Men’s basketball goes 1-1 in critical homestand
The Demon Deacons lose to NC State but triumph over Notre Dame
February 27, 2023
Wake Forest loses heartbreaker to NC State
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons tried to avoid a season sweep against in-state rival NC State on Wednesday evening, only to fall short, 90-74.
National media hyped up the matchup as a battle between two of the best guards in the country. Wake Forest’s Tyree Appleby and the Wolfpack’s Terquavion Smith both entered the game as first and second in scoring in the ACC, respectively. Appleby himself looks to finish as the first ACC player in history to lead the league in scoring and assists, a feat that Alondes Williams came within a decimal of last season.
Despite the attention on Appleby and Smith, viewers of the Jan. 28 contest between the two squads in Winston-Salem knew to keep an eye out for NC State’s big man, D.J. Burns. Burns, a transfer from Winthrop, used his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame in the first matchup to go for a career-high 31 points in a 79-77 win against the Demon Deacons last month. He scored 23 of his 31 in the second half of that win.
The start of Wednesday’s matchup picked up where the two left off in January. Each team traded buckets in the first few minutes, although on the NC State offensive end, the Wolfpack went to Burns quick and early. Burns got the ball in the post in three straight possessions, each time isolated against the Demon Deacons’ Matthew Marsh.
While the Wolfpack went inside to Burns, the Demon Deacons saw Appleby get hot from deep early. It took two minutes for Appleby to knock down a slew of 3-pointers, and he had nine of the team’s 15 points to start off the game.
By the time the game was eight minutes in, the Demon Deacons saw six different players score, including multiple layups from sophomore Cameron Hildreth and a 3-pointer from redshirt junior Damari Monsanto. Freshman Zach Keller also got his first minutes in four games, taking over for Marsh a few minutes in and knocking down a shot at the free-throw line.
After Burns was subbed out to the bench midway through the first half, the Wolfpack saw another transfer shine — Jarkel Joiner. Joiner, from the University of Mississippi, received ACC co-player of the week honors last week against UNC and scored 11 of NC State’s 17 points during a run that would give the Wolfpack its first lead of the night.
Soon after, Burns would re-enter the game, and both teams would begin to struggle offensively. Despite hot starts, they each began to freeze up, with the Wolfpack going on an 8-2 run over the course of five minutes of play. Four of those points came at the hands of Burns, who would finish the first half with 14 points.
Despite the Wolfpack run, the Demon Deacons only found themselves down six going into the last three minutes of the half and were able to tie the game back up after two threes knocked down by Hildreth and Monsanto. However, Joiner and Burns would combine for a few buckets to bring the deficit back up to five.
With 43 seconds left, Monsanto would hit another three — his third of the night and what would become his final of the season.
Bringing the ball up with 10 seconds left on the clock, Monsanto made a move we’ve seen him do before — a behind-the-back where he plants his left foot and spins the ball around to his right hand — but the ball would never reach the hand, his legs collapsing under him. Joiner would grab the ball and head to the other end for a layup to send the Wolfpack up six, while Monsanto clutched his left leg near mid-court.
After the game, Head Coach Steve Forbes relayed the information that he would be having an MRI done on Thursday. Results came back that Monsanto suffered a torn left patellar tendon and needed season-ending surgery. Monsanto finishes the season a fan-favorite who battled back from an Achilles injury last season to score 13.3 points per game and has contributed greatly to the Demon Deacons’ success thanks to his outside presence.
“He is a strong young man, and he will overcome this latest setback,” Forbes tweeted after the diagnosis. “I love him, our staff loves him, and his teammates love him.”
After the halftime break, the previously-quiet Smith finally started scoring for the Wolfpack, with him and Burns scoring eight of the Wolfpack’s first 13 points of the half. The Wolfpack’s lead would go up to 11 while the Demon Deacons struggled to score again, going on a six-minute scoreless run before Andrew Carr knocked down a pair of free throws with nine minutes left to go.
Within the last eight minutes, the Wolfpack never faltered. A crucial sequence during which the Demon Deacons had an opportunity to get within six saw Carr slip at the last second, resulting in his defender contesting the shot and allowing the Wolfpack to get the rebound. Joiner then took the ball up in transition, and an unaware Wake Forest defender turned around a split second too late, allowing Joiner to knock down an open three. That swing took the Demon Deacons from down six to down eleven within a matter of seconds.
“I thought that was the biggest play of the game,” Forbes said postgame. “That was ballgame to me.”
Joiner would hit another pair of threes by the time hit zero, and Burns would get a couple of buckets inside, as well. The pair of transfers would combine for 50 total points, and the Wolfpack would win, 90-74.
As for Appleby and Smith, Appleby would win the battle between the two prolific guards, scoring 19 points on 46.2 FG% shooting compared to Smith’s 13 points on 35.7 FG%. Smith’s Wolfpack would win their tenth-straight home game at PNC Arena, however, and improved to 22-7 (12-6) on the season.
The Demon Deacons wrap up their homestand next Tuesday, Feb. 28, against the Boston College Eagles, which can be found on ESPNU. They finish their regular season in upstate New York next Saturday against the Syracuse Orange.
Demon Deacons outfight the Irish
Wake Forest (18-11, 10-8 ACC) managed to fend off the Fighting Irish (10-19, 2-16) from the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum this past Saturday, Feb. 25 with a 66-58 victory.
This latest ACC win felt mandatory, not only because of the Demon Deacons’ recent pair of defeats but because of Damari Monsanto’s injury against NC State. The team and its fans needed a game that showed Wake Forest still has the personnel to win late-season contests.
“It’s been a little tough since the loss at NC State because [Mosanto] is really important — not only to our team,” Wake Forest Head Coach Steve Forbes said. “He had surgery this morning. It was very successful. They had to fix his patella and clean up his meniscus, and he’ll be out for six to eight months.”
The Demon Deacons put on a great all-around performance on the floor against Notre Dame. All eight players that entered the game found the bottom of the net. Freshman Bobi Klintman, who started in the absence of Monsanto, proved once again that he is an exciting young talent with a critical double-double: 10 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was an amazing experience,” Klintman said. “It was my first start, so you know, I’m just happy I can contribute to the team and help us get this win.”
Graduate Tyree Appleby also delivered a strong performance against the Fighting Irish. On top of his usual offensive masterclass (21 PTS, 6 AST), the guard totaled four steals. His first opened up the scoring for Wake Forest after he took an intercepted pass for a fastbreak lay-up.
The half-court offense could stall at times for the Demon Deacons without a sniper like Monsanto to fearlessly drain shots, but Appleby knew who to look for beyond the arc. Twice in the first half he dished the ball to Klintman in his patented corner spot, where the freshman drained the 3-pointers.
Notre Dame refused to be intimidated by the home crowd’s reactions to Klintman and Appleby’s connection. The Fighting Irish came into this game familiar with the three-ball, having made the third most in the conference. They sank nine in the first half, all the while creating the spacing for guards Ryan Cormac and Trey Wurtz, who scored 12 points a piece, to attack the midrange.
Ven-Allen Lubin, a positionless freshman for the Fighting Irish, led the charge when Wake Forest hurriedly went to guard the arc. His 19 points came in a plethora of shots around the basket as his athleticism made any look at the basket a fine one. His contributions were crucial in Notre Dame maintaining a handle on the pace of the game early on, and his squad led 20-15 after the second media timeout.
Luckily for the Demon Deacons, Klintman was not the only player to step up with more minutes. Sophomore Lucas Taylor — in his first game since Dec. 14 — drained two pivotal three-pointers in the first half. His second began an 11-2 run that left Wake Forest on top 32-27.
In retaliation of pushback from the Fighting Irish, junior Andrew Carr then brought the team into halftime up 39-36 with five straight points to fill out an impressive stat line of nine points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Wake Forest knew they could come out stronger in the second half. If shots were not going to fall easily (35.6 FG%), the Demon Deacons would have to step up on defense.
They managed to do just that for the next 20 minutes. Though Lubin once again came out strong with back-to-back buckets for Notre Dame, the Demon Deacons shut down the 3-point line. After making nine in the first half, the Fighting Irish did not connect with a deep ball for the remainder of the game. Sophomore Cameron Hildreth stood out as the pick-and-pop disruptor as he constantly pestered opposing guards at the arc.
“What’s not going to show up in the box score with [Hildreth] is how well he defended,” Forbes said. “Dane Goodwin was playing really well coming into this game. He had five points. [Mosanto] guarded him last time and bothered him with his length, so I was a little worried about that. [Hildreth] went over and over and over on the ball screen every time on Goodwin.”
On the other end of the court, second chances fueled the Wake Forest offense. The Demon Deacons secured 15 offensive rebounds to Notre Dame’s five on the game, and it led to necessary sparks in scoring. After cleaning up the glass at the 12-minute mark, Marsh hit Appleby for one of his five 3-pointers to take a 12-point lead.
The lead hit its peak at 14 points after Taylor threw an alley-oop to Klintman that blew the roof off the LJVM. From there, without the space to create shots from deep, Notre Dame never truly pressured the Demon Deacons the rest of the way to the buzzer.
The win in Wake Forest’s third-to-last regular season game will hopefully begin a short streak to close out play before the ACC tournament.
“It’s important for us to win so that we don’t have to play [in the first round of the ACC tournament],” Forbes claimed. “What we are trying to do is get the best seed we can get in the tournament, and then we have to win it. We have to all be honest with ourselves that we have to win that tournament to get a bid for the [NCAA] Tournament.”
The Demon Deacons will play their last home match against Boston College on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.