Men’s basketball wins two straight to snap four-game skid
Wins against Notre Dame and UNC put Wake Forest back in the bubble
February 9, 2023
Monsanto shines in victory over Notre Dame
Coming off of a four-game losing streak, the Wake Forest men’s basketball squad traveled to South Bend, Ind., to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, led by head coach Mike Brey and experienced seniors Nate Laszewski, Marcus Hammond and Cormac Ryan.
Starting a smaller lineup of Tyree Appleby, Cameron Hildreth, Daivien Williamson, Andrew Carr and Damari Monsanto, the Demon Deacons sought to get off to a quick start offensively. However, the task would be harder to complete than initially thought.
The atmosphere at Purcell Pavilion proved incredibly tough to crack at the beginning of the game for the Demon Deacons. Through the first 10 minutes, the team had eight turnovers with only four points to show on the scoreboard. Despite an eight-minute scoring drought, they only found themselves down a manageable 12 points — something the team had proven it could come back from in the past.
Eventually, the Demon Deacons brought the deficit back to within two points with four minutes remaining in the first half after a set of threes from Monsanto and exceptional play by freshman Bobi Klintman. By halftime, a 23-10 run helped the Demon Deacons go into the locker room with a one-point lead.
Coming out of the break, the Demon Deacons had one of the best offensive halves in recent history. Within the first five minutes of second-half play, Monsanto would provide a trio of 3-pointers, in addition to a pair of treys from Daivien Williamson, putting Wake Forest up thirteen.
After the barrage of threes from the Demon Deacon offense, head coach Steve Forbes sought the ball to go inside, including a layup and a pair of slams from sophomore big-man Matthew Marsh.
After a pair of free throws along with a three from Appleby, the Demon Deacons would never waver in their lead of 13 or more within the last six minutes of the game. Another pair of 3-pointers for Monsanto would seal the game and put the tally up to eight 3-pointers for him on the night.
Monsanto’s 28 points on 8-13 shooting from 3-point land would be a career high, a feat accomplished on a national stage. He also leads all Power Five conference players in made 3-point goals on the season with 76. Per ESPN’s Mike Monaco, he’s also making 41.5% of his shots from deep on 7.95 3-pointers a game, something only one player in ACC history has done before — two-time consensus All-American JJ Redick.
“Some of the shots that [Monsanto] made, that’s NBA stuff,” Notre Dame’s Brey said.
“[Mosanto] got us going,” Forbes said after the game. “To win on the road, you have to have that kind of performance from somebody, and [Monsanto] is capable of that.”
Demon Deacons stomp Tar Heels
The Demon Deacons (16-9, 8-6) blew the roof off of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum this past Tuesday as they overwhelmed the Tar Heels (15-9, 7-6) 92-85. The win will hopefully establish momentum for the men’s basketball team during the home stretch of the regular season, which offers just six more games. Concluding in under a month, that last lap of the ACC will be everything in regards to Wake Forest’s NCAA tournament hopes.
“It’s February, right? It’s opportunity, and it’s time to separate from the pack,” Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes said after the game. “It’s very important to win all your games now, especially at home and especially against a quality opponent like [North] Carolina.”
The defeat of North Carolina provided a valuable Quadrant 2 win for the Demon Deacons, who have now successfully defended their home court against the Tar Heels in three straight meetings.
Between stellar first-half defense from the entire squad and a phenomenal all-around performance from graduate guard Tyree Appleby (35 PTS, 11 AST, 7 REB), there was hardly any chance that tie-dye night at the Joel could disappoint. Once redshirt junior guard Damari Monsanto, fresh off of a career-high 28-point game, sunk a shot from a foot beyond NBA 3-point range, the Demon Deacons led for just under 38 minutes — the largest advantage was 26 points.
Dismissing a light 50-35 rebound differential, Wake Forest out-performed North Carolina in every statistic. Monsanto (16 PTS) went 3-5 from deep in the first half, and the Demon Deacons did not give up a single three in that time. Sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth’s close-out defense on North Carolina’s RJ Davis made this possible, as well as Appleby’s all-around clamps on Caleb Love, who was held without a field goal in the first 20 minutes.
The defensive intensity from the home team was simply not matched by the Tar Heels. Wake Forest coughed up just five turnovers — the fewest in the Forbes era — while forcing 12. This metric becomes most incredible when held up against Appleby’s 11-assist night. To go along with his first double-double of the season, Appleby notched a single turnover.
The inability of North Carolina to slow the star down must have been most frustrating during Wake Forest’s 14-0 run in the first half. Appleby scored or assisted every basket during the stretch that put the Demon Deacons up 26-9 by the second media timeout. During the run, freshman forward Bobi Klintman extended his recent display of marksmanship over the last three games (5/5 3PT) when he netted one from deep after coming off a pick-and-pop.
“[Klintman] shot that first three like, ‘alright, my shot!’” Forbes said. “Boom. That’s the way he’s been shooting it for a month now in practice. …He’s playing with a lot of confidence. We need him.”
Also fueling the pivotal first-half run was sophomore center Mathew Marsh, also known as the Shaquille O’ Neal to Appleby’s Kobe Bryant. The 14-0 stretch both began and ended with dunks from Marsh (10 PTS, 5/5 FG). While he put pressure on North Carolina big men Armando Bacot and Pete Nance on offense, his defensive counterpart, fellow sophomore center Davion Bradford, allowed no easy buckets on the other end of the court. He welcomed the challenge that the matchup with Bacot (17 PTS, 11 REB) presented.
“We really thought [Bradford] was the best option to start to not have [Bacot dominate] the post,” Forbes commented. “I didn’t want to double, and we didn’t. We played him one-on-one. We thought as a staff he was the best option, and I think he proved that to be. He did a really good job of holding his position and making [Bacot] score over his body.”
Bacot’s touch at the rim and footwork is what makes him so effective on offense, and Bradford contained those strengths by refusing to budge for the star in the post. It kept Bacot’s production limited in the first half, and the second half saw him forced to the sidelines after he picked up his fourth foul just under four minutes in.
Wake Forest terrorized North Carolina in those four minutes, as they forced four turnovers to build on the 22-point lead they had earned with 51.43% shooting in the first half. Hildreth (3 STL) broke into the Tar Heels’ passing lanes for two steals during that defensive surge, and he went coast-to-coast with one to finish a tough lay-up over Leaky Black, one of the best defenders in the conference.
Through his mid-range game from the paint, Pete Nance (11 PTS, 10 REB) helped slowly chip away at the deficit for the Tar Heels slowly throughout the half. Caleb Love, finally finding his stroke, poured on 22 points of his own, but his efforts mostly came while Appleby was being sent to the charity stripe over and over again to slow down the game.
While the Demon Deacons had cooled off in the last minutes of the game, Appleby (23-28 FT) carried his squad to the finish with incredible poise at the free-throw line. With North Carolina intentionally fouling him five times in the last minute, he broke ACC records for free throws attempted and made in a game. Also at the line, earlier in the contest, Appleby also hit one of the most important milestones within the basketball world — 2,000 career points.
North Carolina fans might complain that the graduate guard had more free throws than their entire team, but Appleby also accomplished the same in assists, so it events out.
Whichever way you look at it, his double-double helped Wake Forest secure an essential victory late in the season. The Demon Deacons next face Georgia Tech (9-15, 2-12) at home on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m.