Well, that was another frustrating one. It really was a game of two halves for the Deacs, as Wake looked like one of the best offensive teams in the nation in the first half, and then seemingly forgot how to play basketball in the second. Plagued by turnovers and an inability to play defense, the Deacs were handily beaten by the Wolfpack 90-74 to move to 17-11 overall and 9-8 in the ACC.
Wake continued their “defense optional” style of game from the last one against Miami. The first 8 minutes of this contest saw the two teams combine for 45 total points with Wake shooting 91% and NC State shooting 69% from the floor. Tyree Appleby hit 3 3-pointers in that time span while the Wolfpack were once again having success clearing out for DJ Burns and letting him go to work. Both teams were playing at a ridiculous pace and basically getting a layup or an open 3-point attempt every single possession.
The frantic pace and scoring continued for most of the half. Much like the first game in Winston, Terquavion Smith found himself in foul trouble early and had to go to the bench. Once again, that ended up actually helping the Wolfpack, as the tandem of Jarkel Joiner and DJ Burns torched the Deacs for 32 points on 13-19 shooting. Wake once again could not stop Burns from getting to his left hand and scoring over that right shoulder. I don’t know what it is about playing Wake, but Burns has scored 20 or more points 3 times this season, and 2 of them are against the Deacs.
The Deacs stayed step in step with the Pack, however, on the back of 65% shooting from the floor for the half. Wake had a much more balanced scoring attack than NC State, with 5 players scoring over 5 points in the half, led by Cam Hildreth’s 11. Really, the only difference between the two teams at the half was once again Wake’s turnovers—the Deacs finished the half with 7 turnovers that led to 12 fast break points for NC State. That gave the Wolfpack a 52-46 lead heading into the break.
More concerning than the turnovers was Damari Monsanto appearing to seriously injure his knee right at the end of the first half. I’m sure we will find out the extent of the injury sometime soon, but it would be a pretty significant loss for Wake Forest if he is unable to play for the remainder of the season. Just having the ACC’s leader in the 3-point shots made on the court forces the defense to stay at home on him and opens up the driving lanes for the rest of the team. Losing Monsanto would definitely have a huge impact on this team’s ability to continue scoring at such a high rate. Hopefully the injury isn’t as serious at it appeared.
That impact was pretty much felt immediately, as Wake was a completely different team in the second half. The Deacs just looked slow out of the break, and the Wolfpack jumped all over them. Wake constantly turned the ball over on the simplest passes, failed to grab rebounds, and constantly lost NC State’s shooters on the perimeter. Combine that with the fact that the Deacs shot 38% from the floor and 20% from beyond the arc in the second half, and the result was pretty ugly. At one point, Wake went something like 7 minutes without scoring a point.
Once again, Wake was unable to win because they were too careless with the ball and played basically no defense. The Deacs finished the game with 14 turnovers that resulted in 21 fast break points for the Pack and allowed NC State to shoot 58% from the floor for the game. NC State’s 90 points makes it back-to-back games the Deacs have allowed 90 points and 3 out of the last 4 Wake has allowed 85 or more That is just not a formula for winning basketball games.
That loss basically officially eliminates Wake from the NCAA Tournament. The rest of the games pretty much just matter for conference standings and maybe an NIT bid. There is—of course—always the outside chance the Deacs win the ACC Tournament to get the automatic bid, but since Wake has won something like 5 ACC Tournament games in the past 20 years, I’m not really very optimistic in that happening.
Hopefully Wake can just take care of Notre Dame and BC at home, and then destroy Syracuse in the final game of the season, if for no other reason than Jim Boeheim deserves it after accusing Forbes of buying a team despite flying recruits around on private planes with mega donors.
Onto the next.