Cavaliers slay men’s basketball at the Joel

Monsanto put up 25 in front of a historic crowd


Cooper Sullivan

Damari Monsanto attempts to block a shot. His 25 points kept Wake Forest in the game.

Sean Kennedy, Assistant Sports Editor

After a crucial win against the No. 19 Clemson Tigers during a mid-week matchup, the Wake Forest men’s basketball squad faced its toughest challenge yet, a home battle against the No. 10 ranked University of Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia defeated Wake Forest 76-67, led by experienced players Armaan Franklin and Reece Beekman.

The scene was raucous in Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the Demon Deacons tipped off against the Cavaliers early Saturday afternoon. The home team had a 15-game win streak at the Joel coming into the matchup against a Virginia team renowned for its defense.

“This is my fourteenth year [at Virginia], and this was the best Wake Forest crowd that I’ve experienced in my time here,” Tony Bennett, head coach of Virginia who recorded his 400th career win on the night, said. “It was live. You could feel it.”

Defense proved crucial at the beginning of the game, with each team only scoring seven points through the first seven minutes of play. Virginia started the game 0-8 from the field, but the Cavaliers overcame their shooting woes at the 12-minute mark of the first half. At that point, a 22-1 Virginia run, featuring six 3-pointers, tore apart Wake Forest’s defense — 18 of those points came from Franklin. Despite starting a cold 0-6 from 3-point range, the Cavaliers would also make the next seven straight in the first half.

From there, the Demon Deacons were forced to scratch away at the Cavaliers’ 19-point lead, and they were able to get the deficit down to 10 going into halftime after a barrage of threes from redshirt junior forward Damari Monsanto and a pair of trips to the line for sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth.

Out of halftime, the Demon Deacons came out with momentum, reducing the Cavaliers’ lead to five within the first six minutes. After trading buckets for a few minutes leading into the 10-minute mark of the second half, Wake Forest went on yet another run that was energized by a dunk from freshman center Bobi Klintman and a Monsanto 3-pointer. They got the deficit to within one — the closest it would be for the rest of the night.

After Bennett called a timeout in the deafening atmosphere, Virginia gathered composure and went on an 8-2 run, bringing its lead back up to a comfortable seven points. After a set of threes from Beekman and Franklin went in with a minute remaining, the Demon Deacons seemed hopeless — until Monsanto hit two straight threes within 20 seconds to cut the lead back down to four.

Those baskets would prove to be the final ones of the night for the Demon Deacons, however, as a pair of trips to the line for Cavaliers guard Kihei Clark iced the game and led the Cavaliers to the 76-67 win, breaking the Demon Deacons’ 15-game win streak at home.

Both Franklin and Monsanto would each finish with 25 points on the night. Franklin and Wake Forest forward Andrew Carr would each grab 10 rebounds for their teams as well, and Beekman would have six assists, a game-high.

Despite the loss, the crowd of 12,443 fans proved to be a major positive of the night, with it being the largest attendance of the Steve Forbes era during his three seasons so far at Wake Forest.

“We had a tremendous student crowd,” Forbes said after the game. “We had over 2,600 students here, which is a tremendous showing by them.”

“[The atmosphere] was amazing,” Carr added. “We appreciate that and hope to keep [the fans] coming and get as much support as we can. It was awesome.”

The Demon Deacons travel during the week to play the Pittsburgh Panthers on Wednesday at 7 p.m., covered on the ACC Network. Their next home game is against the NC State Wolfpack next Saturday, Jan. 28, at 1 p.m. That game will also be on ACC Network.