WINSTON-SALEM, NC – For roughly 31 minutes against NJIT, Wake Forest desperately searched for a lead comfortable enough to ensure victory. It took an additional six to find the dagger that put away the Highlanders for good. A closing 14-2 run in the final three minutes gave the Demon Deacons the margin they were looking for, allowing them to enter a nine-day break with a strong 83-59 win.
Before the final run to end the game, NJIT had an answer for every Wake Forest scoring streak that would push the lead. In the first half, a 10-0 Demon Deacons run was counteracted by seven-straight points from the Highlanders. On the precipice of halftime, Wake Forest was held scoreless for two minutes, during which NJIT outscored the team 13-1.
Before the first media timeout of the second half, it was another 7-0 NJIT run that brought the deficit as close as three. From that point forward, the Demon Deacons bested the Highlanders by 21 points over the final 16 minutes.
“I don’t feel like we played super well,” Boopie Miller said. “But I know teams go on their runs. This game is full of runs…It’s all about fighting adversity, coming back. And at the end, I feel like that’s what we did.”
Freshman Parker Friedrichsen kickstarted Wake Forest on its journey to a safe victory with 19 points on 6-7 shooting, including a 5-6 clip from behind the three-point arc.
“He’s a shooter,” Miller said. “He shoots like that every day in practice, so I knew I had to get him the ball. He’s a real shooter.”
Friedrichsen did not record a turnover all night, and the Demon Deacons were +25 points during the 26 minutes — a career high — he was on the court. His scoring output more than doubled his previous best in eight collegiate games.
“Parker played really well,” head coach Steve Forbes said. “Not just shooting it, but he’s defended, he moves [the ball], he rebounds. He’s a good player. He’s not a one dimensional player at all. Now he’s got a clip. He can shoot that thing.”
Miller and Hunter Sallis finished with 15 and 14 points respectively, while Cam Hildreth and Andrew Carr added 12 each.
In his second game after being granted a transfer waiver, Efton Reid got into foul trouble early, securing his third foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. He later fouled out in the second and finished with just 14 minutes after playing 28 in Wednesday night’s win over Rutgers.
Sophomore Zach Keller filled the void left behind by Reid, building on this season’s improvement with six points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. Half of his boards came on the offensive end.
“Zach Keller really sparked this in the second half,” Forbes said. “He just dominated the offensive glass, got extra possessions.”
“It’s called opportunity…When you get the opportunity, take it, and then you don’t ever give it back…He’s embraced his role of being a hard plain defender. rebounder…That’s the Zach Keller that I thought [of] when we recruited him.”
Late in the game, with a win all but certain, Wake Forest kept its foot on the gas pedal. In the new age of college basketball, the metrics game is always being played behind the shadows.
“They cap the margin of victory…They tell everybody that it’s 15 or something,” Forbes said. “Here’s what they don’t tell you. They don’t cap the efficiencies. So you just keep pounding those teams, and then what happens? Your efficiencies go out the roof. That’s the problem with the NET…the quad thing is really flawed.”
So, even with the game in hand, Wake Forest kept working to reach a semi-invisible goal. With 58 seconds on the clock, NJIT head coach Grant Billmeier cleared his bench, finally giving Forbes the opportunity to do the same.
Even in that final moment, though, the Demon Deacons still prospered. Friedrichsen hit another three — Wake Forest couldn’t play a full walk-on lineup because of an injury to RJ Kennah — and Kevin Dunn scored his first collegiate points on a nifty layup.
“I hate that,” Forbes said. “I don’t like it. Honest truth is, if Grant had not put his in, I wouldn’t have put mine in. I’m just being honest. This is where we’re at. I despise it. Because I really like those kids [the walk-ons]. But, you know, [I] can’t do it.”
With exam season on the horizon at Wake Forest, Forbes’ team will pause for over a week before playing its next game. Delaware State will make the trip to the Joel for another Wake Forest game of the quad-four variety. Tip off on Dec. 18 is set for 7pm on the ACC Network.