MBB defeats NC State, loses to Miami

The loss drops Wake Forest to a 10-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Wake Forest lost a critical game in Miami last week.

Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

 The action is heating up for the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball team (20-6, 10-5). 

After taking care of a reeling North Carolina State (10-16, 3-12) team on the road last Wednesday, Wake Forest came up short against Miami (18-7,10-4) on Saturday. 

NC State has been struggling as of late and has lost four in a row as they entered this contest. The Wolfpack came out aggressively and kept the game tight for most of the way. With five minutes remaining, Wake Forest held onto a small 53-51 lead. Then, the beast awakened.

The Demon Deacons closed the game on an electrifying 16-0 run to secure a 69-51 victory. The Wolfpack’s offense came to a screeching halt, and Wake Forest was in quite a rhythm themselves on that end of the floor. 

“We won by making stops, and we did it by hitting timely shots,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said after the game.

The run was initiated by senior guard Daivien Williamson, who drilled a corner three, followed by a tough finish at the rim on a fast break. Soon after, graduate guard Alondes Williams took over the game, setting up his teammates on three consecutive possessions. 

One of these assists was quite the highlight: a no-look, lefthanded, underhanded swing pass that took incredible strength and creativity. “Man-Man” delivered the ball from the left wing to the right corner, into the hands of graduate forward Khadim Sy who knocked down a triple.

On the run, the Deacons were finally able to contain NC State sophomore guard Dereon Seabron, who scored 22 points in the game and 17 in the second half. His teammates didn’t help him much at all, scoring a combined six points in the entire second half. 

Williams finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Junior forward Jake LaRavia put together a stat line of six points, seven boards and eight assists. Senior forward Isaiah Mucius added 13, as did Sy.

After back-to-back road wins, Wake Forest returned to the Joel Coliseum to host a Miami team that beat them six weeks ago in Florida.

The Hurricanes were able to overcome a double-digit, second-half deficit, coming out on top 76-72. 

“I thought Miami came in here and played harder than us and wanted to win more than we did,” Forbes said. “And that ultimately is on me, not getting my guys ready to play in a game like this.”

Turnovers were a huge problem for Wake Forest and served as the engine that fueled Miami’s comeback effort. Miami gave it away seven times, compared to a lofty 17 for Wake Forest. The Hurricanes were able to score 19 points off of those turnovers, while the Deacons couldn’t generate any takeaways.

“An Achilles heel we have been talking about for a while now is turnovers; it’s a problem,” Forbes said. “Those 10 second-half turnovers killed our offense”.

Williams carried the team late and put up an impressive stat line, but the turnover cloud continues to loom over him. Williams scored 25 on an efficient 9-15 shooting, but seven turnovers from him is damaging. Miami aggressively hedged and trapped him once he crossed half court with the ball, which led to multiple giveaways.

“We made a concerted effort during the offseason to practice scrambling, getting our guys to pressure the ball, trap the ball, rotate, and hustle,” Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga said. “Because we lack size. They are so much bigger than us. They are taller than us and outweigh us at almost every position.”

Wake Forest does have a significant size advantage over Miami, who likes to play with four guards most of the time. The quickness of the smaller Hurricanes allowed them to force turnovers and space the floor, and Wake was not able to fully capitalize on the size mismatches and consistently take and convert on easy looks close to the basket.

Wake Forest was clicking offensively in the first half, as six players made at least two field goals and the team hit seven three-pointers. The Demon Deacons led by seven at the break, but that lead could’ve easily been doubled. Miami’s offense was stagnant, and Wake Forest continuously missed easy shots.

Miami came out and played a much stronger, more connected and more urgent second half in order to secure a very important road win for them.

LaRavia was only able to play 22 minutes because of foul trouble, picking up his fifth and final foul with just over four minutes to play.

Miami’s fantastic guard duo showed up big time on Saturday. Both of them connected on 8-14 field goal attempts, junior guard Isaiah Wong scored 20 and graduate guard Kameron McGusty had 22. Down the stretch, they scored the last nine points of the game for their team, none bigger than Wong’s tough jumper off the glass with 11 seconds left to play, making it a two-possession game.

This was game number one of an upcoming difficult stretch. After taking on Duke in Cameron Indoor, Wake Forest hosts second-place Notre Dame before traveling to play an underperforming but gritty Clemson team. 

Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has dropped Wake Forest to a 10 seed in his latest March Madness prediction, but this season is far from over and Coach Forbes made that clear after the loss.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Forbes said. “We haven’t made the NCAA Tournament yet. We don’t know our ACC tournament seed yet. Everything is left to be earned.”