Before Saturday, Feb. 11, Wake Forest had played NC State 75 times at home since the two programs first met in the 1910-11 season.
Yet, no home game in the storied series produced a greater margin of Deacon victory than this weekend’s dominating 88-58 performance over the Wolfpack.
With a game-high 23 points, sophomore John Collins proved once again why he is one of the best — if not the best — post player in the ACC.
Collins scored on three uncontested baskets to open the game, contributing to the Deacs’ 21-10 lead after just nine minutes of play.
At the half, it was Wake Forest leading NC State 44-24, which gave the nearly 13,000 in attendance the sensation that the Deacon and Wolfpack seasons had officially moved in different directions.
“I think we came out there with fire, with energy,” Collins said of his team’s quick start. “We talked and we were flying all around the place, passing the ball, scoring. I think we found our energy, found our flow early and we kept them down like we were supposed to and finished out the game.”
Similarly, coach Danny Manning spoke highly of his team’s performance, and particularly the play of his defense, claiming that his team “competed for two halves.”
Manning also raved about Collins.
“John is a work in progress. We are certainly happy and pleased with his production…he’s doing a really great job manufacturing points for himself.”
Collins not only recorded his eighth consecutive 20-point game against NC State, but he also extended a streak that had not been matched in the ACC since NC State’s T.J. Warren recorded 15-straight 20-point games in 2013-14.
Collins was not alone in creating offensive production for the Deacs, however.
Sophomore guards Keyshawn Woods and Bryant Crawford connected on five and three 3-pointers of their own respectively.
At one point Woods completely took over the basketball game, connecting on three straight field goals from beyond the arc in the second half. His production comes at an opportune time for the Deacs, who face a talented three-point shooting team in Duke on Saturday, Feb. 18. In last week’s Blue Devil victory over the Tar Heels, Duke connected from beyond the arc on 13 occasions, seven of which came from the hands of Grayson Allen.
The Deacs will look to rely on Woods’ seemingly more consistent production on Saturday to keep up with the Blue Devils’ guards.
Saturday’s game against NC State was followed on Tuesday evening when the Deacs traveled to Clemson, S.C. to face the Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Unfortunately for coach Manning and the Deacs, Clemson shot the basketball better than it had all season, connecting on 10 3-pointers and 27 free throws to defeat Wake Forest 95-83. The Deacs were led by Collins who scored a career-high 29 points and Crawford, who scored 25 of his own, all in a losing effort.
Wake Forest will face Duke on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.