"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Men’s basketball gets ‘identity’ win over Florida Gators

Sallis, Carr combine for 46 points in 82-71 win
Evan Harris
Junior Cameron Hildreth played all 40 minutes on the floor Wednesday night scoring 18 points.

Hard. Smart. Gritty. Grimy. Tough.

That was what Head Coach Steve Forbes wanted to see out of his Demon Deacons (4-3) against the Florida Gators (4-3) on Wednesday, and he saw all five of them en route to an 82-71 win.

“That was an identity win tonight,” Forbes said. “We checked off all five of those boxes.”

The Gators arrived in Winston-Salem as five-and-a-half point favorites, having been ranked in the top 40 teams according to KenPom. Despite playing the majority of his usual lineup, Florida Head Coach Todd Golden was without 7’1” center Micah Handlogten, an important piece in the paint, due to an ankle injury.

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The Demon Deacons got off to a strong start defensively, opening the game with a defensive kill —  through a steal from junior guard Cameron Hildreth — off the opening tip.

“We had to send a message early,” Forbes said of the opening defensive stand. “It was huge. Tell them right now, we’re here defensively.”

Despite their slow start offensively, the Gators eventually found their footing, hitting consecutive 3-pointers midway through the first half and reducing the Demon Deacon lead to a single point. 

Junior Cameron Hildreth gets into a scuffle with Florida center Tyrese Samuel resulting in four free throws late in the game. (Evan Harris)

“Wake [Forest] didn’t have a very pressuring defense,” Golden said. “They really try to pack it in [inside the perimeter] and make you earn it from the three-point line.” 

The two teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the rest of the first half, with Demon Deacon forward Andrew Carr hitting two 3-pointers and guard Hunter Sallis adding another.

Despite the positives on offense, during “middle eight,” the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half, momentum escaped Wake Forest. 

With three minutes left in the first half, it became the Riley Kugel show. Kugel, a sophomore guard from Orlando, Fla., single-handedly engineered a 7-2 Gators’ run. Due to Kugel’s efforts, Florida went into the half leading by four.

The Gators then continued to pile the points on after the halftime break, with Kugel and guard Walter Clayton, Jr. combining to put the home team on their heels.

“We didn’t finish the half very well in the middle eight,” said Forbes. “We got careless with the ball at the end of the half and we didn’t start off well at the beginning of the second half.”

After Forbes took a timeout early in the second half to regroup, the Demon Deacons got back to their principles — hard, smart, gritty, grimy and tough.

Junior Hunter Sallis gets the foul and the basket on an aggressive drive in the paint. Sallis scored a team high 24 points to lead the Demon Deacons to a big home win. (Isabella Parolini)

Sallis and Carr then combined for a scoring onslaught, scoring 14 of the next 16 points for the Demon Deacons, and leveling the score at 52 with 10 minutes remaining.

“Hunter [Sallis] and Andrew [Carr] carried us there for a little bit,” Forbes said.

Despite the performances from Sallis and Carr, Forbes found fantastic play from the whole team, including from his big men.

“Matt Marsh and Zach Keller did a great job blocking out and grabbing rebounds,” Forbes said. “Florida is fourth in rebounds and averages about 18 offensive rebounds a game. We held them to seven offensive rebounds. That’s gritty, grimey, and tough.”

The last four minutes proved to be all Demon Deacons. After a media timeout, the game was tied at 62, but not for long, as Forbes’ squad went on a 10-1 run in the following three minutes.

After Florida began to foul, Hildreth settled the game, hitting five free throws to solidify the 82-71 win.

The win caused the Demon Deacons (4-3) to jump in popular metrics, including a 13-spot jump to No. 70 in KenPom. It’s also the first Power Six win for the Demon Deacons, who continue to improve their resumé for March.

“Down the road, this will end up being a very good win,” Forbes said. “We beat a really good team tonight.”

The Demon Deacons will play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights next Wednesday, Dec. 6. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

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About the Contributor
Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy, Sports Editor
Sean is a junior from Long Island, NY majoring in communication and minoring in journalism and film studies. Outside of the OGB, he is the president of the Sports Analytics Club and a member of Wake Radio. In his free time, you can find him following all levels of professional sports and supporting his favorite teams — the Celtics, Jets, Yankees and Islanders.

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