Florida State falls to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 68-60 at home. The Seminoles have now lost back-to-back home games as they ride a four game losing streak. While it seemed like nothing was going FSU’s way on the offensive end they played a gritty game in the trenches that could’ve gone either way.
Wake Forest came into Tallahassee having won five of their last six games. Prior to the game Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton stated “ In my opinion he’s coach of the year in the ACC,” referring to WF head coach Steve Forbes who’s led the Demon Deacons to a 19-5 record in just his second season with the program. While the Noles were already missing critical pieces to the team in Malik Osborne and Naheem McLeod, redshirt senior Anthony Polite was ruled out due to a wrist injury he sustained in the previous Virginia Tech game.
The Seminoles starting lineup included: RayQuan Evans, Caleb Mills, Mathew Cleveland, John Butler, and Tanor Ngom. After the starting lineups were introduced FSU’s stadium announcer mentioned that Hamilton along with Tony Douglas will be inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame this April.
FSU came out with a heavy set defense forcing Alondes Williams to some difficult gaps as they pressured him into the corner. At the 17:56 mark WF led the Noles 3-0 and Ngom was down with an apparent knee injury. His replacement Harrison Prieto was the first to score for the Seminoles. With 16:20 remaining in the first half Cleveland knocked down two free throws and FSU was down 5-4. Prieto came back and knocked down a three to give the Noles their first lead of the game, 7-5.
Following the first timeout Jalen Warely and Cam’Ron Fletcher checked into the ball game. With 14 minutes left in the half it was tied 7-7 as WF’s Jake Laravia led all scorers with four points. The Prieto substitution turned out to be exactly what the Noles were looking for as he grabbed back-to-back offensive rebounds to put them up 11-7. At the 11:39 mark Prieto had seven points and seven boards leading all players in those categories. He was 3-4 to start the matchup while the rest of the team was 1-16.
The Demon Deacons went up 13-11 after a 6-0 run led by Williams who took clear advantage of Prieto taking a rest. With 7:48 remaining WF was leading 16-11 after a six minute scoring drought for the Seminoles. Cleveland was the one to finally find the basket and Evans followed that with a three ball. While the Noles scored on back-to-back plays WF’s Williams got comfortable as he scored three times in two minutes. Justin Linder was checked in with five minutes remaining and forced an immediate turnover on Laravia.
With 3:44 left in the first half the Demon Deacons were leading 23-16. At that point the Seminoles were shooting 6-29 from the field while Mills was 1-7, Butler was 0-4 and Evans was 1-5. Ngom checked back into the game with three minutes remaining after being medically cleared. Warley was at the line soon after and knocked down both. Mills lit up the crowd with 44 seconds left with an and-one to cut the deficit down 25-21. After a sloppy finish on the last play the Noles concluded the half down 25-21.
Prieto led the Noles with seven points and 10 rebounds while Williams led the Demon Deacons with 13 points and five rebounds. Despite WF shooting 2-10 from three while having a season high 18 turnovers in one half they still held the lead. Aside from the tremendous effort by Prieto the Seminoles were shooting 7-34 from the field and 2-11 from three.
As the Seminoles entered the final 20 minutes of the ball game they needed to flip the switch to find just the slightest bit of offense they lacked in the first. Both teams finished with one of their lowest scoring halves this season so some type of scoring life was destined for the second half.
Mills scored the first basket of the second half after attacking Williams in the painted area. FSU’s staff plugged in Fletcher as a starter tasked with guarding Williams on the defensive end. Isaiah Mucius knocked down a three ball at the 18 minute mark and Williams followed that with a bucket on the very next play. Wake Forest led 33-29 with 17 minutes left.
Laravia scored from three point land soon after and FSU’s Fletcher followed that with one made free throw. Mills picked up back-to-back fouls early in the half that had him sidelined with 16 minutes remaining. The score was 38-30 as the second timeout of the half was soon called. Warley cut the deficit down 38-33 with a three ball at the top of the key.
After controversial charge call from a Cleveland drive, Laravia scored four quick points to put the Demon Deacons up 42-33 and Hamilton called a timeout. Prieto came out of the timeout and connected on a basket under the rim after an incredible out of bounds play. Mills was checked out of the game with 13:27 remaining as he picked up his fourth foul.
Wake Forest’s Damari Monsanto connected from downtown with just under 12 minutes remaining and a timeout was called with WF leading 49-38. Evans scored four straight points right before Cleveland slammed a baseline dunk and the lead was cut to 49-44.
Although WF knocked down a three, Evans and Cleveland scored some explosive baskets and the crowd lit up. As the refs were reviewing a jump ball the Noles were down 52-48, riding an 8-3 run. Mills found the basket after a tough turnaround jumper but the Demon Deacons scored four straight points that led to Cleveland’s fourth foul of the game and Mills going 1-2 at the line off a technical foul by WF. With 4:31 remaining Wake Forest was up 57-53.
Both teams exchanged three balls late in half and the Noles were down 60-58. The Seminoles tired demeanor was highlighted late in the ball game and Wake Forest took another comfortable 64-58 lead as Hamilton called a timeout with 1:49 remaining.
Fletcher found the basket with one minute left in the half but Wake Forest followed that with what looked like a three to end the game. While the Noles played a hard fought game on the defensive end they didn’t have enough scoring power to come out with a win.
Mills was the Seminoles leading scorer with 15 points on 6-16 from the field. Yet, Prieto was the spark that FSU was looking for as he finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Williams led the Demon Deacons with 23 points and his sidekick Laravia had 18.
FSU now falls to 13-9 on the season with a 6-6 conference record. Their tournament hopes continue to fade with a shot at the ACC title being the clear road to March Madness.
Next game: Florida State will host the Pittsburgh Panthers on Wednesday, Feb.9 at 9:00 ET. The Panthers are currently No.13 in the ACC with an 8-14 record. The game will be featured on the ACC Network.