After a four-game losing streak that saw the Deacs lose 3 out of 4 by just 2 points, Wake Forest is finally back in the win column after beating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 81-64. It took Wake a few minutes to wake up in this one, but after they finally started scoring, the Deacs coasted their way to a double-digit win. With the victory, Wake moves to 15-9 overall and 7-6 in the ACC, putting them in 8th place in the conference.
This was probably the worst start to a game Wake Forest has had all year. Forbes went with the same lineup as the Duke game with Daivien Williamson in instead of Marsh as playing small made a lot more sense in this one; Notre Dame mostly plays 5 out and doesn’t have a real threat in the post that can dominate the game. That lineup didn’t really give Wake anything to start the game, as Wake once again fell into a double-digit hole early in the game. Through the first 10, Wake scored just 4 points on the ACC’s worst defense and turned the ball over 9 times. The terrible start allowed Notre Dame to grab a 16-4 lead after going on a 13-0 run.
Wake finally woke up and started scoring some points around 12 minutes into the game. Led by 11 points from Damari Monsanto, Wake finished off the half on a 23-10 run and made 6 of their last 8 shots. Despite the miserable start, the Deacs went into the half with a 27-26 lead. After several games in a row of teams seemingly not being able to miss, Wake finally caught a break—Notre Dame shot just 34% from the floor and finished the half 0-8 from beyond the arc. With Wake shooting 27% from beyond the arc and turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, I would say the Deacs were a little lucky not to be down double digits, much less winning the game.
The 2nd half was almost the exact opposite of the first half. Wake started out the half on fire from beyond the arc, hitting 5 of their first 6 3-point attempts. Monsanto made his first 3 3-point attempts, including one from the ND logo at center court, Williamson added 1 from his favorite spot on the court (the corner), and Tyree Appleby even banked one in. Just 4 minutes into the second half had taken a 44-34 lead.
Once the Deacs got things going on offense, it became very apparent that Notre Dame was the worst defensive team in the ACC. For the rest of the game, Wake got whatever they wanted on offense and pretty much ended every possession with an open 3-point attempt or a dunk. At the under 8-minute timeout in the 2nd half, Wake was shooting 60% from the floor and 58% from beyond the arc. On the other side, Notre Dame finally started making a few 3-pointers, but were still just 3-16 for the game.
After one of the worst first halves of the season, the Deacs put together one of the best second halves I have seen from a Wake Forest team to win the game 81-64. In the second half alone, Wake scored 54 points on 58% shooting from the floor and made 11 of their 19 3-point attempts. After that first 10 minutes where Wake scored 4 points and turned the ball over 9 times, the Deacs finished the final 30 minutes with 77 points and just 5 turnovers. It also helped that Notre Dame, who gets almost 40% of their points from the 3-point line, made just 4 3-pointers on 19% shooting from beyond the arc. You definitely don’t ever want to start a game that slowly, but credit Wake for overcoming the terrible start in the midst of a 4-game losing streak to blow out Notre Dame on the road.
Wake was led in this game by human flamethrower Damari Monsanto. Monsanto had one of those game today that the Deacs have been on the other end of several times this season: 28 points on 8-13 shooting from beyond the arc. It seemed like no matter where on the court he got the ball, he was knocking down a 3-pointer. The only other two Deacs in double figures were Tyree Appleby and Bobi Klintman. Appleby flirted with a triple double, finishing with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Klintman, who has really started to show his potential in the past couple of games, finished with 10 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting from the floor. Outside of those 3, Wake had a very balanced scoring attack with every player who got in the game except Davion Bradford (only played 2 minutes) scoring 5 or more points.
Wake Forest took care of business in this one, beating a 10-12 Notre Dame team that is now 2-10 in the ACC. Even against a bad opponent, it just feels good to win again. Hopefully the Deacs can turn this win into a little momentum and get on a winning streak to finish off the season. Wake has a few important games remaining against UNC, NC State, Syracuse, and Miami that could help them play their way back onto the bubble. If Wake can win out and put together a deep run in the ACC Tournament, I think they would still have a shot of making the NCAA Tournament.