Men’s basketball takes down No. 19 Clemson

The Demon Deacons did not trail after it was 2-0 en route to a convincing victory


Cooper Sullivan

Davion Bradford puts up a reverse layup. The junior finished the night with 3 points and 5 rebounds.

Cooper Sullivan, Senior Writer

After losing to the Clemson Tigers on the road back in early December, head coach Steve Forbes created a short list of the most physical teams in the ACC — Clemson at the top, Virginia and Virginia Tech right below and Wake Forest on the back page. That list may have to be retooled a tad after a dominant Tuesday night showing saw the Demon Deacons muscle their way to an 87-77 victory, beating the No. 19-ranked team for the first time in the Forbes era.

“We put a lot of pressure on them off the bounce against one of the best defenses in the ACC and in the country,” Forbes said afterward. “I just kind of thought we had them on their heels.”

It was truly a team effort that saw Wake Forest play fast and physically, with players more than willing to use their body to get to the hoop. Graduate guard Tyree Appleby led the game with 24 points, seven assists and five steals, but it was the drawn fouls statistic (9) with which Forbes was most impressed. His squad went to the free-throw line 33 times compared to Clemson’s 14.

Already short-handed with the absences of guards Alex Hemenway (9.8 PPG) and Chase Hunter (14.0 PPG), who was scratched from the lineup hours before tip-off due to a foot injury, Clemson was severely impacted by foul trouble. All five starters had three or more fouls and Josh Beadle, who got the nod in the wake of Hunter’s injury, fouled out with four minutes left to play. 

“It’s hard, we had crazy lineups out there for us a lot,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “[Forward Chauncey] Wiggins played 30 minutes, and he hasn’t played nearly that much in any game. I’m really proud of him because I thought he played with great poise and looked comfortable…Our guards were both in foul trouble most of the game, and that’s a problem. We couldn’t do certain things offensively in the game, but I don’t think that was a major problem until the second half.”

Coming out of the break with a 48-38 lead, the Demon Deacons were determined to hold their distance. Appleby came out the gate with a quick layup, then sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth intercepted the ball and dished it to an open Andrew Carr for an easy and-one under the rim. The lightning-quick start continued as Appleby seized another turnover, allowing redshirt junior wing Damari Monsanto to send the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum into celebration. 

With a double-digit lead and an arena full of momentum, Wake Forest was no less relentless in pursuit of the ball on either end of the court. The Tigers had nine turnovers in the second half — three more than Wake Forest had the entire game. It wasn’t just the core four that left their mark on the game either. 

“[Junior center Davion Bradford] played great,” Forbes said. “He played great since PJ [Hall] had a hard time putting it in the basket. He couldn’t do it. I thought DB just had a tremendous wall. His body was between him all night long, and PJ had a hard time scoring over him.”

Hall was Clemson’s leading scorer with 22, going a perfect 7-7 from the line, but Bradford was clearly the most effective defender of the big man. Hall’s field goal percentage dropped from 55% to 28% in the second half when the junior forward was tasked with the matchup. 

Carr (18), Hildreth (17 points, 6-7 FT) and Monsanto (17, 3-7 3PT ) joined their teammate Appleby in the double-digit point club. Hildreth and Carr also notched double-doubles with 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively. It was the first time two Demon Deacons secured double-doubles this season, but the two shrugged the accomplishment off as routine business. 

“Our team is very deep,” Hildreth said. “We have multiple guys who can do multiple different things, but we just want to win. Whatever it takes. All guys are going to come onto the floor and give whatever it takes. If it means people get double-doubles or people just get points or rebounds or assists, it doesn’t matter. Just do whatever you need to do to make sure we win.”

Overall, Forbes was proud of the victory, as the final buzzer marked Clemson’s first ACC loss of the season and Wake Forest’s 15th straight win at the Joel.

“Identity is important,” Forbes said. “You have to know who you are. [Clemson] knows who they are — they play hard, they execute, they defend. We do the same thing, so that hard, smart, together thing is important. We don’t always play smart, but we play hard and play together. We share that ball. This was a game we needed to play that way. We couldn’t have won this game in November or December.”

After suffering a loss against the University of Virginia on Saturday, Wake Forest is looking to claim a road victory at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.