MBB snags big win over Florida State

The victory marks the first time the Demon Deacons have won in Tallahassee since 2008


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The Demon Deacons prevailed in Tallahassee for the first time in over a decade.

Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

 Wake Forest (19-5, 9-4) emerged victorious in Tallahassee on Saturday, beating Florida State (13-9, 6-6) 68-60. The Demon Deacons closed the game on an 11-4 run to secure their first win at the Tuck Center since 2008.

“As bad as our offense was for a lot of the game with the turnovers, we never let our offense dictate the way we defended,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said after the game. “I thought that was the key to the game.”

When Florida State came to Winston-Salem on January 24th and lost 75-54, the Seminoles forced 22 Wake Forest turnovers. On Saturday, the Demon Deacons turned the ball over a season-high 26 times, 18 of which came in the first half.

“It was ugly,” Forbes said. “But we were resilient, and we had less rebounds and turnovers in the second half, which gave us a chance to win.” 

Florida State’s star guard Caleb Mills confidently nailed a pull-up three-pointer in transition to cut Wake Forest’s lead to 57-56 with just under four minutes remaining in the contest. Unwavered, Wake Forest answered the Seminoles’ push in a very loud arena, embarking on a game-sealing 11-4 run.

“We came up short against an older, more mature team that didn’t seem to get rattled, even with all of the turnovers,” said Florida State Head Coach Leonard Hamilton.

In the possession after Mills’ big shot, senior forward Isaiah Mucius drilled a three from the wing. Florida State scored to cut the lead back to two, but sophomore guard Damari Monsanto responded with a highlight-reel play. Monsanto dribbled the ball all the way up the floor with pace, looking a little out of control. He attacked the rim and sucked in the defense, before dropping off a smooth wrap-around pass to big man Dallas Walton, who slammed home a two-handed dunk.

After another FSU score, Wake led 64-60. With less than 50 seconds remaining, Monsanto caught a pass from Alondes Williams, and delivered a dagger three from the corner, directly in front of an ecstatic Wake Forest bench.

The Deacons were up 25-21 heading into halftime. Williams led the charge in the first half with 13 points but was the leading culprit in the turnover department with five. Wake Forest was fortunate to be leading considering the offensive woes. The Seminoles struggled shooting the ball before halftime, connecting on just 21% of their field goal attempts.

Junior forward Jake LaRavia was the engine to a strong start to the second half, where the Deacons were able to settle into an offensive groove. The Indiana State transfer scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting in the second half and finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

For the second straight game, a Demon Deacon was just one assist shy of a triple-double. In the Feb. 2 win over Pittsburgh, Williams finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.

 Against FSU, Williams finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists. 

“We need Alondes and Jake to play really well on the road, and they were outstanding today,” Forbes said. “They were the two best players on the court”. 

Mucius chipped in 10 points, while Monsanto scored nine. Despite adding just three points, Dallas Walton added five rebounds, making a larger impact that the expanded box score was able to capture. Wake Forest outscored their opponent by 18 points in the 24 minutes that Walton played. 

While the game has been recognized as a great road victory for the Demon Deacons, they were fortunate to play a Seminole team that wasn’t anywhere near full strength. 

Forward Malik Osborne, a veteran leader and the team’s third-leading scorer, underwent ankle surgery last week and is done for the season. Their fourth-leading scorer, senior guard Anthony Polite, was held out of action due to a hand injury. Seven-foot-four freshman Naheem McLeod recently had surgery on his hand. On top of all of that, starting forward John Butler injured his ankle in the first half and did not return. 

“You just shake your head and wonder where these basketball demons are coming from,” Hamilton said. 

The Seminoles fought hard on the defensive end and found ways to generate offense in the second half. Sixth-year walk-on forward Harrison Prieto was thrust into a larger role, playing a career-high 26 minutes. Prieto answered the call, posting a 13-point 13-rebound double-double, shattering his career highs of five and four, respectively. 

Florida State has dropped four straight games after winning six in a row, including beating Duke once and Miami twice. The Demon Deacons are now winners of six of their last seven, sitting in the clear upper echelon of the conference. According to KenPom.com, Wake Forest is favored to win five of their last seven games of the regular season. 

After a trip to Raleigh to take on a reeling North Carolina State team on Feb. 9, Wake Forest will host an explosive Miami team at 3 p.m on Saturday, Feb. 12.