Men’s basketball experiences first defeat

Wake Forest bests Oregon State before falling to LSU at ECC tournament

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Daivien Williamson scored 20 points in 28 minutes against LSU.

Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

Wake Forest Men’s basketball traveled to Charleston, S.C. over Thanksgiving break to compete in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Demon Deacons defeated Oregon State 80-77 in overtime in their opening game, but fell 75-61 to LSU in the championship for their first loss of the young season.

The Deacs stormed out of the gates versus Oregon State, using hot shooting to build a 48-29 lead heading into halftime. Junior Jake LaRavia and senior Daivien Williamson combined for 23 first-half points.

Oregon State surprised the college basketball world last season by making a run in the Pac-12 Tournament and going on to reach the Elite 8 in March Madness as a 12 seed. The Beavers returned four key pieces from that team, but they have struggled early on this season. They entered this game with a 1-4 record, which includes one-point losses to Princeton and Samford.

Trailing significantly at the start of the second half, the experienced Beaver team refused to go away. Oregon State went on a 30-10 run in the second half to tie the score at 63 with five and half minutes remaining.

“We have to give a lot of credit to Oregon State for how they got back into the game,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said.

With the score tied at 69 in the final moments, Alondes Williams had a chance for a game-winner but couldn’t get the shot to drop, so bonus basketball was necessary. Williams and LaRavia scored in the lane on back-to-back possessions to put Wake Forest in the driver’s seat and lead them to the three-point win.

“We found a way to rally and a way to win,” Forbes said. “The most important thing is that we did not come out of here with a loss. We will learn from it and we will move on.”

Williams finished with 24 points, three rebounds and four assists. LaRavia scored 17 points to go along with seven boards and five helpers, and Williamson chipped in 14 points of his own.

The win gave Wake Forest a 6-0 record for the first time since 2008-09.

However, the Demon Deacons’ undefeated run came to an end when they crossed paths with a very strong LSU team.

It was a very sloppy first half, with 24 combined turnovers, 13 of which were committed by Wake Forest. The half was also defined by several key scoring runs.

A 10-0 run gave Wake Forest an 11-6 lead with just over 12 minutes remaining in the first half. LSU answered with a 15-0 run of their own to build a 21-11 lead, and Wake Forest responded with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 21-19. LSU then finished the half strong with a 10-2 run and took a 31-21 lead into the break.

“In the first half, we battled and we stayed in the game,” Forbes said. “We were turning the ball over and having a hard time making shots, but we were still in it. We played really hard. Our guys competed but we just couldn’t overcome the turnovers.”

LSU is the best team Wake Forest has seen so far. They extended full-court pressure that forced the Deacons into a lot of turnovers, and their length and athleticism never allowed Wake Forest to ever really settle into an offensive groove.

Wake Forest hung around in the second half, during which they only were outscored by four points, but they never were able to cut the lead to anything smaller than nine.

The 22 turnovers for the game and a 31% success rate shooting from the floor were not going to cut it against a top team. The Deacons looked outmatched and out-coached for the first time in the young season.

Williamson finished with 20 points, LaRavia and Williams joined him in double figures with 15 and 14 respectively. Wake Forest got no contribution from their bench, as a Khadim Sy three-pointer was the only scoring to come from a non-starter.

This LSU team probably would be the second-best team in the ACC, and the loss definitely displayed some areas of necessary improvement, but it in no way taints the strong start that Forbes has gotten his guys off to in his second year.

“Playing in games like this is good, and it’s not the end of the world,” Forbes said. “We have to learn from it. We have to look in the mirror and figure out what those issues are and get ready for another really tough game on Tuesday at home against Northwestern.”

The Deacons most recently beat Northwestern 77-73 on Nov. 30.