Demon Deacons stomp Tar Heels

Wake Forest wins its third straight home match against UNC


Evan Harris

Tyree Appleby leads the Demon Deacon offense in a win against UNC.

Aaron Nataline, Sports Editor

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.