6 overall and 6-3 in the ACC.
Let me start off by saying that the atmosphere in the Joel today was amazing. People were lining up at the entrances 30 minutes before the doors even opened and the near capacity crowd had the Joel the loudest it has been (in Wake’s favor) since probably 2010. Steve Forbes has done an incredible job putting a team on the court that not only wins games but is also just fun to watch.
The crowd was great, the game was frustrating. Things started off even, and Wake led 14-12 with just over 11 minutes left in the first half. From that point on, Virginia decided they were just never going to miss another 3-pointer, and they proceeded to go on a 17-0 run to take a 19-point lead. In the midst of that run, Virginia made something like 7 3-pointers in a row, which I’m going to guess is statistically highly improbable. With 5 minutes remaining in the half, Wake found themselves down 15-34.
Wake may have never come back from that run if it weren’t for Damari Monsanto, who simply put the team on his back in the first half. The redshirt junior hit 4 of his 6 3-point attempts and scored 14 points in the first half to single handedly keep the Deacs in the game. Because of his hot shooting, Wake was able to go into the half down just 10 points.
Things started off great in the second half for Wake, as the Deacs went on a 7-0 run early to climb back within 6 points. That run ended on a Virginia 3-pointer, and that quickly became a theme in the second half. Every time the Deacs would close the gap to 4 or 5 points, Virginia would hit another 3-pointer. With 13 minutes remaining, Cameron Hildreth made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 4—Isaac McKneely responded with a 3-pointer. With 9:39 remaining, a fast break dunk from Bobi Klintman cut the lead to 3—Ben Vander Plas answered with a 3-pointer. With 3 minutes remaining, Matthew Marsh hit 2 free throws to cut the lead to 5—you guessed it, Reece Beekman hit a 3-pointer.
There was a moment in the second half when the Deacs trailed by just 1 point. With a little over 8 minutes remaining, Tyree Appleby hit 2 free throws and Wake trailed 57-56. For almost 2 minutes and several possessions, Wake had a chance to reclaim the lead, but just couldn’t get the anything to drop. I really felt like if the Deacs had gotten the lead, it would have changed the game psychologically, and Wake probably would have come away with a win. Unfortunately, Wake just couldn’t get over the hump, and UVA went on a 6-0 run 2 minutes later to reclaim control of the game. That was as close as the Deacs got and Virginia went on to win 76-67.
Damari Monsanto was the only player that I would say had a great game today. Monsanto finished with 25 points and shot 7-15 from beyond the arc. Hildreth had a solid game with 16 points and 7 rebounds, but outside of those two, the Deacs really struggled against the pack line defense. Appleby did hit double figures with 13 points, but he finished the game 4-16 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the arc.
As I said, this one was just frustrating. Wake didn’t play perfectly, but they played well enough to win if Virginia doesn’t finish the game shooting 15-34 from beyond the arc. Virginia is always a very good defensive team, but if they hit 15 3-pointers, they are going to be almost impossible to beat. Even with Virginia shooting nearly 50% from beyond the arc, committing just 7 turnovers, and outrebounding the Deacs, Wake was right there with several chances to seize the game.
While it's tough that Wake got so close that many times, only to be thwarted, I don’t really think this game is much of a setback. Losing to a top 10 team doesn’t really hurt the Deacs too much and the team is still heading in the right direction. Coming up next week, the Deacs have tough games on the road against a Pitt teamed that is tied with Wake at 6-3 in the ACC and a NC State team that has been playing really well as of late. Let’s see how Wake responds coming off the loss.