WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake’s historic 88-58 beatdown of North Carolina State Saturday perfectly illustrated the direction of the two programs.
In Danny Manning’s third year at the helm, he finally sees his young Deacs coming together and improving — perhaps at just the perfect time of the year with five regular-season games left and his team firmly ensconced on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Wolfpack? They’re in absolute free-fall. For as many (rightful) concerns Wake Forest fans have about the Deacs defense, today we saw a North Carolina State squad that offered little resistance to Wake offensively.
The game started with three point-blank John Collins looks, two of which were finished with an emphatic dunk.
Collins finished with his eighth 20-point plus contest in a row, scoring 23 points on 9-of-13 field goals.
Wake hit 11-of-23 3-pointers — many of them unguarded. It’s entirely possible the Wolfpack is the worst defensive team I’ve seen compete in Joel Coliseum in my three years of covering the Deacs — and that’s completely acknowledging that Wake is far from a good defensive team.
Keyshawn Woods was 5-for-7 behind the arc, finishing with 19 points.
“We knew if we got up early on them, they were going to quit,” Wood said after the game.
While the Deacs clicked (as usual, almost now) offensive, they also put together a solid 40 minutes of defensive effort. They forced stops on 28 of 39 NC State possessions in the first half (stat from Winston-Salem Journal’s Dan Collins), and only allowed 58 total points.
The Wolfpack shot 35.5 percent from the field and were just 2-for-15 from behind the arc.
The Deacs grabbed a double-digit lead less than 12 minutes into the game and never once trailed. They led for 39:01 of game time and their lead never dwindled into single digits in the final 28 minutes of action.
It was a butt whooping, pretty much from start to finish, and might well signal where the programs progress (or regress) from here.
Though North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried insisted in the postgame that his team is still fighting, it’s certainly hard to tell that from the effort we all saw Saturday at Joel Coliseum. They’ve now lost five straight, have been swept in the season series with the Deacs for the first time in more than a decade and now face games against UNC and Notre Dame next week.
They’re looking at a potential sub-.500 record and less than a handful of ACC wins after being projected to finish in the top-third of the conference preseason.
Meanwhile, each win for Wake Forest makes the next game that much more crucial. This coming week, they play both Clemson and Duke on the road with a chance to gain a measure of revenge for a pair of games they dropped at home in fairly heartbreaking fashion.
With a 15-10 overall mark and a 6-7 ACC record, the Deacs are on the cusp of earning a NCAA Tournament bid, but have to finish strong.
For Gottfried’s Wolfpack, the only chance of postseason play would come with an ACC Tournament championship, and that simply isn’t happening.