Wake Forest gave its fans a nice Valentine's Day present in the Joel on Saturday afternoon, clobbering the Florida State Seminoles 86-63 for their biggest margin of victory in ACC play this season. Rather than domination from any one player, Wake used good team defense and spread the ball around to produce their comfortable victory.
With the victory Wake Forest improves to 19-4 and 6-4 in conference play. It was also Wake's fourth win against a ranked opponent this season.
"I thought our kids played really hard," reflected Dino Gaudio. "We really guarded well and I think we pushed the ball well. It was a good win for us against a team that was very hot and playing well. I am really happy with the win."
Despite some ugly turnover and foul numbers, the Demon Deacons played their best first half in recent memory. They opened up a 12 point lead behind 52 percent shooting and good defense. Although they had eight turnovers, they forced 12 Seminole turnovers and held Florida State to only 39 percent shooting. Wake's rebounding was improved as well, only being outrebounded by three and giving up only four offensive rebounds.
James Johnson, Jeff Teague, and Al-Farouq Aminu all had 8 points in the first half, and Johnson also had four steals.
In the second half the game turned into a blowout. Wake Forest did not let up the intensity and Florida State could not do anything to stay competitive with the Deacs. A 17-3 run early in the half really put the game out of reach. Wake Forest kept up the hot shooting, played defense, and generally kept the Seminoles off the glass, reversing the rebounding margin. With three minutes remaining Wake had an impressive 30 point lead, although it would dwindle to 23 before the final buzzer.
One of the most impressive things about the victory was that Wake did not need any outstanding performances to earn the big win. No one scored more than 20 points, had double digit rebounds, or any big assist numbers. However, everyone who played at least three minutes had two or more points and two or more rebounds. That type of consistency is rare.
In Wednesday's loss at NC State coach Gaudio and the team were very disappointed with both the defensive effort and the effort on the glass. The Deacs reversed those problems today after practicing hard on those areas since the loss. Wake won the rebound battle 37-34, and are now 13-1 on the season when they outrebound their opponent.
"Over the last two days we literally went back and did the drills we did at the beginning of the season," said Gaudio. "We guarded the ball one-on-one full court, we did what we call our three-pack station drills, and we went back to the fundamentals. I think maybe we were getting away from that a little bit."
It was Wake's best free throw shooting game of the season, with the team goint 32 of 38 for 84.2 percent. Ishmael Smith hit 5-5 attempts and, Tony Woods was 6-6. Smith's 11 points and 5 rebounds combined for his best performance of the season. He is only four assists away from having 400 in his career.
The Demon deacons have gone 1-1 for the last two weeks, losing their Wednesday night game before rebounding over the weekend. The Deacs will have the chance to avenge their prior loss to Georgia Tech at home Wednesday night before traveling to Durham to play Duke on Sunday.