Just three days after possibly earning a Quad-One win in Madison over Wisconsin, Wake Forest came crashing back to earth with a 77-57 loss to Clemson.
In the first half, the Deacs hit 43 percent of their shots from the field and were incredibly stout defensively, forcing 10 turnovers. Wake Forest also converted 40 percent of its three-pointers, including two each from Daivien Williamson and Tyree Appleby. For its part, Clemson knocked down just one of 10 threes.
On the verge of breaking away late in the half — Wake went on a 13-6 run over the final seven minutes — the Deacs went into halftime with a seven-point lead.
But to start the second half, Wake Forest let Clemson into the game. In the first four minutes, the Tigers embarked on a 13-3 run to take a three-point lead. Clemson was able to put away Wake Forest behind several runs, including a 6:26 stretch in which the Deacs did not make a field goal.
“He was all over the place for us in the second half,” Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes said. “I kept thinking, ‘if we could run out there and just keep it close, we’d have a chance.’ We just couldn’t put anything together.”
In the second half, the Deacs hit less than 25 percent of their field goals and 15 percent of their threes. Appleby and Williamson combined for 3/14 from the field and 0/6 from behind the arc. Clemson, on the other hand, caught fire on threes, going 8/12. Senior guard Alex Hemenway hit four straight, including two straight that killed Wake Forest’s comeback attempt.
“We didn’t defend in the second half,” Forbes said. “We spread out. [Clemson were] getting easy pimples. I thought our guards played very poorly. All of them, not only in attack, but also in defense.”
The Tigers also had successful shooting from the field, converting 70 percent of their shots in the second half. Forward PJ Hall went 7/11 from the floor for the game, using his size to create space in the paint.
In the first half, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell felt his team didn’t use its size to an advantage.
“I was really disappointed with our toughness early in the game,” he said. “So I got with our guys at halftime pretty good.”
And after halftime, the Tigers used their physicality to dismantle Wake Forest on both ends of the court. The Tigers outshot Wake Forest 38 to 24 for the game and 21 to 9 in the second half.
“I thought they were the tougher, more physical team,” Forbes said. “They completely whipped us in the second half.”
Offensively, the Deacs also struggled with Clemson’s size. More than once, players were overwhelmed in the paint – Wake Forest converted just six of its 16 layups.
“We would speed up and not be able to finish tonight,” Forbes said. “I think a lot of that had to do with their physicality. And I think they had a lot to do [with their] length in [the paint].”
While the Wisconsin win was big for Wake Forest, the long travel week seemed to take a toll on the team in the second half. Although Forbes made it clear he didn’t think fatigue was a factor, Brownell felt it gave the Tigers a distinct advantage.
“It’s a tough return for them,” Brownell said. “They had a tough travel business. [The game] it was hard for us too and we didn’t have to travel. So I know it was hard for them. There’s probably a little bit of an advantage there for us.”
With the loss, the Deacons drop to 7-2 on the season and 0-1 in the ACC. The team won’t play again for eight days when they travel to Atlanta to face LSU in the Holiday Hoopsgiving showcase.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Forbes said. “We have a week off here. I played nine games in less than a month. We’ll take a little break and then we’ll be back at it.”