The phrase, “so close, yet so far” often comes to mind when thinking about Wake Forest Mens’ Basketball this season. In the home matchup versus No. 20 Clemson this past Saturday, the Demon Deacons made the Clemson Tigers fight for their third consecutive win of the season and struggled to keep up when the Tigers switched to a zone defense in the final minutes of the game.
Although Wake Forest lost in a fairly low-scoring game of 75-67, the lead changed 20 times while the score was tied at 12 different points during the game for a total of six minutes and one second.
Overall, the Demon Deacons kept the game competitive, averaging a 39 percent field goal average throughout the game compared to Clemson’s 42.9 percent. For three-point baskets, Wake Forest shot 40 percent, almost two percent more than the team’s season average of 38.4 percent at this point in the season. Defensively, Doral Moore had eight rebounds and boxed out well on offense to rack up five rebounds. Moore scored nine total points, one away from achieving a double-double against the Tigers. Traditionally a fairly hot-and-cold player on offense, Bryant Crawford was able to score 16 points and had five rebounds. Keyshawn Woods was also able to score 13 points off the bench to keep the lead close. Still struggling with his knee — which kept him from playing in early January — Woods said, “I’m getting there slowly but surely, still.”
In the second half, sophomore Donovan Mitchell was able to gain a bit of momentum in the three-point jumper category, shooting three for three in the second half when the Deacons needed it the most. After the game, he said he was “more confident in [his] shooting” during the game.
Freshman Olivier Sarr also had one of his best performances of the season, scoring nine points and four rebounds in his 19 minutes of play. In his fifth appearance of the season, Sarr hit a three-point jumper and made a dunk in back-to-back plays two minutes into the second half, and the Lawrence V. Joel Veterans’ Coliseum celebrated with him. A freshman from Toulouse, France, Sarr’s performance in Saturday’s game showed a glimpse of his potential for the rest of his career. Woods later spoke on his younger teammates.
“Those who come off the bench can really help us stretch the floor and they have been working hard over the past few weeks to knock off the shots,” Wood said.
The Demon Deacons needed the 18 point contribution by both Mitchell and Sarr to stay considerably close to the Tigers throughout the game. As these two players develop, they could be strong leaders on offense for Coach Manning in the future. Although they struggled yet again to finish the game, especially after Clemson Coach Brad Brownell pushed a zone defense on Wake Forest, the team remains unable to successfully outsource their opponent.